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Battles, crashes and controversy - 10 memorable Austria moments

27 Jun 2016

Austria’s track may have changed shape several times over the years, but its propensity for generating unforgettable action has remained the same. Here are some of our top picks from the archive…

Hakkinen vs Schumacher, 1998

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Throughout 1998 Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher fought tooth and nail for the world championship, with the balance of power swinging back and forth between them. Schumacher arrived in Austria off the back of successive victories in France and Great Britain, but it was Hakkinen who’d get the upper hand in Spielberg, brilliantly fending off his German rival, who was even tempted into a rare error while trying to get back on terms with the race-winning Finn.

 

De Angelis beats Rosberg by a whisker, 1982

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Twenty years before Ferrari’s controversial stage-managed run to the flag, Austria bore witness to one of the most exciting finishes in F1 history as a charging Keke Rosberg gave everything he had to chase down Elio de Angelis’ black Lotus. What made the battle even more enticing was that neither driver had won before, nor could they have expected to be in the position to do so at the start of a race that was predicted to be dominated by turbo-powered cars. In the end De Angelis had just enough momentum out of the Osterreichring’s final corner to edge his Finnish rival, whose Williams crossed the line just 0.050s back in what remains the fourth closest finish of all-time.

 

Coulthard commits the cardinal sin, 1999

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Crashing into your team mate is just about the worst thing an F1 driver can do – but it’s even worse when that same team mate is in the midst of a tight battle for the world title, as Mika Hakkinen was when McLaren cohort David Coulthard punted him out of the lead on the opening lap of the ’99 Spielberg event. “David cost me the race,” bristled the usually placid Finn, who limited the damage to victorious title rival Eddie Irvine by recovering from last to third. “If it had not been for the accident I would have been half-a-lap ahead of the field. I had been faster than everyone all weekend.” For Coulthard, who finished second, there were only apologies - and lots of them. “Today was my nightmare scenario,” he admitted. “Not only did I take out my team mate, I also finished second to our opposition. I am very sorry for what happened.”

 

How to lose friends and alienate people, 2002

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Having beaten team mate Michael Schumacher to pole position by 0.6s on the Saturday and then led all but one of the race’s 71 laps on the Sunday, it would be hard to argue that Rubens Barrichello didn’t deserve to win the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix. But that didn’t prevent Ferrari’s hierarchy (via a spot of pit wall note passing) from controversially demanding that the Brazilian move aside for his championship-chasing colleague - something he reluctantly did within metres of the flag. "I'm not very pleased about it, I don't think any of us are really,” said a sheepish Schumacher after he and Barrichello were unceremoniously jeered on the podium. “I'm thankful for the points but obviously I don't take a lot of joy from the victory…"

 

Montoya vs Schumacher, 2001

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Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya enjoyed many memorable on-track encounters during the five and a half seasons they were pitched against each other in F1 - and perhaps unsurprisingly several of them, including this squabble for the lead in Austria in 2001, ended with both parties questioning the other’s tactics. "I was a little bit upset, obviously, because there was no way he could make that corner and all he was trying to do was take me with him out of the circuit," said Schumacher of the lap 16 hairpin tangle. "I'm racing, so I'm not going to let others by,” was Montoya’s uncompromising response. "He just thinks - 'I'm Michael, so you've got to let me by'". The question is: whose side of the fence are you on?

 

Sato’s miraculous escape, 2002

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If ever a driver was grateful for the incredible strength and safety of F1 machinery it was Jordan racer Takuma Sato, who somehow escaped with just bruising after this horror smash in 2002. The unlucky Japanese driver, who described the impact as “the biggest I have ever felt”, had been carefully negotiating the Spielberg’s hairpin after a safety car re-start when he was violently sideswiped by Nick Heidfeld’s out-of-control Sauber, its driver having lost control while dicing with David Coulthard’s McLaren: "Maybe I pressed the pedal too hard while the brakes were still too cool,” said Heidfeld afterwards. “The car got away from me and next thing I knew I was going backwards down the grass." Unsurprisingly, another lengthy safety-car period followed…

 

Home hero Lauda finally hits the jackpot, 1984 

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Most drivers would give anything to win their home Grand Prix, but for all Nika Lauda’s success it seemed like it was always going to be the one race that eluded him. That was until 1984 when, at the tenth time of asking, the Austrian finally gave his countrymen the victory they’d craved for so long. The pivotal moment came 11 laps from the flag when race leader Nelson Piquet had a moment of indecision whilst coming up to lap Michele Alboreto’s Ferrari, allowing Lauda’s close-following McLaren to sweep gratefully past. It remains the only victory for an Austrian on home soil.

 

Three starts, treble the trouble, 1987

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Organisers in Austria must have wondered if they’d ever get their Grand Prix underway in 1987 after the race was twice red-flagged following multi-car crashes at successive starts. The first was triggered when Martin Brundle lost control and pranged his Zakspeed into the barriers, his car ricocheting back into the oncoming traffic and causing chaos. The race was red-flagged, the grid reformed and the race re-started, only for Nigel Mansell’s slow starting Williams to inadvertently kick-start an even bigger accident, with as many as 12 cars coming together in the ensuing congestion, which was only exacerbated by the Osterriechring’s extremely narrow - and soon to be mothballed - track. Amazingly, most of the field made the third start, which, though two hours after the original start time, thankfully passed without incident.

 

Alesi soars over Irvine, 1997

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The Turn 3 hairpin is Spielberg’s primary overtaking spot, so it’s little wonder that it’s been the scene of numerous flashpoints over the years. This spectacular clash between Ferrari’s Eddie Irvine and Benetton’s Jean Alesi occurred while the duo were battling over 12th place in the 1997 race, and ended with the Frenchman declaring his rival “dangerous and extremely rude” - quite the accusation considering many observers thought Irvine was largely blameless for the collision…

 

Raikkonen takes Alonso for a ride, 2015

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It may have had a spectacular finish, with one car perched precariously atop the other, but the beginnings of Kimi Raikkonen’s opening lap shunt with Fernando Alonso in Austria last year were decidedly strange, with the Finn’s Ferrari snapping sideways after picking up sudden wheelspin in fifth gear. “I don’t know exactly what happened,” said a bemused Raikkonen afterwards. “I had some wheelspin in an unusual place. I was at a quite high speed, suddenly went left and end up there…” Fortunately, both drivers were able to escape completely unscathed, though their cars didn’t get off so lightly…