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Pick and mix - Fairy tales and fancy dress in Austria - Off track highlights from a weekend at the Red Bull Ring

Published by Christine

Austrian’s comeback was a feast of lush green forests and beautiful vistas, but the on track action failed to live up to our feverish expectations. The race was good, a solid entry in the 2014 calendar but it didn’t have quite the zest that we saw in Canada. Nevertheless, the racing wasn’t all that occurred, and I’ve picked out some of the other things that happened during the Austrian Grand Prix weekend that caught my eye.

Yodelling on the podium

When you think Austria, you probably think mountains and pigtails and those traditional dresses worn by the women. If you didn’t know they were called dirndl’s before, you are likely now an expert after seemingly everyone tried their hand at a bit of fancy dress over the weekend. It wasn’t just the women, either, some of the guys were caught wearing lederhosen – Daniel Ricciardo wore his on the driver’s parade!

Ricciardo wears the trousers at Red Bull
Credit: GEPA pictures

There was a lot of celebration for the traditional aspects of Austrian life over the weekend. From a rickety old tractor trundling down the pit lane, to someone yodelling their way to the podium, there were more Austrian customs on show than you can shake a stick at.

It all seemed in good fun, though, rather than poking fun at the stereotypes of Bavaria and beyond. As long as this celebration of all things national is done in good faith, I think we should see more of it. Just as when Pirelli tweaked their baseball caps to Stetsons for the first race in Texas, bringing something different to the circuit can be a fun addition to the weekend.

It helps each track to stand out, too. Tilke and his pencil have done plenty of damage to the F1 calendar, producing identikit layouts that blur into one. A splash of local colour can help each circuit to stand out, and to that, I say “Prosit!”

Mercedes upping the rivalry

2014 continues to be all about Mercedes, and the battle between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, but other teams are starting to nip at their heels. Daniel Ricciardo’s win in Canada likely didn’t ruffle the feathers at Mercedes too much, but their loss of pole position in Austria won’t have helped their composure.

Rather than getting anxious, though, the German manufacturer have been showing their competitive spirit in other ways – most notably, hitting Red Bull as hard as they can. An advert was published recently proclaiming it is the Silver Arrow that gives you wings, rather than any carbonated beverage coming out of Austria. After winning the race on Red Bull’s home turf, some of the Mercedes crew opted to decorate that looming bull statue with an instantly recognisable logo.

They tread a fine line, these antics, but dip towards the side of banter. It reminds me very much of that phrase though, about pride coming before a fall. Mercedes may be too far ahead to fall spectacularly, but we are not yet halfway through the season and there’s plenty of time for things to take a different turn.

Pizza cutter or trophy?

Mercedes take home the big spoils from Austria
Credit: Daimler AG

We’ve long known that you can’t please Formula One fans, and I still think of the exhaust loudhailer with a smile. The solution to the complaints about the quiet engine sounds was met only with more complaints. That’s just the way things go. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, therefore, that the Austrian trophy was met with some derision.

I quite liked it, a pizza cutter style trophy, that looked impressively heavy and worth having. We’ve moved on a fair way from the endless Santander trophies that blighted each and every weekend, and are starting to see more innovation in the silverware as the calendar continues to change.

There is an argument that asks what is wrong with a good old cup, but in all honesty, I’m just glad we’re away from the days of those winning green leaf garlands. They looked very uncomfortable to get over a driver’s head, and for said driver to then wear for the next half an hour.

Battle of the bosses

Luca di Montezemolo has been complaining about Formula One for as long as I can remember. If Ferrari aren’t doing very well, then the sport must be broken, is how it comes across. Sometimes he has a point, but more often than not, he’s trying to make headlines. His recent demands for a meeting to shake up the format of Formula One are the latest in a long line of requests for Bernie Ecclestone to change the status quo. As if.

I wonder if di Montezemolo isn’t just getting frustrated with the state of the sport, though, and has another problem on his hands. We all saw with some distaste the message from Bernie Ecclestone to the Austrian race host, and owner of four times champions Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz. There were some sincere thanks on display, aired to a global audience of more than 20 million people. Has Bernie found a new friend to play with, leaving Luca behind?

Perhaps di Montezemolo’s next demand will be a thank you to the prancing horse for sticking with the sport through thick and thin. I’m sure that would look good around the Curva Grande.

Revisiting tracks

The Red Bull Ring’s popularity comes with the advantage of being an existing track, rather than a brand new venue trying to make their mark. It had been a decade since Formula One last raced in the country, and things have changed a lot since then. Not all of the faces have moved on though, with three of the current crop of drivers showing their age and experience by knowing the Austrian Grand Prix of old.

Button navigates the A1-Ring in 2002
Credit: Renault F1

Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, and Kimi Räikkönen must have felt like the elder statesman of the sport seeing their fellow drivers addressing Austria as a new track, when they have been racing there several times before. The lengthy gap made it so that having experience of the circuit layout wasn’t an advantage, particularly as the cars have altered drastically since 2003.

Oh, how much we have been through since those heady days. Alonso was driving for Renault, on the cusp of winning two world championships. Button was still at BAR, hoping against hope that he could get his first F1 win soon, let alone a world title. Räikkönen was having a successful season at McLaren, long before that relationship started going downhill.

There’s often too much time to reflect on the past in F1, but sometimes it is good just to have a reminder of where the drivers today started out, and ponder where those we are watching now might end up.

All content in the series Austria 2014