How the F1 teams will approach the Canadian Grand Prix
Posted By: James Allen  |  05 Jun 2012   |  2:00 pm GMT  |  120 comments

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.

Track characteristics

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)

Form Guide

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.

Weather Forecast

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.

Race Strategy: Number and likely timing of pit stops

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 –


+23 Massa
+19 Kovalainen
+18 Glock
+14 Alonso
+8 Perez ***
+12 Raikkonen
+9 Senna
+8 Maldonado****
+7 Pic
+5 Schumacher*
+6 Kobayashi****
+5 Hamilton, Vergne
+ 4 Di Resta , Karthikeyan
+ 2 
+1 Button, Rosberg

Held position: Petrov
-1 Grosjean** ****
-3 De la Rosa ****
– 4 Hulkenberg
– 7 Webber
-10 Ricciardo
* 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

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

I question the “very easy overtaking” bit.


James, great site, great insights, great comments. Looking forward to a…great race!?


Hi James,

On the strategy calculator, running 24 laps on the option (whether new or scrubbed) is quite viable. However, in P2, 17-18 laps seems to be about the limit of the tyres, judging by Vettel’s run.

It’s going to be quite a lot warmer on Sunday. Will the option last less or more time in the warmer conditions ?


As you said James, Mercedes and Lotus should go well here. Nip-and-tuck in qualifying between the two, with Mercedes having the better race pace. McLaren are behind them in both qualifying and race trim.


Hi James

What is the teams feeling on the Merc double-DRS system now that the season has settled in. Do they feel it is a significant advantage worthy of them looking into their own system or do they feel it is not as significant as they first thought?


It has its advantages, in specific circumstances, but only for qualifying and it’s a tricky thing to implement effectively if you didn’t design your chassis around it for the gains you get


Montreal always produces a great race. I think there will be a great opportunity for Schumacher to win here.

And then off to Valencia, the most boring race in the History of F1.


I think we’ll see a boring Q3 in Montreal as teams try to save s/softs for Sunday.


I reckon if there was points allocated in qualifying there would be a lot more action on track, with teams and drivers pushing harder and also considering tyre strategy as well.

Just for the top three; 3 points for pole, 2 for second and 1 for third.

Qualifying would become more important than just being about grid position.


wouldn’t stop the non-pole contenders from sitting it out


James — I have been using your strategy calculator, and realized that it factors in an approximately 19 second drop for each pit stop. Given that the time loss per pit stop is 11.2 seconds, I do believe your strategy calculator needs to be recaliberated for this. For example, if I am 9 seconds ahead of the car on the default stategy prior to my last stop, I need to emerge 2 seconds behind after I make the pit stop, and not 9 seconds behind. Thanks.


Hi James,

I note on your strategy calculator, your baseline appears to assume the use of a new set of options after the first stop.

Do you think it’s realistic for the top teams to get through Q1 on the prime (given it’s 0.8-1 sec slower than the option), or do you think Q2 on used options is possible ?

In any event, the option seems to be the faster tyre for the race, and two stops seems the way to go – unless there’s a very long safety car procession.

Stopping on laps 24 and 48 is around 5 sec faster over the race than your simulator baseline. Given the relative ease of passing it might be the way to go – and staying out longer gives more chance of benefitting from either the weather or the safety car, I think.

Do you know what sort of track temperature the Pirelli calculations are based on ?

Could vary a lot over the weekend.

eric weinraub

I’m wondering if we’ll see another new winner this race. I’m a Schu fan and believe he has a real chance as will Kimi and Grosjean. If there is rain… watch out!


Looking at the weather forecast, it might be a frustrating weekend for some. Friday and Saturday are likely to see some rain, while Sunday could be clear and warm.

Good luck setting up a car for qualifying and raceday if that proves accurate.


‘The key to making the super soft last is to limit wheel spin with the rear tyres’….. could you spin the front tyres?


You can’t spin the front wheels like the rear because they don’t transmit any power.

But they scrub across the surface when steering is applied.


Great track. Looking forward to it.

Too bad it is the same time as EURO 2012 Croatia vs Ireland.


I expect you to stay fully focused on the race, and not on football, Double-O 7.


We won 3:1

Bring on Italy 🙂

Thank you Mrs M 🙂


It’s made that way on purpose, as Group C matches are played at 18:00 and 20:45 and the other match is Spain-Italy…


Hi James,

Just read another story today regarding Kimi and his steering issues.

Is a perfect steering setup that difficult to find or could it be something else?


Interesting strategy calculator again, James.

If it’s correct, the option is clearly the superior race tyre to the prime – and the used option is still faster over a stint than the new prime.

I note your baseline appears to use a new set of options. Is it going to be possible to get through Q1 on the prime ?


Whats the point of a preview? Its only a lottery no longer a race.


Just a thought, i’m glad these “lottery” comments are no longer being turned into a discussion.

Grayzee (Australia)

Hmm. James, a question for you and your readers. It is often said that a track is “dirty’ or “dusty’, especially if it not used very often, like Montreal.

