The second land-based track of the 2015 season is going to ask even more questions of the pilots than Ascot. The Red Bull Ring is situated in a bowl-shaped valley in the Styrian mountains, which will offer distractions and changeable weather conditions for the pilots.
Race Director Steve Jones is adamant that the track will be packed with other challenges for the pilots despite it looking quite simple. With an elevation of around 65m within each lap, and trees to contend with too, the pilots will need to be thinking in three-dimensions.
There will be a lot for the pilot to concentrate on before the timing clock has even started. "Choosing a line through the Start Gate is a compromise. The pilots will need to create a perfectly efficient line to Gate 2 and onwards while avoiding the spectators on the left and the trees after the first Gate. The turn from Gate 2 into the chicane is tricky too," Jones explains.
Jones describes how the pilots will then need to "ignore the high ground" in their sightline as they roll in, tensing as they prepare to withstand the massive G forces of the high-speed turn. It's then a question of retaining finesse and judgement as the pilots aim to keep their canopies a few metres from the chicane pylons through this high-speed slalom.
"The fastest way is level and as straight as possible," Jones states, adding that, "Gate 4 signals the first vertical turn – another test of flying skill while fighting a 10G slam into your seat. There are whole seconds to be won or lost here so it is vital to get this right."
From here, it's a case of control – nudge the stick back just enough to produce the highest pitch-rate possible. Pull too hard and airflow will break away from the top surface of the wing into an aerodynamic stall, costing precious seconds.
The pilots will then need to crane their necks back in the cockpit to get early sight of the exit through Gate 5. At this point, they will need to tap the stick over to roll upright in the dive and make certain to be back down at race height before entering the double gate. If they have got all this correct, then they will be perfectly aligned with Gate 6, and then a hard left side-step is needed to set up for the second vertical turn at Gate 7... and here comes another load of G.
"Another hotspot in the racetrack is the rising ground as the pilots dive inverted towards Gate 8. Any correction on the flight controls will drag speed down and cost time," adds Jones. Into the second lap, it's a question of precision over speed. "In Lap 2 it's critical to preserve airspeed with silky-smooth flying and super-tight lines. The pilots will have slightly more thinking time, so will need to use it wisely!" he finishes.