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Austrian Grand Prix 2023

The hope to slow the decline of Austria's rich F1 history

The small country in Central Europe has rich F1 links, but they are on the verge of losing it as time marches on.

To news overview © XPBimages

Much like Finland and their propensity to produce freakishly-fast Formula 1 drivers, Austria is a nation that punches well above its weight.

A country that could completely fit into the US state of Colorado with a population a shade under nine million has produced two World Champions, one of Grand Prix racing's biggest characters, a key power player, the man responsible for giving Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen a chance, one of the most successful teams and the most decorated team boss in the history of the World Championship.

That is a record on which any nation would be proud and one which the next generation could look proudly upon, but Austrian motorsport is in a bad place in terms of driving talent. There is no obvious standout candidate to step onto the grid to follow in the wheeltracks of the likes of Jochen Rindt or Niki Lauda.

Austria's driving history

Austria currently sits eighth on the all-time list for countries with most wins from its drivers, with 41 of them collected through Rindt (six), Lauda (25) and Gerhard Berger (10).

Rindt is the only posthumous World Champion, having been killed at Monza in 1970 in practice for the Italian Grand Prix, and would never know his points lead could not be surpassed, while Lauda is an all-time great with three titles and the most remarkable comeback in the history of sport in his back pocket.

Probably the most famous Austrian since Mozart, Lauda proudly did things his way, including once telling Boeing he wanted to test similar conditions in flight to what had brought down Lauda Air Flight 004 in 1991 over Thailand, killing all onboard. Predictably, Boeing declined the offer as the deployment of a thrust reverser in flight was found to be the cause.

In the 'second-half' of his F1 career, he was instrumental in luring Lewis Hamilton away from McLaren and setting the Mercedes juggernaut off as it steamrollered all before before it between 2014 and 2021.

The third member of the driving contingent, Berger is one of the great characters of F1, famously teaching Ayrton Senna how to relax – and being a part of Toro Rosso (with fellow Austrian Franz Tost in control) when Vettel won the 2008 Italian Grand Prix.

But it's now approaching 13 years since an Austrian – Christian Klien at Abu Dhabi 2010 – started a Grand Prix, despite the run stretching back to 1964 when it started.

			© Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images
	© Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images

Not just on the track

Off track, Austria's influence is perhaps unrivalled.

Helmut Marko runs the Red Bull driver roost and is straight out of the Lauda mould of not being afraid to tell you exactly what he thinks and when, while Toto Wolff has guided Mercedes to 15 of 16 titles between 2014-2021 and over 100 Grand Prix wins. He is the second most successful team boss, only behind Sir Frank Williams.

There's also Alexander Wurz, a former McLaren and Williams driver who is best known these days as Chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers Association, providing a link between those who race and those who govern F1.

Throw Red Bull – an Austrian flagged team – into the mix and it is a potent cocktail. It was because of Red Bull and the late Dietrich Mateschitz that F1 returned to Austria in the first place in 2014.

With the exceptions of Great Britain and Italy, there is perhaps no country in the world with an influence in Formula 1 as big as Austria – so why the lack of drivers?

It's certainly not through a lack of want.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

The next Austrian F1 driver?

Had history dealt Ferdinand Habsburg and his family a better hand, he'd be Heir Apparent to the Austrian throne.

As it is, the effective abdication of his great-grandfather Charles I in November 1918 ended any rights of the Habsburgs to the crown.

And the former single-seater racer turned sportscar champion turned TV pundit and team owner believes Austria should have a driver on the grid.

"It's a good question," the founder of the new fan-backed Rebel Team that is set to provide backing for a driver, potentially in FIA Formula 3, tells select media including RacingNews365.com when asked about why there is no Austrian driver.

"Obviously, we're still a small country and I feel like the reflection on that might be that Austrian people might be better at managing than driving or athletes.

"We are mountain people in that sense, but we haven't had an Austrian driver in a while. I think Lucas [Auer] was probably the closest to making it when he started testing with Force India.

"I think we've got a couple of guys coming up. Alex Wurz's son Charlie is right now in Formula Regional, which I think could be promising.

"There is a huge desire, I mean, 80% of my comments on Instagram are like: 'When are you going to go to Formula 1?'

"When you explain to somebody a career path, from the perspective of a driver, it's a long, long explanation of why I'm not going to go to Formula 1, and I'm focused on endurance racing.

"That's my niche, let's say, when I take over Austrian TV channel's Instagram and DMs and stuff, they're constantly asking about different drivers' names, and when are we going to get a Formula 1 driver back.

"Right now, we were lacking a bit of it. But I think we have to stay focused on the positives and being proud that Toto Wolff is Austrian running Mercedes, Franz Tost is Austrian running AlphaTauri, Red Bull is just an Austrian conglomerate, a huge company.

"So we're very lucky to have so much influence and power in Formula 1, and it needs a driver.

"So I'm hoping that Charlie Wurz will make waves as he moves up into Formula 3, that's kind of where he has to start proving himself.

"But he's got a good guide in his dad, and I'd say he's probably our current best hope to kind of make it through."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

F1 2023 Austrian Grand Prix RN365 News dossier


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