Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2018

Drivers could favour harder tyres for qualifying but rain remains a threat

2018 Austrian Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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The Red Bull Ring produces the shortest lap time on the F1 calendar. So while Mercedes led the way on Friday, the margins were very fine, and the slightest error by their drivers in qualifying tomorrow will open the door for the Ferrari or even Red Bull drivers to take advantage.

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were first and second in both sessions, as they probably would have been last week at Paul Ricard had Bottas not suffered a water leak on his car. But Sebastian Vettel was just two tenths of a second behind them in the Ferrari, and tends to show less of his true pace on Fridays than the Mercedes drivers do.

In the second practice session the ultra-soft tyre was graining and some drivers, including Hamilton, were unable to improve their lap time on it. It therefore seems likely that we will once again see some of the quicker drivers opt to complete Q2 on a harder tyre in order to start on it.

“If you have some graining on the ultra it is clear that this is affecting the performance,” said Pirelli’s sporting director Mario Isola. “So I’m not surprised if tomorrow in quali we see somebody in the top teams trying to qualify for example in the super-soft, targeting a one-stop race with the super-soft and soft.”


Isola added that if the conditions remain dry overnight the track could continue to increase in grip and graining may no longer be a factor. A few hours later, the heavens opened…

The early indication therefore is that, contrary to Pirelli’s goal for the season, a one-stop strategy will again be the way to go.

“Considering that the most representative test was this afternoon in FP2 with full tank and so on I believe some of them are targeting a one-stop race using the super and the soft,” said Isola.

Romain Grosjean, Haas, Red Bull Ring, 2018
Drivers prefer the harder compounds this weekend
“The window for the pit stop will be quite open. Having low degradation you can decide when you want to change if you start on super-soft you can decide when you want to change to soft.”

Romain Grosjean indicated it isn’t just the front-running teams who are favouring the harder compounds.

“It’s sometimes surprising with Pirelli that you go faster on a stiffer, harder compound,” he said. “They’re just more resilient. They don’t wash out. You can actually get a better lap time out of it.

“But I haven’t tried a soft here, which I think is a really good tyre. We’ve been working on super-soft and ultra-soft.”

The Haas drivers were comfortably ‘best of the rest’ on Friday, indicating both should be able to get into Q3 again.

Behind them the Red Bull Ring’s short lap will make the cut-off to get into Q2 and Q3 extremely close. A tenth of a second covered four different cars from 10th to 13th on best overall Friday times (below).

The first stage of qualifying on Saturday is likely to be a fraught affair with drivers vying for position on a congested track and potentially needing multiple laps to get the best out of their tyres. It should be a riveting session even if it stays dry, and with Meteo France indicating a 40% chance of rain for the session, that is not a given.

Longest stint comparison – second practice

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:

Complete practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’04.8391’04.57976
2Valtteri BottasMercedes1’04.9661’04.75581
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’05.1801’04.81582
4Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’05.4831’05.03170
5Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’05.0721’05.12590
6Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’05.7761’05.26573
7Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’06.0281’05.42969
8Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’06.4041’05.55964
9Pierre GaslyToro Rosso-Honda1’06.3941’05.75867
10Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren-Renault1’06.6981’05.93077
11Carlos Sainz JnrRenault1’06.4271’05.99967
12Esteban OconForce India-Mercedes1’06.0551’06.13383
13Charles LeclercSauber-Ferrari1’06.2151’06.09661
14Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’06.4001’06.19961
15Nico HulkenbergRenault1’06.4791’06.27377
16Sergey SirotkinWilliams-Mercedes1’06.32649
17Brendon HartleyToro Rosso-Honda1’06.8711’06.332100
18Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’06.4551’06.35490
19Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Renault1’06.6121’06.42963
20Lance StrollWilliams-Mercedes1’06.5671’06.62676
21Robert KubicaWilliams-Mercedes1’07.42438

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Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2018 Austrian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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7 comments on “Drivers could favour harder tyres for qualifying but rain remains a threat”

  1. Hulk long run is impressive

    1. and Stroll is looking consistent. Up and down like the Assyrian Empire.


    Bernievision, attempt 2?

  3. No, FanVision is for circuit use. I’ve been using one since Monaco and it’s really great. Review shortly.

  4. I live in Germany, no rain forecast in Spielberg – sunshine, no worries !

  5. Oh look, yet another 1 stop race because Pirelli are bringing tyres that are too hard.

    1. This does really rather sum up the dilemma for Pirelli – if the tyres are too soft, they’re criticised for producing tyres that aren’t durable enough and people say that it is “too artificial” if they try to make it a multiple stop race, but if the tyres are harder they are then criticised because people moan about the races being one stop affairs.

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