JUNE 20, 2014
Traffic chaos mars first day at Red Bull Ring
The Red Bull Ring's first grand prix weekend got off to a sluggish start, when members of the teams and media got stuck in a huge traffic jam.
McLaren chiefs Eric Boullier and Sam Michael, for example, abandoned their car several kilometres from the former A1-Ring, which has been impressively refurbished by Red Bull and is hosting its first race for a decade.
Boullier and Michael walked instead, while the local Kleine Zeitung newspaper agreed that those on bicycles were the only ones "in the fast lane".
"There is just one road in and out of the circuit," said Telegraph correspondent Daniel Johnson.
The Times' Kevin Eason agreed: "Dietrich Mateschitz ... has transformed this venerable circuit into Austria's new sporting pride and joy. Shame no one remembered to revamp the rural road system."
Mercedes' PR machine also hit a snag on Thursday, when drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, expected to dominate the weekend's action, steadfastly refused to refer to the circuit by the name that matches their arch F1 enemy.
"It would be an extra pleasure," Rosberg smiled mischievously, "to win here at the A1-Ring."
Hamilton, meanwhile, was quoted as questioning Red Bull's claim that Austria is even a home race for the reigning world champions.
"They are a British team, based in the UK," he insisted. "Besides, I know the circuit by a different name. That's how I will always think of it."
Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda, too, refused to play nice with F1's new race hosts, insisting he would not be happy to see Red Bull win on home soil.
"Excuse me, but we're fighting a world championship, so there are no presents," he told Osterreich newspaper.
"On the contrary, as Austrians, Toto Wolff and I want to win with our German car in Austria," Lauda smiled.