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Canadian GP: The most open race of the year?
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Jun 2013   |  6:55 am GMT  |  212 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 and hard to predict. Red Bull leads both championships at the moment, but has never won in Montreal. McLaren has ruled for the last three years but has an uncompetitive car this year.

And will this be the race where three-times winner Lewis Hamilton gets the upper hand over his resurgent team mate Nico Rosberg?

After the extreme of Monaco, qualifying is significantly less important at Montreal because overtaking is easy and this also has a big bearing on race strategy, generally pushing teams towards more stops rather than less.

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.

As overtaking has always been relatively easy at Montreal, there is just one DRS detection zone, with two potential passing places, one being the long back straight.

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 – 60% 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 2013 FIA F1 World Championship.

McLaren has won the Canadian Grand Prix for the past three years and should have a stronger outing here than at other races so far this year as it attempts to recover from a poor start.

Ferrari has traditionally been strong in Montreal, but has not won the race since 2004. In Monaco the team showed a problem with traction out of slow corners, which is at a premium in Montreal.

The car also doesn’t go as well on the supersoft tyres as it does on other tyres.

Historically this has not been one of Red Bull’s strongest circuits; downforce isn’t a major factor here. Last year Sebastian Vettel started on pole position but finished fourth. Vettel, who has never won in Canada, is on a good run this season and has yet to finish lower than fourth in six races.

As far as drivers’ form is concerned; Lewis Hamilton is the king of Montreal, having won the race three times. 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 one event, there were temperatures of 15 degrees on one day and 28 degrees on another. It is one of the most extreme circuit locations for temperature variations.

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Montreal: Prime tyre is Medium (white markings) and Option tyre is Super Soft (red markings)

Last year Pirelli brought the soft and supersoft as it used in Monaco. This year the prime tyre is a step harder.

Pirelli has stepped back from its original intention to bring revised tyres with a new rear construction for competition use in Montreal. Instead it will supply two sets of the revised tyres for test purposes only on Friday.

The track surface is smooth and the lack of long corners means relatively low energy going into the tyres. 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 likely to be well over a second per lap, in qualifying trim.

The temperatures will be the key to the weekend. Montreal has one of the highest variations of temperature of the season. Track temperature can be as low as 15 degrees and as high as 35 degrees. Hotter conditions will force the teams to change the tyres more frequently.

Race Strategy: Number and likely timing of pit stops

At Montreal the winning strategy is always to plan your fastest race from lights to flag and then prepare to be flexible in the event of a safety car.

Last year Red Bull and Ferrari lost out to McLaren by trying to make a one stop strategy work, whereas Hamilton’s McLaren won the race on an aggressive two stop plan.

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 an aggressive strategy to keep the driver in clear air.

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.

Historically it has worked out that going with one stop would mean that the car was ahead of the two stoppers at their final stops, but they can usually pass the one stopper in the closing stages as his pace drops on worn tyres. However a safety car would swing things towards the one stopper, so there is always an element of gambling in Montreal.

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 11 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 2010 race, for example, only the front four cars ended the first lap in the same position in which they started!

As far as 2013 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season, on aggregate, as follows –

+11 Gutierrez

+9 Perez

+8 Sutil***

+8 Van der Garde*****

+7 Maldonado

+6 Chilton

+5 Massa

+4 Button

+3 Pic

+2 Di Resta

+2 Alonso

+2 Hulkenberg**

+1 Vettel

+1 Bianchi******


-1 Bottas

-2 Rosberg
-4 Raikkonen

-5 Hamilton

-6 Webber*

-8 Ricciardo

-9 Vergne ****

-9 Grosjean

*Webber dropped from second to seventh after a clutch problem in Australia
** Hulkenberg did not start in Australia *** Sutil suffered puncture from contact with Massa in Bahrain ****Vergne retired following collision. *****Van der Garde and Maldonado made contact in Monaco. ******Bianchi started from pit lane in Monaco after stalling

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.

