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Prost, the most awarded in Austria; where nobody won more times than McLaren

Prost, the most awarded in Austria;  where nobody won more times than McLaren

Frenchman Alain Prost, four-time F1 world champion, is, with three wins, the most successful driver in the Austrian Grand Prix, where no one has won as many times as McLaren, an emblematic team that is going through the greatest crisis in its history and that ends to add his first two points of the year in Baku, thanks to the Spanish Fernando Alonso.

Prost, winner of the championship in 1985, 86, 89 and 93, now in a managerial role at the Renault team – and whose second-best all-time Formula One win record (51) was improved last year by triple champion Englishman Lewis Hamilton, raising it. Meanwhile at 56-, he won three times at the Styrian circuit. This weekend’s venue for the ninth of the 20 World Cup events and in which the Asturian Alonso team, double world champion (2005 and 2006, with Renault), immersed in its third year of sports ‘via crucis’, is, curiously, the one that celebrated the most victories: six.

Austria hosted its first Grand Prix in 1963. A test won by Australian Jack Brabham (Brabham-Climax) and held on the old Zeltweg airfield circuit, not included in the F1 World Cup, in which he debuted at next year. With the triumph of the Italian Lorenzo Bandini, who achieved, with Ferrari, his only victory in the premier class of the motoring, three years before he died from a terrifying accident at the Monaco Grand Prix.

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Just two kilometers from that track, in Spielberg, the current circuit was built in 1969, whose first name was Österreichring and which uninterruptedly housed, from 1970 to 1987, the Austrian Grand Prix. On a 5,911-meter track to which a chicane was added in 1977, expanding it to 5,942, as a reaction to the fatal accident of the American Mark Donahue two years earlier.

It was precisely on that journey, opened with a victory for Belgian Jacky Ickx (Ferrari) in 1970 and which closed with a victory for Englishman Nigel Mansell (Williams-Honda) in 87, that Prost’s three triumphs came.

The ‘Professor’ won for the first time in Austria in 1983, with a Renault, and won again in 1985 and 1986, with a McLaren-Porsche, the same car with which Niki Lauda was (the only) prophet in his land, Living myth of Formula One, in 1984: the year in which the Viennese genius captured his third world title, after the two (1975 and 77) that he won with Ferrari.

The Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi (Lotus-Ford) had won in 1972, the season in which he signed the first of his two titles; and the Argentine Carlos Reutemann (Brabham-Ford) did it in 1974 (the one of the second crown of the previous one). Sweden’s Ronnie Peterson (73 and 78, Lotus-Ford) and Australian Alan Jones (77, with Shadow-Ford; and 79, with Williams-Ford) also became double winners at the Österreichring.

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After a ten-year absence and after undergoing a severe overhaul in the mid-1990s, the Styrian circuit returned to Formula One in 1997, at the renamed A-1 Ring. Modernized and safer, thanks to previously non-existent loopholes, and with a track of 4,319 meters. In which Canadian Jacques Villeneuve (Williams-Renault) won the season that celebrated the title.

And it was on this journey -after the aforementioned victory by Lauda and two of the three achieved by Prost- that the other three triumphs in Austria came for McLaren, a team from which the English Ron Dennis has just dissociated himself. That, with the occasional chiaroscuro, he would celebrate, in managerial positions, the greatest successes of the same.

Finn Mika Hakkinen, who won in 1998 (when he captured the first of his two crowns, in a row) and in 2000; and the Scotsman David Coulthard, who did it in 2001 – after having been second four times in a row – triumphed in Austria with a McLaren-Mercedes.

The German Michael Schumacher, the man-record of Formula One, won in 2002 -when there was a new remodeling, which left the track at 4,326 meters-. With scandal included, derived from the change of positions ordered from the pits that left second to his Brazilian colleague Rubens Barrichello, when he was driving towards victory.

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The ‘Kaiser’ – seven titles and 91 victories – is also among the double winners in Austria, as it repeated its triumph a year later, just before the ‘anti-tobacco’ laws of the European Union ended up leaving the beautiful republic alpine off the F1 calendar.

In 2004, Dietrich Mateschitz, owner of Red Bull, bought the circuit, in which he intended to install a large motorsport center. The idea collided with environmental protection laws, the project was halted and in 2011 the track was reopened, now with its current name, Red Bull Ring, and measuring 4,318 meters.

In 2014 it returned to the Formula One calendar. And since then, paradoxically, it has become a ‘Mercedes circuit’. Escudería in which, however, its two Austrian directors: Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda are in command.

The ‘silver arrows’ won the Austrian Grand Prix in 2014 and 2015 thanks to the German Nico Rosberg, retired after scoring the World Cup last year, when Hamilton won, who this weekend will prolong their fight, more than sports -after of the Baku incident and its ensuing controversy – with the German Sebastian Vettel. Who spearheaded Red Bull’s triumphant journey (2010-2013) and is now seeking the title for Ferrari, leading the competition with 153 points, fourteen ahead of Hamilton. EFE

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