Seemingly four World Championship titles aren’t enough for three of Austria’s greatest Formula 1 drivers, after the Red Bull Ring’s eponymous owners have opted to rename the corners honouring Niki Lauda and Gerhard Berger ahead of this year’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Having staged Grands Prix on an ultra-high-speed layout from 1970 to 1987, the former Österreichring lay dormant for ten years before re-emerging as the heavily emasculated A1-Ring, named after the country’s leading telco.
Featuring a truncated and much simpler layout, three of the track’s eight corners were names in honour of the country’s greatest F1 drivers: Rindt, Lauda and Berger.
But now it seems that sponsorship dollars have outbid sentiment under the circuit’s new owner’s, Red Bull: the Lauda corner has been renamed Pirelli, while Berger’s corner has been rebranded in honour of the toolmaking firm Würth.
The corner named after 1970’s posthumous World Champion, Jochen Rindt, is also up for possible renaming if a high-paying sponsor can come up with the cash.
While it is in his nature to be largely unaffected by such decisions, the straight-shooting Lauda, three-time Formula 1 World Champion and the only Austrian to win on home soil.
The 65-year-old – who is now part of the management of the championship-leading Mercedes team – suggested that this was an act of revenge by Red Bull, whose F1 team is looking unlikely of claiming the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship double for the fifth year on the trot.
“I’m very disappointed,” Lauda told Austria’s Kleine Zeitung newspaper.
“I can only presume it is because I am now at Mercedes and we are thumping Red Bull,” he grinned. “As punishment, Mercedes will be happy to celebrate a one-two in Spielberg!”
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