Two pit stops anticipated, making strategy key on a circuit where overtaking is difficult.
Spielberg – Felipe Massa has headed up an all-Williams front row, using the Pirelli P Zero Red supersoft tyre. This was Massa 16th pole but his first since Brazil 2008, and the first all-Williams front row since the 2003 German Grand Prix. It is also the first time this season that a Mercedes has not claimed pole position.
Drivers followed the expected pattern in qualifying, with the frontrunners using the P Zero Yellow soft tyre to get through Q1, before moving onto the P Zero Red supersoft from Q2 onwards. With Spielberg being one of the shortest laps of the year, traffic was an issue as drivers tried to ensure a clean run.
Most used two new sets of supersofts in Q2, with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton using just one set. However it was Williams driver Valtteri Bottas who set the benchmark on his first run in Q3, before being beaten by his team mate Massa on the second run with new supersofts. Temperatures were warm, in excess of 20 degrees centigrade, which is expected to be the case for the race tomorrow as well.
Bottas was quickest in the final free practice session this morning, using the supersoft, with a rapid final lap that put him in front of Hamilton’s Mercedes.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery: “To have two Williams on the front row tomorrow, for the first time since 2003, just goes to show what an exciting season we are having on track. We’ve seen one of the most fascinating qualifying sessions of the year, with different teams using the tyres in different ways. As a result, we are set for a very interesting battle tomorrow with eight different teams in the top 10. Two stops is expected to be the most likely strategy but just as was the case in Canada some teams might try a one-stopper, depending on factors such as safety cars. The warmer conditions of today should remain for the race, so the teams now have some relevant data behind them to calculate their optimal strategies.”
The Pirelli strategy predictor
The Austrian Grand Prix is 71 laps long, with a two-stop strategy most likely, but a one-stop theoretically the quickest: start on supersoft, then change to soft on lap 18.
However, with overtaking difficult, a two-stop strategy could provide opportunities to gain track position.
An two-stop strategy is: start on supersoft, change to soft on lap 13 and soft again on lap 42. A soft-soft-supersoft strategy, with the changes on laps 29 and 58, could also work in Austria, for those starting further down the grid.