It is also clear that the field has significantly closed up in pit stops. The top nine teams in the table below are within a second. 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 Lotus did a faster stop than many of its rivals for the first time, while most of the teams improved their pit stop times by around 0.7secs since last year’s Monaco Grand Prix

1. Red Bull 24.316
2. Lotus 24.420
3. Ferrari 24.489
4. McLaren 24.585
5. Mercedes 24.801
6. Toro Rosso 24.827
7. Sauber 24.974
8. Marussia 25.098
9. Force India 25.214
10. Caterham 25.696
11 Williams 29.063

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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For a long time the Canadian Grand Prix has been one of my favourite races of the season.

It is one of Hamilton’s best circuits and so I think he will get pole. However, I think unfortunately for he and Rosberg the problem of tyres will return in spite of the controversial test.

The tactic to run slowly to look after the tyres and still be at the front won’t work. Although Montreal doesn’t have the high speed corners it is hard on tyres. If you remember, the idea of producing tyres that wore out more quickly came about after Montreal 2010 when even the very hard wearing Bridgestone tyres wore more quickly than normal.

Presuming Ferrari’s Monaco pace was a temporary blip I think it will be close between Red Bull, Lotus and Ferrari with Mercedes in there at the start. As always in Canada it should be exciting.


I think Mercedes are the team to beat here in Canada. They have a good car in terms of traction and accelerating out of slower corners, and their tyres won’t be put under extreme strain.

This is due to the fact that there are no real high-speed/energy corners to put extra heat into the tyres, and due to the lower downforce level required at this circuit, which won’t push the tyres hard into the ground.

I also get the feeling we are going to see something special from Lewis Hamilton this weekend. He was very close to getting the brakes right in Monaco, and with the best part of a fortnight to make adjustments, he should be in a great position to grab his first win of 2013.


James, Montreal coastal? Where were you educated mate? Sure it’s on the St Lawrence seaway but it is so far from the coast as to describe it coastal is far fetched. Albany (NY state is closer to the coast, but can’t be described as coastal.


Dead right its an open race because of the unpredictable weather.

If its dry I would favour a Mercedes powered car with Lotus very close.I think Force India have their best chance at a podium here. The cooler conditions may allow the Mercs to look after their tyres a bit with cooling off down the straights.

If its damp or wet has to be Red Bull or Ferrari.


If it’s damp or wet it will be very difficult for Ferrari (at least in Quali). I don’t know where did you get that Ferrari is good in damp/wet/cool conditions. I agree though on Red Bull. Damp/wet conditions would probably produce a Red Bull domination (of course in the race there are a lot of situations that could turn around things).


It’s more that Fernando seems to find the best way around in damp conditions.


by the way, it’s cold here in Canada, this year; and it looks like cold and rain for practice and qualifying, then slightly milder and dryer, i.e. lower chance of precipitation, on Sunday.


I’m Grosjean to qualify on pole, then pick his way through the crowd from tenth, to the flag.


Every time I go to an F1 race Jean Alesi wins. Nobody would see that coming this weekend. 😉

Don’t call your bookies. Alas, I won’t be there.

Hoping for real racing…


I am afraid that this might be another Merc win.

Lotus and RBR don’t have enough pace and Ferrari needs a particular set of circumstances to win. A track that is not front wheel limited is probably not going to work for them. Even with the fastest straight line speed.


I thank you mon ami


Hamilton @ Montreal-

2007 – 1st

2008 – DNF

2010 – 1st

2011 – DNF

2012 – 1st

If that pattern continues he’ll DNF this weekend.

Also agree with comments about about drs, it is not needed on this circuit & hurts the quality of the racing here past 2 years. its just zero fun watching drivers hit a button & cruise easily past the defenseless car ahead.

the point of drs was to help make overtaking more possible in places where it otherwise woudl not have been.

in reality however its just worked as a passing device more often than not & that is not what it is supposed to do.


More than semantics at play here, but the “UBS” race-plan nomenclature could use some fine tuning, maybe?

