Pirelli Austria Grand Prix Preview
For Formula One’s annual visit to the Red Bull Ring, with its stunning mountain setting, the three softest compounds in the P Zero range have been nominated: soft, supersoft and ultrasoft.
The Spielberg track is probably the closest that Formula One comes to a rally stage: with big changes of elevation and a sequence of fast and twisty corners. The weather in the region can also be quite unpredictable. Although the circuit only returned to the F1 calendar in 2014, it has its roots in the 1969 Osterreichring, which gives the track quite an old-school character that is still in evidence now.
THE CIRCUIT FROM A TYRE POINT OF VIEW:
• The first two sectors are fast with the final sector being slower and more technical.
• The circuit tests a wide spectrum of a tyre’s ability, in terms of lateral and longitudinal loading.
• Wear, degradation and temperatures are quite low, which is why we have the softest tyres.
• Judging the braking points is quite complex, as there are a number of uphill braking areas.
• The track surface is generally low-grip and low abrasion, as well as being bumpy in places.
• Spielberg is the shortest lap time of the year with only nine corners, so precision is vital.
THE THREE NOMINATED COMPOUNDS:
• Yellow soft: unusually this is the hardest tyre in the range, one of the mandatory available sets.
• Red supersoft: these should play an important role in the race, also a mandatory available set.
• Purple ultrasoft: the most popular choice by a long way, with up to nine sets nominated per car.
HOW IT WAS A YEAR AGO:
• A one-stop strategy proved key to victory, although this was influenced by an early safety car. Nico Rosberg started on the supersoft and then switched to the soft on lap 38 (of 71).
• Best-placed alternative strategy: Pastor Maldonado finished seventh from 10th on the grid (promoted by grid penalties) after starting on the soft tyre and doing a long opening stint.
PAUL HEMBERY, PIRELLI MOTORSPORT DIRECTOR:
Austria is one of the most picturesque and individual tracks on the championship, which asks a lot from the tyres in terms of all-round mechanical grip and performance, which is why the ultrasoft has been resoundingly favored here.
As a result, we may have a two-stop race this time, even though last year was a one-stopper. However, this venue is always quite unpredictable: we had a safety car period right at the beginning of the grand prix last year, while rain as well as bright sunshine seems to be an equal possibility. The ultrasoft compound should be well-suited to the Red Bull Ring, which means that we will almost certainly see the fastest laps ever of this current circuit configuration this weekend.