All these information are based on the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix and are focused more on our experiences around the race and not about the race itself, as you would find endless videos and articles about those already. The schedule and events might change but hopefully this gives you an idea of how it is to go to the Austrian GP if you haven’t been and are planning to go.
The Red Bull Ring which hosts the Austrian GP is in the city of Spielberg, in Styria (aka Steiermark), Austria. We flew into Salzburg and drove thru the Salzkammergut region as we made our way to Styria. It’s a gorgeous place and one area we would not have discovered if not for Formula 1. Spielberg is pretty small and does not have much accommodation so it is not uncommon for fans to stay outside of Spielberg. We started looking for a place to stay seven months before the race and couldn’t get anything close to the track anymore. We then opted for a lodge called Landhotel Oberwengerhof in a small town called Spital am Pyhrn, about 45min away from the track. It is a pretty quiet town, and the hotel is a up in a hill with gorgeous expansive views of lush green hills and mountains from afar.
For the 2022 GP, a pit lane walk was offered on the Thursday of the race weekend for an additional EU10. The Red Bull Ring has an app and it is pretty helpful to have it as events gets published. It was pretty exciting to walk along the garages and watch engineers and mechanics work on the cars. At the end of the pit lane walk, fans just hung around the track and as we were just standing around, Seb and his team walked past us !
On Thursday, there weren’t many people so we were able to park to the closest parking lot. No one was really directing traffic so you can pretty much drive to any parking lot. However, on race day, there were highway officers directing traffic as soon as you exit the freeway. I was impressed at how organized the Austrian GP was. The flow of traffic to and from the parking lots were very well managed. Here’s a map of the track and the parking lots.
In Friday, we skipped the practices and decided to explore the area we are in. The town we were in is pretty small, there was one restaurant and also a bakery which I loved! The owner is very friendly and the pastries are delicious. The next town over, Windischgarsten, is much bigger and has much more choices for eating. It’s also a fun place to walk around and people watch. There were a lot of school kids milling about and a particular ice cream shop called Konditorei Thallinger seem to be a popular hang out spot.
We parked at a lot next to the church and saw a tourist office around the corner. For parking, locals would normally have a cardboard clock left on their cars dash, to indicate the time they parked. We didn’t have this so we just wrote the time we parked on a piece of paper. Inside the tourist office, we found out all sorts of outdoor activities you can do around here. There are a lot of beautiful hiking trails, some even connecting to longer international trails with alpine huts. We were not prepared for this kind of hiking (both physically and gear-wise) but then we found another pamphlet for the longest gorge in Upper Austria and we couldn’t believe this was just about 10 min drive from where we were. Dr. Vogelgesang-Gorge is easily accessible from town, we just used GPS to drive to the parking lot. We followed the orange-brown colored trail in the map that led to wooden steps (labeled Dr. Vogelgesang KLAMM below), and came back around via a road and then connected to the green trail marked “A” back to our car. The trails are very well marked.
The trail started off flat following a stream with water so crystal clear due to the white rocks underneath. About 1km into the trail is a ticket office, and another 1.5km before you start seeing It wasn’t long until we started seeing waterfalls and the start of the wooden footpath and steps that follows the gorge. I have never seen a gorge this big and impressive, and as a bonus, you get to walk the wooden steps and bridges fixed vertically into the rocks as you admire the water majestically flowing under your feet. Yes I did have to make sure both my hands are holding on to the wooden rails but it’s so worth it. I definitely recommend checking this out as you won’t see anything like this anywhere else. At the top of the gorge, we sat on a bench at the top of the trail near a big waterfall and did some forest bathing before we started heading back down to our car via the road, and then on to the trail “A” which led us back to the parking lot.
On Saturday, there was a “Meet the Drivers” event. I wasn’t really sure what it was since not much details were given but we just made sure we were at the tracks early and went straight to the Fan Zone. There were 2 general areas for fans entertainment , the Steiermark Village, where they have more traditional Austrian music and food, and the Fan Zone where we hung out most of the time. The Fan Zone had a stage, and on the weekend, there was always something on stage, singers, musicians, dancers, circus acts. Fans won’t get bored as there’s always something to watch if not watching anything on the tracks. There’s also bungee jumping and of course food and drinks. Austria GP I learned is also almost the Dutch’s second home track. I was talking to a lady and she was telling me how for them (Dutch) sometimes it is easier to get tickets to Austrian GP because the Dutch GP sells out very quickly. I also learned (and saw) that Dutch likes to dress up, of course in their orange color, and it makes for a very festive vibe in the fan zone and in the tracks.
Anyhow, back to the driver’s event. It as held on the stage at the fan zone, where each team had about 10 minutes on stage to talk to fans. We were not right in front of the audience as apparently we were not early enough but still close enough to the stage as the stage area is not really that big. I couldn’t believe I actually got to see the drivers up close! I brought my drawing pad with my drawings in the hope that here would be an autograph event but I just ended up waving the drawings (and I was happy enough that other fans around us told me how good the drawings are).
Austria GP had the sprint format that year so of course we stayed for the sprint race. I won’t cover much about that here since there’s plenty of youtube videos and articles about that already.
On race day, we wanted to get to the track early since we weren’t sure how the parking situation would be. Surprisingly (or not), the parking and road logistics were very organized and everything is well directed as soon as you exit the freeway into the track. BTW, since we were staying in Spital am Pyhrn which is not part of Styria (aka Steiermark) anymore , we had to pay toll as we cross to Steiermark. This toll is not covered by the vignette sticker. Did I mention the gorgeous scenery on our drives to and from the track daily? We didn’t mind the 45min-1hr drive at all.
I digress. Back to race day. Since we were out early, breakfast in our hotel have not started yet and the cafe/bakery in town was not open either. We opted to just get our coffee and pastries in one of the gas stations. They have some pretty good pastries and coffee choices for a gas station (can we have this in the US too please?).
We were parked at the track by 8:30am and planned on waiting for the drivers arrive via the green carpet in front of the Welcome Center but it was raining so we just waited in the car until the rain stopped. We’ve seen the drivers the day before already anyway.
Race day has the most festive atmosphere of course. Even if there weren’t any supporting races happening, we just hung out at the fan zone and there’s always something happening, between the performances on stage and the fans celebrating, there’s never a dull moment in the fan zone. There was also an exhibit of previous F1 cars which were part of the parade later on in the day.
Our seats were in the Steiermark tribune and we have a pretty dramatic view of the circuit. We see the cars as they come from the start/finish and into the first 90 degree turn and accelerating into the straight towards turn 2. We’ve always followed the advise from F1spectator when buying our tickets and his descriptions are always spot on. This is our go-to website when planning on an F1 trip. I also found that the Steiermark tribune is one of the tribunes that did not have as much flares used during the race (to my relief, as inhaling those flares isn’t really the most pleasant experience). If your seat is on the Tribune Mitte (right by the bull statue), expect flares pretty much all throughout the race. Fans in this Austrian GP are definitely very passionate, festive and fun (although later I did read articles of some reported abusive behaviors against women, so I’m hoping this kind of harrasments won’t continue to happen ). I have only been to the Mexico GP before but the overall experience of Austrian GP might be hard to beat !
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