To the point then, if you plot your race plan in advance of the race start and never waiver from it, it might be properly called a race “strategy”. If you deviate from your original race plan, at any point thereafter, that is more correctly termed a race “tactic”, and not a change in “strategy”. I think the whole of F1 could stand to think more like sailors and employ folks called “tacticians”; as the race-day situation changes so frequently based on a myriad of very dynamic and uncontrolable factors.


It would be really nice if Lewis could rise and shine in this race… Another team, new season and another opportunity! You’re a professional sportsman and doing your job, seeking for improvements regardless of what some people say! Your time will come! Bienvenu à Montreal!

We’ll be there to cheer & support you all this week-end.

Good luck Mr Hamilton!


hamilton is a natural born racer assessing his adversaries and gegner. once the coast is clear, he’ll emerge and mesmorise.



I’ve got through some pages and really can’t help myself, keep wondering why people are so biased! He has a WDC to his name, multiple wins…One day is up another he’s not up there! We saw his fellow drivers dealing with same stuff given the situation in the past, but this is just lame.

I don’t agree with everything said in here but sometimes you just have to skip the comments!

Nobody expected Lewis to beat Nico or ‘trash’ him…The man himself has acknowledged how strong and competitive his team-mate has been since the beginning!

What i see, some people are building expectations and fast to judge him just for the sake of it (it’s not even on the racing side, they go personal)

The season is not over yet, let’s see how it evolves between these two!


the name hamilton adds spice to f1, some hot others endothermic. he has done so fron 2007. only one other driver had such an effect on the sport. the only difference is that it took him about 13 years and 7 drivers’championships to achieve that status.


A DNF from Vettel could revitalize the championship


I think this race might be a last chance for Ferrari and possibly Lotus to make a dent in the challenge for titles. I hope that blatant cheat Ross Brawn’s team suffer a serious penalty that will remove them from this years title. I’m sorry but why have both your lead drivers drive a meaningless test? He’s as big a cheat as he was at Benetton. I think Mercedes will easily get to the podium. Out on a limb here but I think the Force India’s will do well too.


I’ve attended every f1 race held at this circuit since 1982, However I will not be attending this year’s race.

Reason been that every year we used to sit at the casino hairpin & we used to see loads of great racing action while sitting down there.

However the last 2 years there has been virtually no action down at the hairpin as nobody wants to try & overtake there anymore because the DRS zone is just up the road.

I saw countless times in both 2011 (Once it dried out & DRS came on) & in 2012 where a driver could have gone up the inside into the hairpin yet back out of the move to ensure they got DRS & there were many cases where both drivers looked to be backing off both trying to be behind at the detection line.

So me, my Family & friends who all used to attend together have decided we won’t be going back to Montreal until DRS is either banned entirely or they see sense & move the DRS zone elsewhere where it doesn’t hurt racing in the places where fans are.

I’d also argue that this track doesn’t need DRS, As I say I’ve attended a lot of races there & its always been a race where overtaking was possible & the racing was always great. Would be better to have zero DRS on this circuit.



Tornillo Amarillo

They listen to the fans and put two DRS zones then…


I agree with you, but just to add to your comment, America’s Cup (sailing) contenders had to come from an Ocean based Yacht Club, and in order to accept challengers from Canadian lake area, lawyers came up with an argument that the river being navigable all the way up to the lakes made it “an arm of the ocean”, so legally, James is right


Sorry to nitpick, but coastal?

Montreal is ~200 miles from the Atlantic Ocean and ~170 miles from Lake Ontario.

Anyway…looking forward to the race. I love this track. The Wall of Champions is always a nail-biter.

My only complaint in recent years has been the DRS overtakes are way too easy at this track.


Going to be a cool/wet weekend I think- not so good for me sitting inside the hairpin, but should be good for racing and Merc chances. Forecast is 20C highs with chance of rain all 3 days.

I feel Ferrari/Force India will make some waves this weekend- both seem to have had straight line speed when needed. Could this be the first FI podium of the year? Will the rain bring the Williams into contention???

Can’t wait- my favorite weekend of the year!


