Montreal is always one of the most interesting races of the season from a strategy point of view. With a very high likelihood of safety cars, a low grip surface and very easy overtaking, it is always an entertaining race.
This year the performance of the unpredicatable Pirelli tyres will be a decisive factor as will the effect of the adjustable DRS wing. Last year in Montreal there were two DRS zones, but this year to make it less easy, there is just one – on the long back straight – and it’s 100 metres shorter than last year.
Montreal has several long straights linked with chicanes and a hairpin. There are no high-speed corners to speak of. Good traction out of slow corners is essential as is good straight-line speed and a car that is good over the kerbs.
Montreal is an unusual circuit in that it is a road circuit based on an island and is only used for racing twice a year. The track is very dirty at the start of the weekend and improves dramatically as the weekend goes on, although the grip level remains low. So the strategists have to predict what the tyres are going to do in the race, based on data, which is a moving target.
Montreal – 4.36 kilometers. Race distance – 70 laps = 305 kilometers. 12 corners in total. A circuit made up of straights, chicanes and a hairpin
Aerodynamic setup – Medium downforce. Top speed 326km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 316km/h without.
Full throttle – 67% of the lap (quite high). 15 seconds unbroken full throttle on main straight. Total fuel needed for race distance – 142 kilos (average/high).
Fuel consumption – 2.0kg per lap (average/high)
Time spent braking: 17% of lap (high). 7 braking zones. Brake wear- Very High.
Loss time for a Pit stop = 11.2 seconds (very fast)
Total time needed for pit stop: 15.2 seconds.
Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.28 seconds (low)
The Canadian Grand Prix is the seventh round of the 2012 FIA F1 World Championship.
Qualifying is less important at Montreal than many other circuits, because overtaking is easy and this also has a big bearing on race strategy, pushing teams towards more stops rather than less.
However the statistics for this season show that the car which leads on the opening lap is likely to win the race; this has happened in four of the five dry races to date. This is because it is beneficial to the tyres to drive in clear air rather than following another car. They last longer and perform better, by a significant margin.
The circuit’s characteristics should suit the Mercedes and Lotus cars in particular. If it’s cold, then the Mercedes will have the edge, if it’s hot it will be the Lotus.
Meanwhile the Ferrari has always been strong in Montreal and works well on the combination of soft and supersoft tyres. But so far this year their car has been weaker than its rivals on straight-line speed. However some updates are promised for this weekend, which may help that. The Ferrari is good in traction and works well on the super soft Pirelli which is the likely qualifying and first stint tyre this weekend.
Red Bull has come into form since Bahrain with two wins from three races.
Historically this has not been one of Red Bull’s strongest circuits; downforce isn’t a major factor here.
McLaren has been fast in qualifying but less good in the race recently.
As far as drivers’ form is concerned; Michael Schumacher is the king of Montreal, having won the race seven times. It is also one of Lewis Hamilton’s strongest tracks – he has won there twice. Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen have all won the race.
Being coastal and set on a seaway, Montreal can experience extremes of weather for the race; it can be very hot and humid, but also cold and wet. This will have a huge bearing on the tyres. In the week preceding the event, there were temperatures of 15 degrees on one day and 28 degrees on another. It is the most extreme circuit location for temperature variations.
Likely tyre performance and other considerations
Pirelli tyre choice for Montreal: Prime tyre is Soft (yellow markings) and Option tyre is Super Soft (red markings)
This is the same tyre choice as Monaco, where the performance of the tyres surprised many people. Both the soft and super soft ran for longer than expected making it a one stop strategy race.
The key to making the super soft last is to limit wheel spin with the rear tyres. This happens when the drivers accelerate out of the low speed corners. Strangely with the Pirellis the drivers find it more difficult to feel wheel spin and as traction control is banned in F1, it’s a delicate thing to control.
The difference between the two tyres is estimated to be around 0.8 secs to 1 second per lap in qualifying trim.
The temperatures will be the key to the weekend. Hot conditions will force the teams to change the tyres more frequently.
At Montreal this weekend the key to strategy will be to plan your fastest race from lights to flag. Because of the ease of passing, track position is less important than at many other venues. The most important thing is to qualify well and run your fastest race and see where that puts you at the end, because you will not have problems overtaking. Running in clear air as much of the race as possible is key, so if a car doesn’t qualify as well as expected, we may see the team try and aggressive strategy to keep the driver in clear air.
But as the track is constantly improving and getting faster, it is unlikely that the strategists will have enough data by the start of the race to know for certain which is the better of the two tyres to be on. It will be based on reacting to what others are doing quickly. This should make it one of the most interesting as well as action-packed races of the season.
The pit lane at Montreal is short and therefore pit stops are very fast at around 18.7 seconds. This pushes strategists to consider making more stops.
A three-stop strategy is marginally faster than two stops (roughly half a position, according to models). One stop would mean that the car was ahead of the two and three stoppers at their final stops, but they would easily be able to pass the one stopper in the closing stages on his worn tyres. However a safety car would swing things towards the one stopper.
Chance of a safety car
The chances of a safety car at Montreal are very high at 67%. There is an average of 0.8 safety cars per race. Seven of the last ten Canadian Grands Prix have featured a safety car.
This is because, with the track lined with walls and several blind corners, there are frequent accidents and the conditions for the marshals when clearing an accident are dangerous.
Recent start performance
The run to the first corner in Montreal is short and there have been many first corner incidents over the years. But it is also a first corner where there are many lines and making up places is possible.
In the last dry race here in 2010, for example, only the front four cars ended the first lap in the same position in which they started!
As far as 2012 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season, on aggregate, as follows –
+8 Perez ***
+5 Hamilton, Vergne
+ 4 Di Resta , Karthikeyan
+ 2 Vettel
+1 Button, Rosberg
Held position: Petrov
-1 Grosjean** ****
-3 De la Rosa ****
– 4 Hulkenberg
– 7 Webber
* Senna, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg were all involved in accidents on 1st lap in Australia
** Schumacher and Grosjean collided on Lap 1 in Malaysia, Senna and Perez pitted for wet tyres on opening lap
***Perez punctured on lap 1 in Spain and went to back of field
**** Eliminated by or involved in first lap accident in Monaco
Pit Stop League Table
Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds by F1 teams. Here again Ferrari leads the way consistently this year.
It is also clear that the field has significantly closed up in pit stops. The top four teams fastest stops were within 4/10ths of a second of each other in Spain. It shows how much work has gone on in this area.
The league table below shows the order of the pit crews based on their fastest time in the Monaco Grand Prix, from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it. The positions from previous race are in brackets.
Worth noting is that Marussia did a faster stop than many established teams and Mercedes reclaimed the top spot after Ferrari had topped the table in recent races.
1. Mercedes 24.874 (1),
2. Ferrari 24.993 (3)
3. Red Bull 25.079 (1)
4. McLaren 25.219
5. Toro Rosso 25.335 (6)
6. Marussia 25.567 (12)
7. Force India 25.642 (4)
8. Sauber 25.666 (9)
9. Caterham 26.066 (10)
10. Lotus 26.380 (8)
11 Williams 26.410 (7)
12. HRT 27.306 (11)
The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from several F1 team strategists and from Pirelli