Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has claimed pole position in Austria using the P Zero Purple ultrasoft tyre. On a drying track in Q3 - a session that started on intermediates - pole position depended on the timing of the final qualifying runs.
Track temperatures were already high for FP3, reaching 48 degrees centigrade. During the early part of qualifying, these exceeded 50 degrees centigrade: the highest temperatures seen all weekend. Weather conditions remain uncertain for tomorrow, while the demands on the tyres put the accent on traction rather than lateral forces.
A two-stopper appears to be the most likely strategy for the race tomorrow, with around 0.4 seconds between the supersoft and ultrasoft compounds. This comparatively small gap is due to the short lap and an effect of this is to open up a number of different strategy options.
All the drivers used the ultrasoft tyre for Q1, which was interrupted by a big crash for Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat that prematurely ended the session. In Q2, the Ferrari and Red Bull drivers set their best times on the supersoft rather than the ultrasoft tyre, which in theory could enable them to do an longer opening stint than for those starting the race on the ultrasoft. Rain fell during Q3, which meant that most of the session ran on the intermediates before a late move to ultrasoft slicks.
The shape of the grid tomorrow will also be heavily influenced by penalties, as a result of which McLaren's Jenson Button will start from third.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: "Austria has certainly proved to be a very unpredictable event so far, and lap times before the shower that fell in Q3 were up to two seconds faster than the times in each equivalent session from 2015. Both in terms of weather and events on the track, so we can expect this unpredictable theme to continue tomorrow. We're anticipating two stops tomorrow and reasonably short stints on the ultrasoft, which are of course designed to provide the ultimate performance but at the expense of durability. We saw tyre strategy underway during qualifying, with Ferrari and Red Bull running the supersoft in Q2, which will give them the opportunity to run a longer first stint tomorrow. The final shoot-out was all about finding the right window of opportunity for the slick tyres to perform at their best on a drying track."
How the tyres behaved today
Soft: used only in FP3. Not seen in qualifying but will be a key element of the race.
Ultrasoft: the most popular choice in Q1 and then used in Q3 last laps on a drying track.
Due to the differing data available from Friday and today, a number of opportunities are open and it is quite difficult to predict the best strategy for tomorrow. The drivers with two sets of soft tyres available have a big potential advantage. A two-stop strategy looks to be the winning one. Using the data from Saturday, two different types of two-stopper appear to be best: start on supersoft, change to soft on lap 16, and soft again on lap 44 is the optimal strategy. If starting on ultrasoft, a change to soft by lap 10 and then soft again by lap 40 looks to be just a few seconds slower.
Check out our Saturday gallery, here.