If anyone has doubts about the popularity of Grand Prix racing they should visit the Austrian Grand Prix, for even though the Osterreichring has only had three Grand Prix races there, it has built up a far-reaching reputation. No-one will ever forget the 1970 event when Ferrari finished first and second, and BRM enthusiasts will not forget 1971 when Siffert led from start to finish, while enthusiasts for youth will remember the smooth and competent performance put up by Emerson Fittipaldi last year. The Austrian organisers started off on the right foot by building their new circuit in beautiful mountain surroundings which encouraged spectators to have an open-air camping weekend, and they followed this up by increasing and improving the facilities each year, and with the backing of the government tobacco company called Memphis, the build-up to this year's event lacked nothing. People came from Yugoslavia, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France and Great Britain, to form one of the greatest crowds ever seen in Austria. There were an estimated 50,000 for practice and race day estimates varied from 100,000 to 130,000 and it was certainly the biggest crowd seen at the Osterreichring, and they had everything going for them; glorious weather, perfect camping conditions, fairs, markets, beer halls, music, supporting races, parades, flying displays, and as the piece-de-resistance the Austrian Grand Prix for nearly 1½ hours. It was a veritable "summer-fest" with activity nearly all the week leading up to the short, sharp Grand Prix.
The McLaren team and the Hesketh team took the opportunity to do some unofficial practice and testing before the official periods began on Friday afternoon so that it was no surprise that they should set the pace when lappery became timed officially. The Hesketh March had been finely tuned aerodynamically in search of maximum speed at the expense of lower cornering power on Some corners which were considered to be less important and James Hunt was putting the theories to the test with good results. The revamped Ferrari driven by Merzario did not go far before the engine went sick and it was immediately returned to the paddock and torn apart in order to install a new engine. Not far away the Goral Tecno was strewn all over the place in the throes of an engine change, having arrived directly from a test session at Goodwood, so Amon was driving the earlier car in the meantime. In the BRM pits Lauda had discovered very quickly that his damaged wrist, sustained in the German Grand Prix, was not going to let him race, so his car was put aside as a spare, which was just as well for Regazzoni's engine blew up in a big way, a mangled connecting rod being clearly visible through a gaping hole in the left side of the crankcase! Both McLaren drivers had a go in the spare M23, as well as in their own cars and they were setting the pace in this first part of practice, with Hulme fastest and Revson third fastest, the irrepressible Hunt being between them until his engine broke, which put a stop to his practice for the day.