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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 May, 2003, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
F1 mourns loss of Austria
Pedro de la Rosa's Jaguar at last year's Austrian Grand Prix
Austria has a unique setting

Leading Formula One figures have voiced their regret at this year being the last for the Austrian Grand Prix.

The event has lost its place on the calendar because of a row over tobacco advertising in the European Union and looks unlikely to win it back as new venues fight for dates.

But many drivers and team bosses say they will miss the race because of the unique location of the A1-Ring track.

"The thing about Austria is that it is out in the country, really farming country, and that I like because tracks in F1 should be different," said Williams technical director Patrick Head, who can still remember his introduction to the region.

"There was the most unbelievable smell in the room, it was absolutely horrific," added Head of his farmhouse lodgings.

"It turned out that it was the room of the son of the house and his working boots were in the cupboard. He must have used them every day for about 10 years."

McLaren driver David Coulthard
It is a funny little circuit to drive because there are not many corners - but usually it has given some interesting races
David Coulthard

Former world champion Niki Lauda, who won his home race in 1984, said: "The cows are running around all over the place, there's a completely different rhythm and way of life.

"What I like best is the atmosphere. You don't live in a random hotel but on a farm where the chickens wake you in the morning."

But Lauda is well aware of the commercial realities of F1, which mean the sport is constantly looking for spread its net wider - and to do it in places that better suit corporate guests.

"It is better for F1 racing to have a race in China or the Middle East than in Austria," he admitted.

Austrian former F1 driver Niki Lauda
Lauda understands why F1 has to quit Austria

Bahrain has already won a date on the F1 calendar next season, and China and Russia are among the countries bidding for a place.

Britain's David Coulthard, winner in 2001, echoed the feeling of many drivers when he said: "As an event on the calendar my impression is that the local people have been very friendly, very welcoming and certainly I will miss having that on the calendar.

"It is a funny little circuit to drive because there are not many corners. But usually it has given some interesting results in the races and incidents.

"But from a track point of view it is not as great a loss, I'm afraid to say, as somewhere like Spa."

The Belgian race at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps track has been dumped off the calendar this season, also because of a tobacco-advertising row.

Juan Pablo Montoya at last year's Belgian Grand Prix
Spa has also lost its F1 place

Spa was widely regarded as the greatest circuit in the world, but it had a rival in Austria in the previous incarnation of the A1-Ring - the Osterreichring.

It was an ultra-high-speed track that was lost the calendar because of safety reasons after hosting 18 Grands Prix between 1970 and 1987.

Around 17m was spent on updating the track but the A1-Ring was an emasculation of its predecessor.

"People say this might be the last Austrian Grand Prix but I'm not sentimental because the Austrian track that I knew, in the 1970s, a good track, with nice big quick corners, has all gone anyway," said Gary Anderson, Jordan's head of engineering.

"It's now a stop and go place. The real Austria went a long time ago."






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