Red Bull may expose Max Verstappen with Austrian GP race strategy

The Dutchman starts Sunday's race from pole position but Red Bull could err on the side of caution to counter the threat from McLaren

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The Formula 1 2024 Austrian Grand Prix is held at the Red Bull Ring, a circuit that features a mix of high-speed straights and challenging corners. For that reason, it also proves to be punishing on the tyres with 71 laps to navigate, and it will be crucial for Red Bull to get their Austrian GP race strategy right for Max Verstappen if he is to be victorious again.

Verstappen battled to victory against the McLarens and the Red Bull star is back at the front of the grid for the race after qualifying on pole. The only difference is that because the race was only 23 laps, they were not forced to have a pit stop.

All 10 teams would have been able to gain some crucial insight into tyre data during the F1 Sprint race on Saturday, measuring tyre life and how their respective cars handle the rigours of the track.

But in the race, the pitlane could prove to be the decisive factor in determining the winner come Sunday afternoon.

Max Verstappen leads Oscar Piastri of McLaren during the 2024 Austrian GP Sprint | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Max Verstappen was challenged by both McLaren during the 2024 Austrian GP Sprint | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

What is the best Austrian GP race tyre strategy?

Pirelli’s top three raceplans are all based around a two-stop strategy, which is not only seen as the fastest but also offers the most longevity. The Italian tyre manufacturer recommend that if starting on the C4 medium tyre, the drivers should be aiming for the first pit window at about Lap 18 to Lap 24.

For the middle stint, it is likely they will switch to the C3 hard tyre to ensure they meet the mandatory tyre regulations, before fitting the medium compound again between Lap 45 and Lap 52.

This is projected to be the strategy chosen by Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren, as both of their drivers have two brand new sets of medium tyres – but only one set of new hard tyres.

Or if the teams are feeling particularly aggressive, the medium-hard-soft strategy could work wonders in the latter stages of the race – but only if the driver manages tyre degradation.

They would need to wait until Lap 56 to 62 to put on the C5 soft compound, as the grip is predicted to wear away quickly on the demanding track surface.

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll is in the unique position of having three brand new sets of soft tyre available, and the Canadian may opt to put the grippy tyre on towards the end of the race if he is fighting for a place in the points.

Red Bull plan different Verstappen strategy

An alternative Austrian GP strategy for Verstappen could see teams opt for a shorter first stint, stopping in the pits around Lap 16 to 21, before switching to the hard tyre for the middle and putting another fresh set on for the final stage of the race.

This could be the favoured plan for Red Bull, with Verstappen and Sergio Perez both saving two new sets for the race.

Austrian GP tyre strategy
Available tyre sets for the 202 Austrian GP

The constructors’ champions have managed to develop their car to minimise tyre degradation, but it seems they are prioritising tyre life over performance for Sunday – perhaps concerned by their rivals’ race pace.

However, if they fit the hard tyre for the final stint and McLaren go on the mediums, Verstappen could be left exposed to Lando Norris.

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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