Formula 1: Austria GP set for 2014 return

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Formula 1 is set for a return to Austria in 2014 after an 11-year break.

The Austrian Grand Prix has been provisionally scheduled for 6 July in Spielberg after Red Bull team officials spoke with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.

F1’s governing body FIA is expected to announce the 2014 calendar in September. According to Red Bull, the race in Austria is pending approval by local authorities.

Spielberg also hosted the race from 1997-2003, with Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher winning the last two. The track has been slightly modified since to improve safety. Five years after the last race in 2003, Red Bull reportedly invested 200 million euros ($260 million) in the track and surrounding infrastructure in a bid to return to the F1 calendar. The circuit received a F1 license in May 2011 but has since only staged events for the DTM touring car series. Three-time F1 world champion Niki Lauda, who won his home grand prix in 1984, described the imminent return of the series to Austria as “an enormous joy.”

“I’ve always hoped the Formula 1 would come back some day. This means a lot to me,” said Lauda. “It’s a new impetus, especially for the region.”

Austria has hosted 26 races since 1964 on different circuits, with Alain Prost winning a record three times. Until 1987, the races were held in nearby Zeltweg before Austria first disappeared from the calendar for ten years.

Meanwhile, Russian teenager Sergey Sirotkin is adamant he will be ready to make his Formula 1 debut next season. Sirotkin, 17, has caused a stir since Sauber announced last week he would be fast-tracked into F1 as part of a deal to save the team by of a trio of Russian investors, with his father Oleg behind one of the companies. Should Sirotkin gain the necessary super licence required for F1 and go on to line up on the grid for the opening grand prix of next year – almost certainly Bahrain on 2 March – he would become the youngest in the sport’s history to make his bow.

That honour currently belongs to Spain’s Jaime Alguersuari who was 19 years 125 days when he debuted in the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, yet Sirotkin would beat that mark by around ten months.

Sirotkin’s single-seater background so far is hardly inspiring, with current team manager Igor Salaquarda, who runs ISR in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, already stating he would be unable to cope with the pressure. Despite that, Sirotkin said: “At the moment maybe I am a little bit too young, but that doesn’t mean I cannot be ready.” I have more than half a year to learn, I am doing a good preparation programme, and I can be ready. I don’t think it is going to be a big problem.”