In qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg, the top three teams have chosen different strategies. While Ferrari qualified for Q3 on the softer Soft and therefore also has to start with this tyre, the drivers of Mercedes and Red Bull in Q2 opted for the slightly tougher medium.
Polesetter Charles Leclerc may be advantageous for the start, Because he should have a little more grip on the first few feet. But for this he is probably forced to come earlier to the first (and probably) only pit stop. The fact that Charles is starting on Soft is, in my opinion, a risky strategy,”says Toto Wolff.
The Mercedes team leader explains:”Either he makes two stops if things go badly, or he will have to compromise at the end of the first stint. Red Bull and Mercedes on the medium are better placed in terms of possible strategies. I would rather be on the medium than on the soft.”
Pirelli says the soft one is at 0.7 seconds per lap faster than the medium, and the medium at 0.5 seconds faster than the hard one. For this purpose, the softener decomposes faster by 0.07 instead of 0.04 seconds (soft vs. medium). Towards the end of the stint, this Delta continues to disperse. After about ten laps, the medium should “overtake” the soft in terms of speed.
Hamilton assumes two-stop strategy
Mercedes is therefore self-confident to have set the right course: “We wanted to start the race on the medium tires,” says Operations Manager Andrew Shovlin, “because we believe, that these will cope a little better with the hot conditions. In addition, they offer us a little more flexibility in how long the last stitch will last.”
Should both Leclerc and his followers Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas put on a stop strategy, there will be two phases with Leclerc disadvantage. First, the end of Leclerc’s first stint when his softs go down. And second of all, the end of the race, when Verstappen and Bottas are likely to have the fresher hards on them.
That it stays at a pit stop, but is not carved into stone: “The fact that they start with soft is an indication to me that they are probably planning two stops. Unless the Soft lasts longer than expected,”Lewis Hamilton assumes, after his Grid punishment behind congestion and Botta’s fourth in the starting lineup.
Anyway: Mercedes does not make the mistake of underestimating Ferrari a second time after qualifying.”They are very fast, especially on the long runs”, Hamilton points to Friday training on the Red Bull ring. And Leclerc himself says, “We’re pretty competitive this weekend.”
“A lot will come to the start,” he knows, because “After that comes a long line, and then another. We’re usually pretty fast on the straight and narrow. So I hope I can defend first place through the first three curves. From the speed of the race it looked quite good on Friday compared to Mercedes and Red Bull.”