As the shortest track on the F1 calendar, the Red Bull Ring requires just under 65 seconds to complete a full lap at record pace.

As a track that weaves up and down across green pastures, with a few blind spots around its ten corners, the circuit isn’t without its challenges for drivers.

A fast lap around the 4.31km layout is a subtle balancing act between using the kerbs and remaining within the boundaries of the track, either for the sake of not having a lap deleted or for steering clear of the many gravel traps that now line the circuit.

The Red Bull Ring offers a thrilling contrast. The opening act is a power play, with drivers unleashing their machines on three long straights separated only by a pair of climbing right-hand corners.

This initial burst of speed then gives way to a wild descent as the track transforms into a downhill rollercoaster. Here, drivers navigate a sequence of quick, technical corners, including the iconic Rindt Curve, a right-hander named after Austria’s first Formula 1 champion.

So top speed is an asset in the first half of the lap while aerodynamic efficiency is of the essence in the second part.

Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas gets bragging rights for breezing through the speed trap at a maximum velocity of 321.4 km/h on the straight that carries drivers up to Turn 3.

Much less anecdotal was poleman Max Verstappen’s top speed of 319.9 km/h, which is indicative of the RB20’s low drag characteristics. Coupled with its supreme handling of the track’s undulating sections, Red Bull’s contender – and its driver – are in a league of their own this weekend.

McLaren’s MCL38 is showing superior traction in Austria compared to its Red Bull counterpart, but that won’t cut it for Lando Norris or Oscar Piastri this afternoon against the RB20’s blend of top speed and aero efficiency.

Saturday’s Sprint event and Max’s dominant success – despite Norris’ early challenge – was likely but a mere dress rehearsal for team and driver.

On the strategy front, everyone will be planning for a two-stopper, barring any unforeseen circumstances of course, with a mix of Mediums (C4) and Hards (C3).

“A one-stop is not a realistic choice, not because of tyre wear, but in terms of degradation and pace,” explained Pirelli F1 boss Mario Isola.

“A three-stop could work if there is a Safety Car in the second part of the race, or if degradation is higher than expected. In this case, even the C5 (Softs) could come into play, albeit not in a major way.”

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