Formula One's sole tyre manufacturer Pirelli expects the Styrian Grand Prix to become a race dictated by the one-stop strategy, although the rain that is forecast for the afternoon could overwrite the calculations.
Despite predictions of uncertain weather for Saturday, the conditions of the qualifying session were warm and dry with 31 degrees ambient and a track temperature peak of 52 degrees in Q2. The Milan-based tyre supplier nominated the tyre selection of C2, C3, and C4 for this weekend's Styrian Grand Prix.
After the practice sessions were dominated by Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, it was the Dutchman who went fastest in qualifying: one week after claiming pole in France. Verstappen was the only driver to get into the 1m03s window, on his first Q3 attempt with the P Zero Red soft C4.
At the beginning of the Q2 session, the fastest teams tried to gain strategy advantage for the race with Verstappen and the Mercedes drivers setting their best times on the medium and will start on this compound today. Although the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas qualified runner-up in Q3, he has a three-place grid penalty: promoting his team mate Lewis Hamilton to second, McLaren’s Lando Norris to third and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez to fourth.
Should the weather stay dry in the 71-lap Styrian Grand Prix, the most favoured one-stop strategy for the bulk of the top 10 is likely to be P Zero Red soft to P Zero White hard. Otherwise, P Zero Yellow medium to hard is set to be what Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and the two Mercedes drivers opt for: which is also a possibility for other drivers outside the top 10 on the grid. Pirelli thinks that soft to medium (or vice versa) is feasible too, but it is more difficult to achieve without careful tyre management.
Pirelli's Head of F1 and Car Racing Mario Isola is looking forward to see how Red Bull's split strategy will pan out at today's Styrian Grand Prix which Verstappen is set to start on the medium compound while his team mate Sergio Perez is due to begin the first Austrian round on the soft boots.
“In qualifying, we experienced the warmest temperatures of the weekend so far, but some very close margins as well as some variations in strategy, which means that the top two and Bottas will start on the medium tyre, with the rest of the top 10 on the soft.
"This will make for a lively start tomorrow, and it will be also interesting to see if Red Bull is able to take advantage of a split strategy with their two cars. There are forecasts of storms for tomorrow, which could have a decisive impact on the action. Otherwise, we're expecting a one-stop race, with a few different potential ways to approach it," Isola concluded.