We may see some interesting tyre strategy this weekend. Last year, the top drivers split strategies. Some
made only one stop, while others made two. The teams were able to choose between the Ultrasofts, Supersofts and Softs and, surprisingly, almost everyone used the hardest of the compounds (Soft) for at least one stint, which is something we have not seen this year.
So what might we see in 2017? I expect that most drivers will qualify and start on the Ultrasofts again. There may be a few drivers, as was the case last year, who sneak in fast laps in Q2 on the Supersofts so they can use the more durable rubber at the start of the race.
The track at Spielberg is one of the shortest of the race calendar, which means that there isn’t that much room between the cars. That makes finding the right pit window a bit more difficult. I expect lap traffic to play an outsized role in the pitstop strategy this weekend because there are a few different viable tyre strategies. The teams will be stopping when they can come out into clean air rather than when the tyres dictate a stop.
The most straightforward strategy would be to run Ultras for about 25 or 30 laps and then switch to Softs for the remaining 40 to 45 laps. We saw Hamilton run 21 laps on the Ultras last year and many drivers did 40+ laps on the Softs. This year the tyres are more durable this year, so that should be easy to do. Drivers may also try a multi-stop strategy to maximize the time they get to spend on the Ultrasofts and Supersofts. Something like an Ultra-Super-Ultra is a possible strategy.
Usually the teams take the bare minimum sets of the hardest tyre compound. This race, there are few who have opted for 2 or 3 sets instead of 1, but it’s clearly still the least favourite. The tyre selections indicate that most teams are going to try a multi-stop strategy or maybe even an ambitious one-stopper going from Ultras to Supers and really pushing the life of both of those sets. We’ll see what happens when the lights go out in Austria.