SPIELBERG, Austria (Reuters) - Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton is hoping to win Austria for real on Sunday after only previously mastering it as a video game.
The revamped Red Bull Ring returned to the calendar only last season after an 11 year absence and Hamilton, who made his Formula One debut in 2007, finished second to Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg.
The track is one of just three current ones that he has yet to conquer -- the others being Brazil and Mexico, which returns this year for the first time since 1992.
”Definitely it’s a big challenge for me and something I‘m excited about,“ the Briton told reporters on Thursday. ”I grew up playing computer games with this track and then I never got to really drive it.
“It was always one of my favorite ones on the computer game and then I remember watching the days of Michael (Schumacher) and Rubens (Barrichello) here and ones even further back than that,” added the 30-year-old.
“So I was excited to come here last year. What I didn’t know is how beautiful the place was.”
Hamilton said Austria, homeland of Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff and the team’s non-executive chairman Niki Lauda, made a refreshing change from other races.
“I had a really good time here last year because I had my two dogs with me and where I stayed there was a nice park area,” he continued.
”It’s just beautiful to be in the countryside, away from the city, no noise,“ he said. ”The last race (in Canada) it was so noisy outside...so many fans outside, busy, loud, so much traffic and that kind of stuff.
“My family live in the countryside so I like the countryside, and that is what we have got here.”
Hamilton, a Monaco resident who spends much of his time in America, will be chasing his 38th career win on Sunday.
If he leads for at least one lap, he will also equal retired triple champion and compatriot Jackie Stewart’s record of leading 17 successive grands prix.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis