Race - Austrian GP report: Pirelli
Race strategy proved key to victory for Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg at the Austrian Grand Prix, who started from third on the grid. The German started behind both Williams drivers, but by stopping before them and maximising the benefit of new tyres – a manoeuvre known as the ‘undercut’ – he was able to gain the lead after the first round of pit stops.
Rosberg’s team mate Lewis Hamilton used the same strategy even more effectively. Hamilton started on the P Zero Red supersoft and then completed two stints on the P Zero Yellow soft, to finish just 1.9 seconds behind his team mate despite starting from ninth on the grid. Both drivers fought closely to the end, with Valtteri Bottas clinching his debut podium, just eight seconds off the lead.
The Force India of Sergio Perez started from 15th on the grid on the soft tyres and went to lap 29 before completing one more stint on the soft and then the final stint on the rapid supersoft compound. This opposite tactic from most drivers elevated him to sixth at the finish.
Despite track temperatures in excess of 40 degrees centigrade, the two Marussia drivers – Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton – as well as Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi all finished the race with just one pit stop.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “Tyre performance was very much in line with our expectations today, despite the warmer conditions. As a result of that, degradation was a little higher than we saw previously and it was a straightforward two-stop race, with a one-stopper becoming a little too ambitious for most teams. We saw an entertaining grand prix where tyre strategy was very important, and of course it’s always great to see a new face on the podium. Congratulations to Valtteri and Williams, as well as Mercedes, for a great performance all weekend.”
Our two-stop prediction was: start on supersoft, change to soft on lap 13 and soft again on lap 42. Rosberg stopped slightly earlier than our prediction, on laps 11 and 40, but followed the same strategy.