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Paddock Postcard from Austria

22 Jun 2014

Formula One racing’s return to Austria proved a major success and the changes that owner Dietrich Mateschitz has made to the Red Bull Ring circuit were very well received.

One of the most popular aspects was a brace of Legends Parades in which all of Austria’s surviving F1 racers were united in a demonstration in historic F1 cars.

Niki Lauda handled a 1976 Ferrari 312T2; Helmut Marko a 1972 BRM P160B; Gerhard Berger a 1988 Ferrari 88C; Karl Wendlinger a 1995 Sauber C14 (which had engine problems); Alex Wurz a 1998 Benetton B198; Hans Binder a 1976 Williams FW05; Dieter Quester a 1974 Surtees TS16; Patrick Friesacher a 2005 Minardi PS04 and Christian Klien a 2005 Red Bull RB1. Even Sebastian Vettel had a go in the BRM, which had fuel feed problems.

Berger, recently injured in a skiing accident, was his usual irreverent self as he referred to that, and the battle injuries incurred by his compatriots Marko and Lauda. “Huh,” he suggested, “it will be a handicap race; we have one guy, me, with one arm, one with one eye and one with one ear!”

As the cars took to the picturesque Spielberg track, the huge crowd rose to their feet as one to cheer them on.

The paddock bustled with racing folk: apart from the aforementioned legends, Mark Webber paid a visit, together with AF Corse’s Le Mans class winners Giancarlo Fisichella and Tony Vilander, Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen was the driver steward; Mansour Ojjeh made a very welcome reappearance after his recent double lung transplant, and of course Mateschitz was there with former ski champion Harti Weirather and Wings for Life CEO Anita Gerhardter.

There was plenty of on-track action, too, with GP2 and GP3 races.

Brazilian Felipe Nasr drove beautifully to take his second series victory for Carlin in Saturday’s GP2 feature race after leading throughout, as ART’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Racing Engineering’s Raffaele Marciello underlined their burgeoning talent by completing the podium.

Poleman Johnny Cecotto soon dropped back in his Trident car while series leader Jolyon Palmer’s DAMS version didn’t quite have the pace to stay with Vandoorne and Marciello after they’d all been early pit stoppers to switch from the option to the prime Pirellis.

As Marciello’s team mate Stefano Coletti faded to fourth after fighting for the lead, Palmer followed him home in fifth ahead of Cecotto. Mitch Evans was seventh for Russian Time, leaving Caterham’s Alexander Rossi to take eighth and pole for Sunday’s sprint race.

The American suffered an awful getaway however, which allowed Cecotto to leap from the second row into an early lead - the first move of what proved a thrilling race.

Rossi hounded the Venezuelan for the first five laps, but was then picked off by Marciello, with the Italian taking up the task of harrying Cecotto.

He too faded and was passed by Coletti, who had fought past Rossi on the outside of Turn 3 on lap 17. Cecotto's lead was once again slashed but he hung on to take victory, just seven tenths of a second ahead of Coletti. Marciello rounded out the podium ahead of Evans, Rossi and Palmer.

The Briton still leads the championship on 117 points, from Nasr on 84 and Cecotto on 76.

Across in GP3, championship leader Alex Lynn took the honours in race one, converting pole into a dominant victory.

Carlin team mate Emil Bernstorff came home second, comfortably ahead of Korainen's Jimmy Eriksson, who sealed third after passing Status's Richie Stanaway after the race was restarted following a first corner collision between ART's Alex Fontana and Manor duo Dean Stoneman and Patrick Kujala.

There were crashes too in the second contest, which played a part in Bernstorff charging from seventh on the grid to record his first series victory.

Eriksson once again picked off Stanaway, this time to seal second, with the latter fending off Trident's Roman de Beer to secure third.

In the championship, Lynn's victory propelled him to 62 points, 13 ahead of Eriksson in second. Stanaway is third on 45 points, nine ahead of Bernstorff.

For more pictures from Austria, check out our Paddock Postcard gallery.