Austria, F1, Preview

Anticipating the Austrian Grand Prix

Race
Last year’s race was one to remember for Valteri Bottas – he scored his first podium in F1 after securing his first ever front row start and leading a race for the first time. Also a memorable race for Williams as they held a 1-2 in qualifying. Race winner Nico Rosberg in his Mercedes made the most of a 2-stop strategy, starting on supersofts, changing to the soft on lap 11, then to the soft again on lap 40. His strategy allowed him to win even though he started from third on the grid. Most drivers did a two-stopper last year, although three managed a one-stop ((Courtesy Pirelli).

The top speed in the race was set by Felipe Massa: 327.5 kph, while the fastest lap of the race was surprisingly set by Sergio Pérez – a time of 1:12.142 at an average speed of 215.874 kph.

2014 Austrian Grand Prix Race Speed Trap

2014 Austrian Grand Prix Race Speed Trap

Of the eight previous races held on the shortened Spielberg track, the pole man has won just three times. The race was particularly poor for the Red Bull sponsored cars at their home track: the three race retirements were Kvyat & Vergne for Toro Rosso and Vettel for Red Bull. A hard race for the Lotus cars as well, struggling with braking from a lack of prior running data at the Austrian track.

As in 2014, the track has 2 DRS zones, one after T2 (back straight) and the other after T9 (main straight).

So what can we expect from 2015?

Drivers
• The only DNFs from Canada were Alonso, Button, and Merhi. Expect McLaren drivers to switch to new gear boxes in Austria, to make use of the free change in case of DNF.
• Merhi, Raikkonen, and Stevens have come to the end of a 6 race cycle on 1 gearbox and are expected to take on new gearboxes.
• Bottas has not taken a new gearbox since Australia, even though he is technically on a 7th race on his first (owing to not running in Australia) and is also expected to take on a new gearbox
• The Red Bull drivers are likely to take on new ICEs at Austria to beat suffering at Silverstone – this will cause them to incur, at minimum, a 10 place penalty, possible more if other components are changed
• None of the drivers are carrying a penalty over from Canada to Austria
• Sergio Perez is expected to take on at least a new ICE, TC, MGU-H and MGU-K after having run on only one set since Australia
• Alonso has stated he will have (at least) an ICE change in Austria and will likely incur a grid penalty translating into an in-race time penalty.

Cars

In terms of updates, Force India have brought several new parts (front wing, floor, sidepods) for Austria and both Hunkenberg and Perez are expecting to see a vast improvement in their performance for the weekend.

Mclaren have brought an aerodynamic upgrade, comprising of a shortened nose, new floor and revised wings, to Austria but the rapid pace of development has meant that only Alonso will get to try it. In effect, this provides a good opportunity for Mclaren to do a side-by-side comparison, with Button running the old spec aero package.

Williams have brought some new bits as well, which includes a new rear wing. Given Austria was Williams’ strongest race in 2014, they will be hoping to repeat their 3-4 from last year.

Ideally, each PU component needs to run for 5 races each to last the entire season without penalties.
Analysis shows that the Renault and Honda ICEs are being replaced after a similar race distance.
Below is the number of races each unit runs before being changed.ICE

If the above trend holds good,
• Ferrari will exceed their 4 units limit and start on a 5th at Singapore
• Red Bull Racing will exceed their 4 units limit and are expected to take on a 5th at by Silverstone
• Toro Rosso have already exceeded the limit with Verstappen and Sainz will take a 5th ICE by Silverstone
• Honda will also most likely take their first ICE penalties at Silverstone (Update: Alonso taking new ICE in Austria)
• The Mercedes powered teams are not likely to incur ICE penalties before the end of the season

Current power unit component status:PU

Teams tend to run high downforce in Austria, in order to generate as much aerodynamic grip as possible. However, since many of the corners are quite slow the majority of the grip is still mechanical grip coming directly from the tyres.

Tyres
(Courtesy Pirelli):
Compounds in use for Austrian GP:tyre

Expected performance gap between the two compounds: 0.7 – 0.9 seconds per lap
Expected # of pitstops: 1-2

Track
(Via FIA)
Turn 8 saw many cars exceeding track limits last year. Artificial grass has been laid behind the curb on the exit of T8.
In addition, the kerbs on the exits of T2,3,5,6,7,8,9 have been extended by use of flat sections of concrete.
Gravel on the exit of turn 5 now extends as far as the artificial grass.

(Courtesy Pirelli): The surface at the Red Bull Ring is low grip and low abrasion, with the track getting progressively quicker as the weekend goes on. Even though the asphalt is new, the track is quite bumpy in places, which makes it difficult to find consistent grip.
Turns 5 and 6 put considerable stress on the tyres on the right-hand side of the car.

The Red Bull Ring also has the shortest lap time of the circuits on the 2015 calendar, despite having only the 3rd shortest track length.

Weather
The 2014 GP was held in hot and sunny weather. The 2015 race is expected to have lower temps, with impact on tyre choice and strategy in the race
FP1: Thunderstorms (14-15 C)
FP2: Cloudy, possible thunderstorm (16-18 C)
FP3: Partly cloudy (13-14 C)
Qualifying: Thunderstorms (14-15 C)
Race: Mostly Sunny (18 C)
Rain during FP will hinder teams in gathering dry weather running data for the race proper.

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