Another Pirelli 1 race coming up then.


Val from Montreal,

What are we talking about for weather so far? Cool and wet for Sunday?

Val from montreal

Saturday it’s raining , 17 degrees celcius

Sunday its partly cloudy with chance of rain , 22 degrees celcius ….

My forecast is as follows : Hamilton not as fast as Nico in both qualy and race , Vettel wins …


Hi again Val. Do you think fortune telling is really the right career for you? You have had quite a few goes at it and, frankly, your success rate is pretty poor – 1/6.

Maybe you should consider something else 🙂

ps. ‘see you’ at the end of the season.

Take care.


I can live with that forecast. 😉

Stay dry!



Did Nico and Lewis really use different helmet liveries in this 1000km Pirelli test as to not be identified?

If this is true…well, let’s just my reservations about stiff punishment for Mercedes would be fully eliminated.


They used white different helmets and overalls and Hamilton was tweeting Disneyland pictures on the days he was testing. They also used trucks with different colors.

Also people at the circuit confirm Mercedes was packing up on Sunday like everyone else but when leaving the circuit they took a different turn, waited a day in another area, got all their gear in the already mentioned trucks with different colors and drove everything back to the circuit, which was sealed off and made impossible to take pictures.

This is huge but everyone is hush-hush about it because they know this could mean the end of mercedes in F1. Which would mean no more Merc engines, no more Hamilton, no more Brawn, etc.

It is no coincidence that mercedes made a statement a few days ago how they can leave F1 if Bernie was linked to fraudulent behaviour. They were basically saying: “let this one go or we go”.


Apparently they also handed out free earplugs to the local population to stop anybody hearing the engines.

It most have cost a fortune you can hear an F1 engine from miles away.!!


It was suggested last year that Mercedes were planning an exit strategy. I don’t know the figures, but don’t Lauda and Wolff have equity in the team?


OK. I thought about this.

If these are facts, Mercedes need to face the unsporting consequences. Question needs to be asked – why are you in F1? Is it to brake rules and use leverage to get away with it? I know it is already hardly a sport, but how far away from sporting behavior do we want to go?

FIA is not in a fun spot here. But they need to take action on this one.

I’ve seen the photos. I can’t believe no one could come up with an SLR in 3 days to take better pics however.

Sounds like Honda may need to move up their program a year just in case yoo.


this whole episode gets me real mad. I hope sincerely that Merc have the book thrown at them…. for once, maybe F1 governance will make the right call. Here’s hoping.


they duck and the book will end up in the rain soaked dirt.


Out of interest how do you seal off a circuit? Particularly a circuit that is overlooked by a hotel.

One final question, how do you know all this, if it’s so secret?


Sebee, apologies for my post/reply above. I made a factual error – I was confusing two different stories in my mind. My bad , as the young folk would say.


Sebee, have you read the blog? The gentleman who claims he has the skinny on all the security etc, seems a tad confused. He says he took pictures of the Ferrari test, at the same circuit/corner that he was later denied the opportunity to photograph the Merc’s.

Now that would be impressive, as you know, the tests took place not only at different circuits, but different countries as well!

I would suggest his testimony may be safely ignored 🙂


Get the heck out of town!

For real?

Simply amazing.

Is this why FIA is dragging Ferrari into this, to have an out?


This weekend Vettel has DNF and Kimi Raikkonen reduces the gap to Vettel! No chance Mercedes will keep grid slots like Monaco this time. Maybe Lewis should stop focusing on his puppy and make up his mind weather he wants to be a F1 driver or wants to be Hip hop star! May then he will win races.

Val from montreal

The F1 circus is back in Montreal ! I’ve only been twice to this race in my life , 1997 and 1998 , and I was lucky to have witness the Regenmeister win on both occasions ..

1998 has to be one of my best week-ends of my life ..

Before the race starts on sunday , there is always a parade lap 2 hours before the race … All of the drivers are seated in convertibles and get driven around the race track waving to the crowd and spectators … I was seated near the Senna hairpin with my friend … In my area of the grand-stand I was the ONLY one wearing a Dekra cap and waving a huge German flag ( even though im Italian ) ..

