With the Formula 1 summer season in full swing and the championship race looking set to become a classic for years to come, all eyes turned to the beautiful setting of Spielberg and the Austrian Grand Prix.
Our flights left London Heathrow to make the short two hour journey into Vienna. As we arrived, talk had already focused on the somewhat fortunate Vettel to avoid any further punishment following his altercation with the seemingly increasingly surly Hamilton at the previous race in Baku (we would later find out that this attitude was due to a forced gear box change and a 5-place grid penalty). Whatever your allegiances or thoughts on penalty points and time penalties, everyone was relieved they would see the championship leader in action!
Upon arrival into Vienna, we took the short coach transfer to the hotel, the 4* Imperial Riding School, the hotel which had in a previous life time been Europe's largest Cinema. This made a wonderful location for our base and not least the welcome drinks. With the sun shining, our group could enjoy a couple of glasses of beer or wine on the terrace and get excited about the many restaurants and bars to explore that evening before the real action of qualifying got started. I even found my new favourite venue for a staff briefing in a lovely little place called ‘Ribs of Vienna’ - fed, watered and briefed, we happily made our way to our beds.
Saturday morning arrived quickly and we made the picturesque drive through the mountains to the Red Bull Ring. After loading up on water and sun screen, we were treated to not just the F1 but also F2, Porsche Super Cup and GP3 not to mention the F1 village and its many food outlets and adrenaline fuelled activities (after a pretzel and a beer I decided to steer clear of the bungee jump!). Qualifying came as the temperature got up to 30 degrees and ultimately saw Bottas claim pole with Vettel and Ricciardo making up the top three; a race win for Hamilton looked a long shot as he saw his 3rd place in qualifying turn to eighth due to the previously mentioned gear box penalty. With a couple of well stocked fridges on the bus and Senna on the DVD player, the return transfer to the hotel was quickly done with and an early night to bed followed ahead of the main event.
An early start was eased with the huge breakfasts on offer at the hotel and at 07:30 sharp we headed off to the track. It was great to see that attendance for the race was dramatically up from last year and it created a wonderful atmosphere all around the venue; this number was bulked by a large contingent of Dutch Verstappen fans who made a sea of orange. Unluckily for them, their main point of enjoyment came from the beer due to the action at the first corner!
As eluded to, the first corner again created the notable incident of the race with the struggling Kvyat making a hash of things and causing the much-improved McLaren of Alonso and the superbly supported Verstappen heading back to pit lane and the end of their races. The rest of the race consisted of Hamilton chasing down Ricciardo for third and Vettel chasing down Bottas for the race win – both of whom were unsuccessful. This stretching Vettel’s lead in the Championship to 20 points over Hamilton but also added fuel to the thought of Bottas making his own title challenge.
The following day enabled everyone to explore Vienna one last time before heading back to the airport, our flights home and a well-earned sleep. The weekend was a pleasure and great to meet so many clients really enjoying the sport and the Austrian hospitality as much as they did.
Next up is the British Grand Prix and the hope that the championship remains up for grabs right down to the wire!