Austria Sprint team notes - Pirelli


Red Bull was the dominant force on Saturday in Spielberg with a one-two in the Sprint Shootout and again in the Sprint Race, both times with Max Verstappen ahead of Sergio Perez. Completing the podium of the "short" race was Carlos Sainz for Ferrari, while earlier, Lando Norris had been third quickest in the Shootout for McLaren.

The Sprint Shootout saw Max Verstappen confirm his mastery of the flying lap, setting a best time of 1.04.440, a mere 49 thousandths of a second slower than the time with which he secured pole position for the Grand Prix yesterday. Verstappen was presented with the Pirelli Sprint Shootout Award, a variation of the iconic Pirelli podium cap, personalised in the colours of the Austrian flag, by the artist, Saiff Vasarhelyi.

Before the start of Q1, the Sprint Shootout was declared to be a wet session by the FIA, even though the track surface was almost dry. The drivers thus had a completely free choice of what compound and which sets of tyres to use after the return of one set after FP1. Three drivers started the session on Intermediates, but immediately pitted to switch to slicks. Seven drivers used at least one set of new Mediums, (Hulkenberg used two), some in Q1 (Verstappen, Bottas, Russell, Magnussen), some in Q3 (Sainz, Stroll, Hulkenberg). In Q3, only four drivers, Verstappen, Leclerc, Norris and Ocon were able to set a time with new Softs.

A wet track again for the Sprint Race, and as the field set off on the formation lap, only Valtteri Bottas had fitted Mediums on his Alfa Romeo, a decision he immediately regretted as he pitted to fit the same Intermediates as the rest of the field. In terms of tyre use, the 24 lap race provided a very interesting scenario as several strategies were adopted amongst the teams.

The leading group opted to keep the intermediates throughout, relying on the advantage they had built up in the early stages. As a dry line gradually emerged, those outside the points gambled on a switch to slicks. The bravest was George Russell (Mercedes) who pitted as early as lap 15 to switch to the Softs, a move which was repaid with the final point on offer after he had climbed up to eighth place.

Another strong showing today came from Nico Hulkenberg (Haas). Having started from fourth on the grid, the German was running second for a long time, before gradually dropping down the order. He pitted on lap 17 when lying sixth, but by now running at a less competitive pace, taking on a set of Mediums. He then managed to fight back to sixth, as well as setting the fastest lap of the Sprint Race.

Mario Isola: "It was a very interesting day, with the weather creating a mix of different situations and available options that often make Formula 1 racing more uncertain and spectacular. We had already seen this in the Sprint Shootout, but it was even more evident in the Sprint Race, in which so many positions changed in the closing stages. For example, if we look at the two Aston Martins that did all 24 laps on the Intermediates and Hulkenberg, who having started on Intermediates, switched to Mediums for the last seven laps, they finished only a second apart, showing that both choices were valid. To sum up, I think we can say that the Sprint format is really adding even more of a show to Formula 1.

"From a tyre point of view, today has allowed us to carry out an even deeper analysis into the very important topic of the crossover point from wet weather tyres to dry ones. This afternoon that crossover point was at 112% of the reference time. Eleven drivers went for this strategy, while not all choosing the same compound, with five opting for the Medium and six the Soft. We have acquired a lot of data that will be very useful for us and also for the teams.

"As predicted, the rain played its part today, but tomorrow is expected to be dry with temperatures considerably higher than today, although not to the level we saw in FP1. With just one free practice session, there is not that much data available with which to produce an extensive analysis of tyre behaviour over a long run, but we think the Soft will not really be used, thus the choice comes down to the Medium and the Hard. On paper, the fastest strategy seems to be a two-stop, starting on the Medium, switching to Hard and then back to Medium. Or for those who have two sets of C3 available, another stint on the hardest tyre. The one-stop (Medium-Hard) could also be competitive, but looking at how last year's race played out, it is a less attractive option than making two pit-stops.

"Finally, on behalf of Pirelli, I would like to offer our condolences on the death of Dilano Van't Hoff, who passed away this afternoon, following an accident in the European Championship Formula Regional race at Spa-Francorchamps. It is a tragedy, which once again reminds us that racing can sometimes be a cruel sport and the extent to which safety must always be an imperative for all those involved in motorsport."

Check out our Saturday gallery from the Red Bull Ring here.

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Published: 01/07/2023
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