26th Austrian Grand Prix - A1-Ring, Spielberg 15 May 2003
The A1-Ring, near the city of Spielberg, has hosted the Austrian Grand Prix since 1997. A total of 18 races were run at its predecessor, the famous Osterreichring, before the circuit was dropped from the calendar only to return ten years later in its current, much modified form. The only Austrian Grand Prix held elsewhere was a one-off round at the Zeltweg military airfield back in 1964.
Today's A1-Ring is a smooth, twisty circuit, where genuine overtaking opportunities are few and far between. A single-stopper tends to be the normal race strategy, with most teams likely to opt for a medium to high downforce set-up. Finding the right balance will be harder than ever this year, with drivers unable to alter their cars' settings between qualifying and the race.
Despite almost three quarters of the A1-Ring's lap being run at full throttle - time wise it is the fastest lap on the calendar - the track as a whole is generally quite slow, thanks to a number of first and second-gear corners. The venue's real challenge is the very fast, double left-hand complex formed by the Niki Lauda and Gerhard Berger corners. Get this right and a driver is well on his way to a competitive lap time.
None of the current Formula One drivers has triumphed more than once at the A1-Ring. Jacques Villeneuve won for Williams in 1997, David Coulthard for McLaren in 2001 and Michael Schumacher for Ferrari in 2002. Should any one of those three be victorious on Sunday he will join Mika Hakkinen in the record books as only the second double winner at the picturesque Austrian circuit.