Well, here we are, the home race. Despite the Red Bull Ring being a real, live racing venue for the last three years, for many of the Infiniti Red Bull racing team this is a first visit to Spielberg – or at least a first visit since F1 last came to Spielberg in 2003, when things looked very different.
...but perhaps not that different. These days it's become normal for 'new' circuits to be monolithic in construction but while pretty much everything at the Red Bull Ring except the track has changed, it's still a comfortably-sized venue and, seated in the right place, you can see almost all of the track. It's a lot easier to think of this as the return of a traditional race rather than the launch of a new one.
The sheer number of spectators backs that up. The Austrian Grand Prix isn't being sold to a new audience, it's been sold to an audience that's been deprived of its race for the decade and has been travelling to Budapest, Hockenheim, Monza etc., The weekend sold-out in a matter of minutes when tickets went on sale and the pitlane walk on Thursday evening was absolutely mobbed. That sort of atmosphere leaks into the garage. Perhaps it doesn't affect how things get done but it puts everybody in a good mood.
There's also the history of the place. It doesn't hurt that the walls are covered in pictures of Jochen Rindt and Niki Lauda (but also Jacky Ickx, Alain Prost, David Coulthard, Michael Schumacher etc., ) but you don't need to look to hard to see vestiges of the fearsome old Österreichring poking out the forest. There's something about racing in the high, empty corners of Europe that seems to sit very comfortably with the traditions of Formula One.
It's interesting that the calendar has this race following on from Barcelona, Monaco and Montreal. You couldn't have three busier, more bustling places to hold grands prix, so it's a bit of a culture shock to get into the countryside this week. It's very refreshing to have something a bit different. There's as many hills as there are at the Nürburgring and as many cows as there are at Magny Cours. It's not particularly the race for anyone who wants to walk out of their five-star hotel and grab a latte at Starbucks on the way to the track – but if a B&B or a campsite barbecue are more your speed, then this is definitely the race to be at.