Ferrari completed part one of how they can possibly. beat Max Verstappen at the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix by lining up in second and third on the grid with Sergio Perez back in 15th – but can they convert that into a win?
It’s a year since Ferrari‘s last win – by Charles Leclerc the 2022 Austrian GP – and F1’s return to the Red Bull Ring provides possibly their best chance of the season to end that drought.
A lack of practice time and dry running means there’s plenty of unknown variables to account for when analysing race strategy while the threat of rain remains, so strategists will have their work cut out over the 71 laps.
Will it rain on the 2023 Austrian GP?
The question that will have given some team strategists a sleepless night, and there remains the chance of rain right up until the chequered flag. Those chances look to be around 40% so it’s unlikely to be consistent rain throughout the race.
However, there’s definitely the chance that a quick rain shower could throw everything into chaos. And as George Russell showed in the sprint race, taking the gamble to switch tyres before anyone else can pay dividends, even if there’s only a handful of laps left.
With temperatures set to be in the mid-20 degrees Celsius during the race – higher than first forecast earlier in the week – means the track will dry quicker and shorten the optimal window to make that switch if it does arise too.
What’s the best dry strategy?
Drivers have had very limited running on slick tyres in Austria given the soaking sprint Saturday and qualifying taking the place of FP2.
“We think the soft will not really be used, thus the choice comes down to the medium and the hard,” Pirelli‘s motorsport director Mario isola said. On paper, the fastest strategy seems to be a two-stop, starting on the medium, switching to hard and then back to medium.
“Or for those who have two sets of C3 available, another stint on the hardest tyre. The one-stop (medium-hard) could also be competitive, but looking at how last year’s race played out, it is a less attractive option than making two pit-stops.”
If that’s the case then there is some cause for hope from Ferrari. Although it’s a small sample size, they looked quicker on the hard tyre in FP1 so that’s good news.
They didn’t perform a race sim as such on the Friday and the SF-23 has been notoriously tough on its tyres despite new upgrades, but if that strong performance on the hards carries through then Ferrari are right in the fight.
Perez‘s failure (of the fourth race in a row) to make Q3 also gives Ferrari a glimmer of hope for the grand prix.
The Mexican lines up 15th so should be unable to feature in the battle for the win, despite the Red Bull‘s monster straight-line speed on a track that’s 79% full throttle.
Leclerc‘s the lead Ferrari and has the chance to jump Verstappen off the start, like Perez in the sprint, but if he can stay in undercut range he can get the jump there.
If he does get the undercut on Verstappen, Ferrari can try to place Sainz in the Dutchman’s pit window and hope that he can cause some delays. It’s not much, but it’s a plan. Over to you, Ferrari.