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Drivers prepare to say goodbye to A1-Ring 16 May 2003

Ralf Schumacher (GER) Williams arrives in the paddock.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Austrian Grand Prix, Preparations, A1-Ring, Austria, 15 May 2003

The 2003 Austrian Grand Prix will be the last to be held in the foreseeable future, as the A1-Ring circuit reaches the end of its current contract.

The country's first Grand Prix, held on an airfield at Zeltweg in 1964, gave the Italian racer Lorenzo Bandini his sole Grand Prix triumph, and in ensuing years the majestic Osterreichring circuit developed a reputation for throwing up some varied winners.

Swiss driver Jo Siffert dominated the race for BRM in 1971; excitable Italian Vittorio Brambilla won the rain-soaked race in 1975 for March and promptly spun as he waved his hand in celebration crossing the finish line; John Watson scored his first victory (and Penske's only Formula One success) a year later; and in 1977 Alan Jones did likewise for the Shadow team.

The A1-Ring was born out of the old Osterreichring for 1997, by which time the old track was deemed too long. The new circuit soon earned a reputation as a place where the determined driver could overtake. The drivers always liked it.

Ralf Schumacher, who lives in Austria, said: "It is a shame the race is going. It is a very nice area to come to. It is very nice anyway in Austria - good food, great hotels around - so it is good to be here."

Jacques Villeneuve is another fan. "I enjoy racing at the A1-Ring," the French-Canadian said. "The layout of the track is really good, and it has a nice rhythm. It's a good track for overtaking. The Austrian Grand Prix is a fun race to watch and a fun race to drive."

Villeneuve is one of only three current drivers to have won at the A1-Ring, the others being David Coulthard and Michael Schumacher.