One-stop strategy expected despite the softer tyre nomination

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While the weather around the Red Bull Ring remains quite unpredictable for the Austrian Grand Prix, drivers might aim at completing the 71-lap race with a single pit stop despite the tyre nomination that is a step softer this weekend.

After the cooler Friday session, temperatures were extremely warm at the beginning of qualifying, with 30 degrees centigrade ambient and a 51-degree peak of track temperature. However, conditions are expected to be cooler and more unsettled tomorrow, with a risk of rain as well.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen made good use of the C5 compound as he set the fastest lap of the weekend so far on his pole lap using the red-walled compound. The Dutchman secured the first starting position for the third consecutive time and the second race on the trot at the Red Bull Ring.

For the first race at the Red Bull Ring, known as the Steiermark Grand Prix, the Milan-based tyre supplier nominated the middle of its 2021 range with the C2 compond serving as the P Zero White hard, C3 as the P Zero Yellow medium, and the C4 as the P Zero Red soft.

At the Austrian Grand Prix, held just one weekend later on an identical track, P Zero White hard is the C3, P Zero Yellow medium the C4 and P Zero Red soft the C5: the softest combination in the Pirelli range.

In the past, this has been a one-stop race on paper – apart from the occasions when a safety car has prompted drivers to take a ‘free’ pit stop. It was indeed the case last weekend with only a single driver, Sergio Perez opting for a two-stop strategy. In reality, Charles Leclerc, Nicholas Latifi and Lewis Hamilton also visited the pit lane twice, but the former two completed their first pit stop on the opening lap due to a first lap incident while the Briton made a late pit visit for fresh tyre as he attempted to set the fastest race lap.

Although Pirelli tried to push teams towards a two-stop strategy, the Milan-based tyre manufacturer thinks now that the fastest strategy for the 71-lap Austrian Grand Prix (the same distance as the Styrian race a week ago) should still be a one-stopper despite the softer tyre nomination in comparison to last weekend,

The frontrunners opted for the Yellow medium tyre to get through Q2 and start the race, which means that the medium followed by the White hard is probably the strategy that they will target – likely to be echoed by many of the other drivers starting on the same compound.

Otherwise, a two-stopper, with two stints on the soft plus a medium or hard stint (which could be the middle stint) or using all the three compounds is a good option: this could provide an interesting ‘sprint’ alternative.

Pirelli's Head of F1 and Car Racing Mario Isola commented: “The new and softer selection of compounds for this race has already had an effect on the strategy for this weekend, with several drivers aiming to get through Q2 on the medium tyre and six of the top 10 starting on it tomorrow.

"This adds a bit of flexibility to the strategy, but it wasn’t easy to guarantee in qualifying, as the soft tyre still conferred a speed advantage that was hard to beat. Temperatures were extremely warm today but this is far from certain for the grand prix tomorrow, adding another interesting variable to what is already a strategically complex race after qualifying, with both one and two stops expected," Isola concluded.