The Austrian Grand Prix saw championship leader Max Verstappen claim his third consecutive win and another dominant victory at the Red Bull Ring with a two-stop strategy. F1Technical's Balázs Szabó analyses the strategies and behaviour of the tyre compounds at the second Spielberg race.
The Red Bull Ring played host to two races this year again. The sport was adamant to spice things up in the second Spielberg race in order to avoid the complete repeat of the first round. Formula One’s sole tyre supplier Pirelli also tried to play its part in that attempt, bringing a different tyre nomination for the two races.
For the Styrian Grand Prix, the Milan-based tyre manufacturer nominated the trio of C2, C3 and C4 compounds while the Austrian Grand Prix that took place a week later saw Pirelli supply teams with a step softer nomination.
The C5 compound was only used by the four drivers who qualified on the softest boots for the last part of the qualifying session while the rest of the field was determined to avoid the red-walled compound. All the four drivers who started on the soft tyre - Sebastian Vettel, Lance Stroll, Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly - stopped twice as expected, using the hard tyre twice for the second and third stints. The cooler conditions today helped bring out the best in the softer compounds.
The C4 compound that was the softest rubber available at the Styrian Grand Prix became one of the crucial tyres for this race. The yellow-walled tyre was used by the majority of drivers to start the race, but only two of them to finish it with Sainz and Raikkonen committing themselves for the hard-medium strategy.
The C3 Hard compound was the most favoured tyre during the 71-lap race. The white-banded compound was used by two drivers to start the race, with Sainz running his starting set for 48 laps before switching the medium. He eventually ended up fifth from 10th on the grid. All the drivers apart from two – Sainz and Räikkönen - used this for the final stint, with Verstappen claiming the extra point for fastest lap on his final set of hard tyres.
With the one-step softer tyre nomination Pirelli wanted to push teams towards a two-stop strategy, but the cooler climatic conditions helped the majority of the field execute a single stop strategy. Temperatures were considerably cooler than they were on Saturday, with the race starting under cloudy skies with 24 degrees centigrade ambient and 32 degrees of track temperature.
In the end, there was a mixture of one-stop and two-stop strategies seen throughout the race. Eight of the 19 classified finishers stopped twice, with two in the top four.
The four drivers, who started the race on the soft compound, stopped twice with Tsunoda pitting first on Lap 12, followed by his team mate Gasly (Lap 13) and Stroll (Lap 14). The Belgian-Canadian’s team mate Vettel streched his first stint the most with the German visiting the pit lane for the first time on Lap 17 to get rid of his worn C5 tyres.
The other drivers to stop twice were Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Antonio Giovinazzi and Nikita Mazepin. The race winner started on the P Zero Yellow medium tyre before switching to the P Zero White hard for his two final stints.
The defending champion started the race on the medium compound, and switched to the hards on Lap 31. When it became clear that Hamilton could only secure a fourth position due to the damage to the floor of his car, he pitted for another fresh set of P Zero White hard on Lap 53 to try to set the fastest lap of the race. However, he fell short of his attempt as Verstappen ultimately beat the Briton’s benchmark by a long margin.
Antonio Giovinazzi performed, in fact, a one-stop strategy, his first stop came on the opening lap after his clash with Esteban Ocon at Turn 3. Mazepin was the only other driver to commit himself to a two-stop alternative strategy which, as he said, „didn’t work. I think the drop off of the tyres wasn’t as big as we were expecting.”
Commenting on the race that was influenced by the softer tyre nomination, Pirelli's Head of F1 and Car Racing Mario Isola said: “We are happy that our decision to vary the nominations for Austria resulted in two distict races, with the second grand prix having a very fast pace and character compared to the first one.
"Track temperatures today were considerably cooler than they had been during qualifying, which obviously had an effect on tyre wear and degradation, favouring the softer compounds and prolonging the stints. As a result, we saw a good mix of one and two stop strategies; with a one-stopper still requiring some degree of tyre management to maintain performance over the length of each stint, while a two-stopper was the winning strategy.
"Congratulations to Max Verstappen and Red Bull for a perfect strategic race today, where their pace allowed them to stop twice without ever losing the lead. Now we remain at the Red Bull Ring for a third week to continue the 2022 18-inch tyre testing programme for two days with AlphaTauri on Tuesday and Wednesday," Isola concluded.