Qualifying for Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring started off as predicted with the front runners elected to use the Pirelli P Zero yellow marked Soft tyre's for the opening Q1 session and by doing so they were able to carry over the Pirelli P Zero red marked Super Soft tyre for the second session as the Spielberg track surface rubbered in.
The track temperature on Saturday was in the region of 20 plus degrees similar to the conditions that are expected for tomorrow's Grand Prix. As a result of this driver's opted to do two runs in the final part of qualifying where Williams Valtteri Bottas set the benchmark time, the Finn having set the fastest time in the final Free Practice session this morning.
A fresh set of Pirelli's Super soft tyre along with the pace of the overall FW36 package allowed Felipe Massa to claim to his first pole position since the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix while with Valtteri Bottas lining up alongside his team mate on the front row, the Grove based outfit secured their first front row lock out since the 2003 German Grand Prix when Juan Pablo Montoya started from pole position with Ralf Schumacher alongside him.
Strategy is going to place a key part in the Grand Prix and Pirelli are predicting a two stop Grand Prix however a one stop strategy is possible on lap 18 if starting on the Super Soft tyre to switch to the slightly slower yet more durable Soft tyre.
However, the optimal strategy is a two stop with driver's starting on the Super Soft tyre making their first stop on lap 13 to switch to the Soft tyre and then using the Soft tyre once more stopping on lap 42. For those driver's starting on the Soft tyre going for a two stop strategy would mean pitting for the Super Soft tyre on lap 29 and then pitting again for a fresh set of Soft tyre's on lap 58 to go to the end of the race.
Pirelli Motorsport boss Paul Hembery said:
'To have two Williams on the front row tomorrow, for the first time since 2003, just goes to show what an exciting season we are having on track. We’ve seen one of the most fascinating qualifying sessions of the year, with different teams using the tyres in different ways.
As a result, we are set for a very interesting battle tomorrow with eight different teams in the top 10. Two stops is expected to be the most likely strategy but just as was the case in Canada some teams might try a one-stopper, depending on factors such as safety cars. The warmer conditions of today should remain for the race, so the teams now have some relevant data behind them to calculate their optimal strategies.'
© Ben Johnston 2014