So….. why don’t the organisers just clean it before the weekend. I mean, get a road sweeper and and water truck and wash the track surface.

It seems rather obvious to me. Am I missing something?


They do usually sweep the track in most places. But it still takes time to clean up once the cars are on track. Canada is a low grip surface too


No one in their right mind would suggest Jenson Button would win again.


We’d better wait and see. No one “in their right minds” expected to see Webber winning again, after a poor 2011 compared to Vettel.


But Webber won in 2011!!


One DRS only?

I think two is fine, but not operated the way they did last year.

Just make two detection zones. One from the final hairpin of the lap, the other just before the pit entry.

That’d ultimately end up being a fight leading into corner 1 of the next lap, rather than a straight overtaking and that’s it.

Like I’ve said many many times before, F1 should be about >>>fighting<<<, not simply "overtaking". Overtaking is just a possible consequence of a good fight between two or more drivers. I think a fight is more thrilling than witnessing a simple PlayStation style overtaking move.


Wouldn’t be surprised if both Silver Arrows are on the front row on Quali. I don’t think the Red Bull will be much effected by change in floor, especially Montreal. I think Lewis will be fighting Nico all the way with Kimi fighting Michael and Sebastian in the closing stages as track improves and car lightens. Hope I’m wrong as I would love for Kimi and Grosjean to finally get it together and Lewis there too.. I think these guys deserve it with the frustrations they’ve had this far!..


i don’t even get why they need to use the DRS here.

when they 1st proposed it then said there would be circuits where it wouldn’t be used because overtaking was already possible there.

montreal is one such circuit, we used to see overtaking here so all DRS does is make it stupidly easy as we saw last year.

also why do they keep putting DRS on the main overtaking spot?

if they insist of sticking with DRS they should place the DRS zone in a place where overtaking wasn’t quite possible but where DRS would make it more possible (but not too easy).

i think the biggest reasons most DRS passes are as stupidly easy as they are is because they keep putting the DRS zone in places where we already saw a lot of passing.

in these cases all DRS does is make passing far too easy & boring to watch for the fans who want to see some proper racing rather than the easy push of a button drive-by’s.

honestly if I see too many easy DRS drive-by’s im simply going to stop watching as I don’t find that exciting at all, I find that quite boring to be honest, Just as bad as no passing at all.


Hi James,

A quick technical query if you get the chance to ask an engineer before the race:

In Monaco we saw several drivers struggle with soft tyre warm up. Since Montreal also doesn’t have long high load corners, would the large braking loads and the heat from the brakes mean that the slow warm up is unlikely to be repeated this weekend.

I read an interesting comment that said that the first lap safety car in Monaco was really beneficial in allowing the drivers to reduce rear tyre temperature after the high loads from the start.

Just on your comment on the drivers being unable to sense wheelspin as easily, it could be an extension of the comment (from Alan Permane (I think) in Autocourse) that the rear tyres didn’t like cornering and acceleration loads at the same time. It could be that it is difficult for the drivers to feel whether the rear tyres are sliding or spinning.




Im tipping williams & sauber to really suprise this weekend.There speed in spain & monaco puts them in great shape for this layout.


The DRS zones have been reduced this year, but for qualifying we know the DRS can be used anytime which could allow some cars to qualify better than their race pace would.

I cannot understand why they allow DRS to be used at all for qualifying as I thought the intention of DRS was to allow a faster car to pass during the race.

Is it to shuffle the cars at the start to make more overtaking during the race?


I agree with you regarding DRS and qualifying. I’ve said it before, use the DRS all you like during FP so you can get your gbox ratios just right but ban it for qualifying. If they must allow it during quali, just permit it in the designated DRS zone that will be used on Sunday.

James Clayton

“Is it to shuffle the cars at the start to make more overtaking during the race?”

If it is then that’s a very flawed logic. The car with the most downforce is going to be able to make best use of the DRS; so you’re going to find that the car that is already generally quickest over a lap, gets more advantage of DRS in quali. Therefore it’s MORE likely that cars will line up in ‘speed order’.

Of course, there haven’t been any two-by-two grids over the last two years, which I guess means drivers still have some input! 🙂


It’s so that the teams set the cars up to utilise the DRS added top speed. Otherwise teams will just set up for best non-DRS laptime, and their race and qualifying pace will both be very similar.


It has something to do with the length of the final gear and parc ferme rules I think.


It’s telling that James didn’t elaborate on the high brake-wear at Montreal. Historically, for a while anyway, brakes used to be a huge issue here; I remember when Jarno Trulli’s brake pad exploded at the end of the back straight in 2005. Fortunately he was able to use the run-off and didn’t have a serious accident. But in more recent years it has become less of an issue; even when refuelling was introduced in 2010 there weren’t too many (if any at all) problems. I suppose it’s because brakes are a fairly constant variable in F1 terms so the teams have simply built stronger ones and asked their drivers to be mindful and that’s done the trick.


i think that most teams have brought brakes specifically designed for the circuit because of the high wear *at least the big teams do). check out technical updates on

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