Sporting: The softest compounds in action in Spielberg

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This weekend sees drivers compete at the Red Bull Ring which represents the shortest lap time of any track on the championship. F1Technical’s senior journalist Balázs Szabó analyses the compounds drivers will have at their disposal in Spielberg.

Teams will have familiar compounds to work with at the Red Bull Ring as Pirelli will provide them with the three softest compounds in their range. The C3 compound will serve as the P Zero White hard, C4 as the P Zero Yellow medium and C5 as the P Zero Red soft at the Austrian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull Ring has only 10 corners, with the shortest lap time of any track on the championship. In terms of elevation changes, the Red Bull Ring stands out with only Spa-Francorchamps featuring greater elevation. There’s a change of more than 60 metres between the lowest point on the track – just before Turn 1 – and the highest point, after Turn 2.

The asphalt has a fairly high micro and macro roughness while grip is high at the start of the lap. Lateral forces, braking and the overall tyre stress are all moderate which prompted Pirelli to bring the trio of three softest compounds.

The Milan-based outfit set the minimum starting pressure of 23.0 psi for the fronts and 20.0 psi for the rears while the camber limit will be -3.25° for the fronts and -1.75° for the rears.

In terms of strategy, the Austrian Grand Prix has seen drivers complete the 71-lap Spielberg race with two stops. It was not different last year when most drivers made two stops, starting on the medium ahead of two stints on the hard.

In sporting terms, teams and drivers will need to pay particular attention to the tyre usage as the Austrian Grand Prix will feature the second F1 Sprint of the 2023 F1 season. It means that qualifying takes place on Friday afternoon following a single free practice session in the morning.

Instead of a second free practice session, Saturday will be dedicated to the Sprint Shootout and the Sprint Race. During the three short sessions that make up the Sprint Shootout (lasting 12, 10, and eight minutes respectively) teams will have to fit new tyres and use the medium compound for Q1 and Q2. In Q3, only the soft compound will be used.

Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Mario Isola commented: “The Red Bull Ring is a circuit where tyres get no rest. The cars race through the track's 10 corners in a lap time of just over a minute, and the few straights mean that there is little reprieve for the tyres. The asphalt has a fairly high micro and macro roughness, due to the age of the surface, while grip is high at the start of the lap.

“Traction and braking are key elements, while particular attention will have to be paid to managing tyre overheating. Drivers who manage not to cool their tyres properly may find it difficult to defend against attacks from rivals, especially in the first and last sectors. An important factor in this will be ambient temperature, with weather conditions traditionally somewhat variable. Last year's race was largely a two-stopper using the medium and hard compounds, but a one-stopper could also be an option this year if degradation is not too high.”