KartCMP1: Styrian Grand Prix Data Crunch
A flawless performance from sensational and true driver of the day Max Verstappen, compounded by Mercedes’ slip into race day pace, leaves the defending champions with a mountain to climb before the next stage of the Red Bull Ring doubles program on Sunday.
Let’s see the numbers and see what really happened at Speilberg on Sunday.
Below I have assembled “Best Case Race Pace” for the Styrian GP. I extracted each driver’s best lap for laps between 1-5, 6-10, 11-15 …… .65-71. I then averaged these times in a single time to compare the delta between the pilots ultimately representing the lap time relationship of each pilot.
* Full disclosure, Lewis Hamilton 71st round was ignored in order to provide an accurate comparison with Max Verstappen.
Red Bull took full championship form as Max Verstappen won his 14e career victory with his most dominant performance to date, and a dream is made. Red Bull currently leads Mercedes by 40 points in the constructors’ championship as Verstappen extended their lead over Hamilton to 18 points.
Today not only marked Red Bull’s strongest race in many years, but more importantly, it was Mercedes’ biggest deficit in terms of actual race pace compared to any other competitor at any time. during the current era of the hybrid powertrain that began in 2014.
According to the graph above, Max Verstappen was the fastest car today on average with just under two tenths, essentially a continuation of what was seen in qualifying between the two rivals. Lewis just couldn’t keep pace with Verstappen at any point in the race, especially towards the end of the race in particular.
The sore spot that was the first pit stop cycle for Mercedes was cleaned up today by Mercedes and Hamilton. Verstappen had the fastest combined time of the entry and exit laps, but those times include the pitstop.
Hamilton spent 0.283 s more in the pit lane than Verstappen, but was only 0.177 s slower on the combined entry and exit lap time, so there is nothing to say here as he was practically dead even and it is commonly known how quickly the Red Bull pit team services their drivers.
Valtteri Bottas appropriately recovered to complete a Mercedes double podium, a marginal reduction in damage from Mercedes’ recent points loss against Red Bull.
It should be noted that Sergio Perez was on his way to the last place on the podium, but a slow, recurring left rear tire change was just enough to help Bottas steal the position instead.
The relative pace among the top four is shown in the graph below.
Lando Norris again scored as the best of the others finishing fifth and, interestingly, one lap behind the leader. Lando Norris managed to maintain his fourth place in the championship, behind Perez by ten points and ahead of Bottas by eight.
Daniel Riccardo regained his pace in the previous race in France but lost it again by finishing a devastating 13e today, surprisingly four tenths per lap slower than teammate Lando Norris.
The result for McLaren amounts to a net loss of four constructors’ points to Ferrari. Despite a somewhat poor qualifying session by Ferrari on Saturday, the seventh and twelfthe for Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, respectively, and damage to the front wing for Leclerc in the first lap, the two pilots of the Italian formation recovered to score what should be interpreted as maximum points given the circumstances .
Charles Leclerc made a bizarre contact just after turn 1 on the first lap of the race with Pierre Gasly, resulting in an unnecessary stop for Leclerc to repair his front wing, and gasly abandoning the track. Charles Leclerc would find his feet and deliver an epic run up front midfielder, and received the F1 Driver of the Day award for his hard work.
Behind McLaren’s third-place constructors’ fight against Ferrari was the Lance Stroll battle led by AlphaTauri, Aston Martin and Alpine. Gasly retired on lap one after a punctured tire caused suspension failure just as he was able to bring his AT02 challenger AlphaTauri back to the pit lane for maintenance.
Gasly was in the top ten but despite this AlphaTauri remains two points behind Aston Martin in the constructors’ championship. Alpine continues to lag behind as she struggled to bring her two cars home for points on a consistent basis.
Alpine is currently 15 points behind AlphaTauri and is in seventh place in the constructors’ championship.
Alfa Romeo continues to lead the last three teams with two points without anyone scoring again today, but it was tight. George Russell appeared to be in contention for Williams’ first points this season today, unfortunately his race ended with a powertrain problem.
Kimi Raikkonen quietly had a successful run, charging 18e on the grid to almost score a point at the end of what was the Easter Egg of the race.
While the focus was on the head battle, there was a silent killer in midfield, and that was the first hard tire / relay strategy.
The whole midfielder missed him and that was the key to Raikkonen’s strong run of 18e to 11e. Most notably, it played an obvious role in Leclerc’s impressive recovery, possibly saving him from a train of soft tire strategy. Raikkonen and Leclerc ran the hard tire for an equal length of 36 laps, and especially much longer in the race than the main midfield drivers could with their soft and medium first stint tires.
Triple Header Closure
A discussion with a regular GP247 contributor aknit helped to highlight the importance of tire selection, as Pirelli’s original post in February for the tire allocation for the upcoming Austrian GP was the tire line that was instead used today for the Styrian GP. Second stage of the double, the Austrian GP next Sunday will present a range of softer tires reminiscent of the double at Silverstone last year.
The current weather forecast appears to be a close replica of this weekend’s race with an ambient air temperature of 27C currently displayed for Sunday.
With a shift to the softer tire lineup, it seems obvious that we could mostly see the hard tires rolling in Q2 as they will effectively be the average tires this week. Or will we see a whole new strategic format with teams going to two stops because not a single driver has gone to the softs in his second stint today?