|Formula Legend Strategy Report – Austrian Grand Prix 2015|
|Round 8 – 71 Laps – 4.326km per lap – 307.146km race distance – very, very low tyre wear|
|Austrian F1 Strategy Report Podcast click here|
|The Red Bull Ring hosted round eight of the 2015 F1 season last weekend, with Nico Rosberg storming to his second consecutive Austrian Grand Prix victory. Lewis Hamilton was second, with Felipe Massa rounding out the podium in third place.In terms of strategy, predictions prior to the race by Pirelli revealed that there was little time difference between a one-stopper and completing two trips to the pit lane. However, the Italian manufacturer expected most to opt for just one stop, due to traffic.
Conditions were dry and overcast for the start of the Austrian Grand Prix, but the sun emerged early on and the temperatures increased. That did little to change tyre wear and degradation, which remained low throughout the race weekend.
A one-stop race for almost all
As predicted by Pirelli, most of the field went for a one-stop strategy. The only drivers that didn’t experienced issues and problems in the race and had to dive into the pit lane as a result – for example, several pitted after the first lap due to debris.
The huge lap one crash between Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso at Turn 2 – which saw the McLaren come to rest on top of the Ferrari – prompted an early Safety Car. Fortunately both drivers were okay but the arrival of the Mercedes AMG ended all hopes of alternative strategies. It extended the first stint and meant drivers were able to save fuel, meaning it was not such a priority during the closing stages.
Tyre degradation was low and the longer first stint meant there was no question most people would stop just once. The small chance of rain failed to appear, which meant strategy was fairly straightforward.
Multiple stops for a few
The only drivers who stopped multiple times were the ones who got caught up in incidents or had problems. Jenson Button stopped on lap one to try and complete a long final stint, but had to pit again a short while later once the Safety Car pitted to complete his stop/go penalty. He eventually retired with an intake system sensor failure.
Daniil Kvyat also pitted on lap one, to fit a new front wing after his original one was damaged. Stopping so early meant he had to pit again for a second time on lap 45, and bodywork damage from the opening tour of the Red Bull Ring meant his car was difficult to drive.
Marcus Ericsson was another driver to pit on the first lap to repair debris. His handling was also compromised and an electronic issue meant his car switched off twice during the race and he had to restart it. He couldn’t make the tyres last and also had to serve a drive-through for a jump start.
Long lasting tyres
Tyre wear was low and this meant drivers were easily able to complete a one-stop race, with some very long stints. The two softest compounds in the Pirelli range – the red-banded super-soft and yellow-marked soft – were taken to Austria, so do we have a situation where the tyres are once again too hard?
Ideally, a race would have a few strategy options, and often a mix of two and three stops help to shake-up the order and put drivers out of sync with others, sparking some good racing. In Austria we sadly didn’t see this due to the low degradation, with similar strategies completed and little variety.
Sebastian Vettel went the most laps on the option tyre, with a 36-lap first stint. However, a long stop failed to help his strategy and he emerged behind Massa’s Williams. Daniel Ricciardo managed the most laps on the prime tyre and started the race with a 50-lap stint on the softs – his pace was comparable throughout the stint too.
Final run to the flag
Speaking of Ricciardo, his more alternative strategy of starting on the softs and ending the race on the super-soft compound helped him gain ground and score one point, with a pass on Felipe Nasr. It wasn’t helped by a five second stop/go at his first stop due to an engine change but he made it work, eventually running out of time to catch Sergio Perez.
Pastor Maldonado and Perez also ended the race on the super-soft tyre, helping the former move ahead of Max Verstappen – eventually after a few sideways scares – and the latter to stay in the top 10.
Nasr was one of the first drivers starting on the super-soft tyre to pit, having lined up eighth on the grid and completing a positive opening stint for Sauber. However, the race didn’t work out for the Brazilian rookie, as he was left to eke out the soft tyre for 46 laps.
This left him vulnerable to attack late in the race and helped Ricciardo, who was on an alternative strategy, to move into the top 10. Couple that with Sauber’s uninspiring pace on the prime tyre and it was inevitable that Nasr would fall back.
His qualifying result was helped by Kimi Raikkonen’s Q1 elimination and mistakes in Q2 for other drivers, with tricky conditions throughout practice and qualifying in Austria.
At the front
With less battling, better performance and more consistent pace, the leading runners were able to eke out more life in their super-soft tyres – up to 10 laps more in some cases. This meant stints were increased further and drivers were able to easily make it to the end without any tyre concerns (apart from Rosberg, who reported a vibration in the final laps).
Rosberg managed to take a fairly easy win and this was pretty much determined by the start, after a stronger getaway compared to Hamilton. He pitted two laps before his team-mate and despite a scruffy in lap extended his advantage. Hamilton cutting across the pit exit line and being given a time penalty put pay to his hopes of victory.
Pirelli Strategy Infographics thanks to @pirellisport (click for detail)