Mind you , back in those years Schumacher was the arch villain in Quebec … The French-Canadians hated him with a passion … From far we start seeing Schumacher’s convertible approach my section of the grand-stand , the boos and insults start to be heard … I was maybe 15-20 feet away from where the cars passed us at a slow speed … Schumacher gets near from I was and I start yelling like a maniac : ” MICHAEL ! YOUR THE BEST MICHAEL ! ”

That’s when time literally froze for me … Schumacher hears me yelling , looks up , notices me with the German Flag and Dekra cap , looks at me straight in the eyes smiling and then he gives ME a thumbs up !!

I completely freaked out ! I could’nt believe it … My idol made eye contact with me .. That moment will forever be ingrained in my mind …. After that MSC crossed the finish line and won , my friend and I ran like 2 Ben Johnsons to the podium ceremony and we witness the famous Schumacher ” Jump ” …

That’s my story … : ))


I was maybe 15-20 feet away from where the cars passed us at a slow speed … Schumacher….

Hey Val, I was just re-reading some posts and noticed yours. Technically, wouldn’t this situation have breached the restraining order that MSC took out against you?

Valentino from montreal

LOL … NO … Maybe I should get a restraining order for you , your border-line stalking me …. : ))


I was lucky enough to be at the 1992 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, free of charge courtesy of tickets given to me by Martin Brundle! I watched the race from Luffield, with views of the cars coming through Bridge, then Priory & Brooklands, past Luffield and on to Woodcote.

I was part of the throng that flooded the track after Nigel Mansell’s memorable win, Senna’s car was transported away right in front of us, Damon Hill had his first race start, and I gave a special cheer to Martin Brundle for his podium finish. Have thought him a top guy ever since!

Tornillo Amarillo

Well written Val. That’s the magic of being in the circuit, just for those few seconds in the parade!

I did the same that you did with Schumacher in 2003, but when he looked at me, he saw my posters of McLaren and he knitted his brows…

Also I shake hands with Kimi during an event of marketing for the public in Montreal that year, unfortunately I can’t found any similar event now with drivers, are there?


You ran like two Ben Johnsons -lol- What steroids were you on ! I thought for sure you might have flashed him


I love it, totally understand that emotion.

I met Senna once in the Silverstone pits and was just in awe, couldn’t do anything.

A few years later, my friend Anthony and I, were at the 1994 Silverstone tyre tests.

We’d been in the pits in the morning and we managed to get into an area, that we shouldn’t have had access to, down the Hanger Straight for the afternoon session.

We climbed into a marshal’s post and Ant started taking photos.

Schumacher came though at racing speed and the man must have had eyesight belonging to a Hawk, because he pulled up in front of us and sat preparing a race start right in front of us. He revved the engine and took off. Brilliant.

Some years ago, I took my daughter to a Prince concert, another personal idol of mine. We had

front row seats and as he was singing Purple Rain he walked over to our side of the stage. He spotted my daughter, 8 year old kid kind of stands out, and sings to her before breaking into the guitar rift. That was special too.

Memories can be pretty damn amazing.


Awesome story Val!

This is what F1 is all about


Can’t understand why people think Mercedes will be so strong. Are their tyre problems going to suddenly vanish? And if they do, tongues will be wagging up and down the pit lane.


Because they have very good traction out of slow corners and very good top speed which is crucial on this track and the lack of long fast sweeping curves means that tyre degradation is not an issue. Has nothing to do with vanishing tyre problems but this of course won’t stop tongue wagging – suggest you don’t add to the wagging.


As I understand it, the track layout is not especially demanding of the tyres. I believe it’s long, high speed, high down force corners that trash the tyres – and Canada ain’t got none of them. I guess that is why there is a slight optimism from Mercedes fans.


Passing will be quite easy now as we have Two DRS zones instead of One like last year. So Going for more stops and taking every thing out of tires is much better than going for less stops

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