Tyre strategy played a key role in a Formula 2 sprint race for the second round in a row in 2023.
The Red Bull Ring’s wet but drying tarmac divided drivers between choosing grooved or slick tyres, with the soft compound being the slick option.
The podium finishers recalled last year’s feature race at the track as influencing choosing the soft tyre.
“The conditions were insanely tough,” Hitech GP’s race winner Jak Crawford said afterwards. “The first couple of laps were wet and I really struggled at the beginning of the race on the slick tyres. We knew we had to be on the slicks.
“It was really tough to manage and then with the long stint on the tyres, tough to manage the tyres as well.”
“It [fitting slicks] was a very last-minute decision,” he explained. “Basically, we had to look forward on the weather forecast to see if the rain was stopping. And even if the track had a light cover of water on it, we still had to commit to it. We saw last year how the race turned out and I think it was similar to this year.”
ART Grand Prix’s Victor Martins confessed doubts about his tyre choice pre-race. But it paid off as he finished second from 10th on the grid.
“It was really hard to take the decision of the slick or the wet tyres. Honestly, on the installation lap, I was not confident to stay on the slicks. It was not raining heavily but just the track was really slippery and sliding a lot. In the last minute, we decided to go on the slicks, mainly because we saw a lot of cars with them. I saw also personally that it was stopping to rain.”
“We had to wait at the beginning just for the track to dry. And I lost many positions at the start. Then as soon as we got safety car, we had time for the track to dry a bit more. So I was a bit feeling better in the car and the balance and the tyres. And at some point when I was feeling confident and going forward, I was taking the opportunities that I could take.”
Trident’s Clement Novalak climbed from 20th to third, but was disqualified post-race as his rear tyres were below the mimimum pressure required. That promoted Hitech’s Isack Hadjar, who applied “a lot of pressure” on Novalak that was “not easy to deal with”, on to the podium.
“I was in a very similar situation last year because the feature race was exactly the same. It was sort of a mid wet-dry condition. Last year, we took the wrong decision to go on the wet, so this year I was adamant that we needed to be on the slicks,” said Novalak before his disqualification.
“And it turned out to be the right one. A couple of good moves as well, which was nice to do and just happy to be back on the podium.”