Chances to shine as F1 teams head to Montreal
Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Jun 2014   |  8:05 pm GMT  |  166 comments

This weekend is the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal, one of the F1 fraternity’s favourite races and a solid favourite with many drivers. Battle will be resumed between the two Mercedes drivers, contesting the world title, but Ferrari has a major upgrade here, as does Red Bull’s engine partner Renault and it will suit Force India, who could be podium contenders.

Montreal is unique, with its long straights and corners lined with walls, especially the “Wall of Champions” on the exit of the final chicane.

But it’s also a difficult race to win, as strategy is really important here. It has high (56%) chance of a safety car, which often turns races on their heads, a short pit lane, which means fast stops and an unusual track surface – low grip and used for racing only once a year.

Plotting the development of the grip levels as the track improves is one of the keys to success.

Track characteristics – Click to enlarge

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.

Time spent braking: 17% of lap (high). 7 braking zones. Brake wear – Very High.

Total time needed for pit stop at 80km/h: 18.8 seconds.

After the extreme of Monaco, qualifying is significantly less important at Montreal because overtaking is easy and with a short pit lane, 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.

Form Guide

The Canadian Grand Prix is the seventh round of the 2014 FIA F1 World Championship.

Mercedes is the dominant force at the moment with six wins and six pole positions. This track is likely to flatter their package too, so expect a head to head once again for pole and the win between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Hamilton has the far stronger record here, three poles and three wins. Rosberg’s best qualifying is fourth and best race result is 5th.
However he has worked hard on his braking and precision, which are key to speed here, when blended with aggression.

For the last few seasons, Ferrari has had a problem with traction out of slow corners, which is at a premium in Montreal. It has a major upgrade of chassis and power unit planned and much hope is riding on it.

Historically this has not been one of Red Bull’s strongest circuits; downforce isn’t a major factor here, but in 2012 Sebastian Vettel started on pole position and finished fourth; last year he won the race. Lack of power is likely to restrict the team’s competitiveness this season, although Renault has promised that the team will be able to use full power for the first time at this race.

This should be the best chance for Force India to repeat the Bahrain podium result. The track will suit their slippery chassis, strong power unit and good traction. Sergio Perez drove very well here in 2012 to score a podium for Sauber.

As far as drivers’ form is concerned – Hamilton is the king of Montreal, having won the race three times. Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen have also won the race.

Weather Forecast

Set on the St Lawrence seaway, Montreal can experience extremes of weather for the race; it can be very hot and humid, but also cold and wet, as it was in 2011 (above). This will have a huge bearing on the tyres. It is common to see huge temperature variations – 15 degrees of track temperature on one day and 35 degrees on another. It is one of the most extreme circuit locations for this phenomenon.

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Montreal: Prime tyre is Soft and Option tyre is Super Soft. This is the same combination as in Monaco.

This combination of Pirelli tyres in Monaco proved very durable and quite hard to warm up and this is likely to be repeated this weekend.

The track surface is smooth and the lack of long corners means relatively low energy going into the tyres, which means longer life, but difficulty with warm-up. The key to making the super soft last is to limit sliding and wheel spin with the rear tyres. This happens when the drivers accelerate out of the low speed corners. This is even more of an issue this year with the high torque levels from the hybrid turbo engines, which really spin up the rear wheels.

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.

Because pit stops cost less time (18 secs) the temptation is to do two stops, but a Safety Car at the wrong moment can hand the advantage to a one-stopping car. There are many examples of this in recent years.

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. For a fast car out of position, getting out of sequence is an idea, so the car can run in clear air as much as possible.

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.

One stop would pit around Lap 26/28. Two stops, which should be faster, would pit around Laps 16 and 44.

Chance of a safety car

The chances of a safety car at Montreal are very high at 56%. Seven of the last 12 Canadian Grands Prix have featured at least one 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 debris from an accident are dangerous.

Recent start performance

The run to the first corner in Montreal is short (just 150m to braking point) 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!

From a strategy point of view, the start is a key game changer.

As far as 2014 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season, on aggregate (taking total places lost away from total places gained), as follows –

12 Kobayashi, Massa
11 Maldonado
10 Gutierrez
9 Bianchi, Hulkenberg, Bottas
8 Ericsson
4 Perez
2 Chilton, Raikkonen, Sutil
1 Grosjean, Alonso

Held Position

12 Vergne
4 Button
2 Magnussen, Kvyat, Ricciardo, Hamilton
1 Vettel

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.

With heavy penalties for unsafe release from a stop and loose wheels, teams have calmed down their stops to aim for consistency and no mistakes.

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. NB – The sample is not totally representative as in Monaco many stops were conducted under a safety car.

1. Williams 24.264s
2. Mercedes 24.672s
3. Lotus 25.029s
4. Caterham 25.116s
5. Ferrari 25.282s
6. Toro Rosso 25.444s
7. Force India 25.714s
8. Sauber 25.906s
9. McLaren 25.992s
10. Marussia 26.137s
11. Red Bull 26.586s

The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from several of the leading teams’ strategists and from Pirelli

Click on the Infographic image below to see all the strategy considerations in an easy to use, at a glance format

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Shout out to my fellow Canucks!

East end of Toronto, here.



Sato’s Super Aguri taking on Alonso’s McLaren in 007. That was epic!


Lewis have ruled the roost at canada when it comes to performance. Lewis will dish out another ignominy for rosberg this weekend. Lewis for the win by quite a margin. I do not despise rosberg at all yet when it comes to the ultimate speed he is still behind lewis and few others in the grid

Alonso for P3, also expect another decent drive from Bianchi


1. Lewis

2. Rosberg

3. Alonso


Its going to be interesting to see how this story regarding RBR and a “secret test” unfolds


Very interesting. To be honest, it was a bit of a miracle that Red Bull were as strong as they were at Melbourne, considering they could barely do a lap at Bahrain. Also the fact Torro Rosso were pretty strong with Kyvat scoring a few points early in the season.


Or it may all just get brushed under the carpet..


Could well do. Would cause quite a stir if there’s some truth to it though.


Let’s all give a moment of our time to mark robinson, the marshall who passed away during last years GP.


Some Montreal firsts/lasts if I’m not mistaken:

1. Gilles Villeneauve’s first win

2. Piquet’s last win

3. Lewis Hamilton’s first win

4. Jean Alesi’s only win

5. Robert Kubica’s only win

2014 for Ricciardo’s first if the Mercs take each other out 😉


This is also my home GP. I live about half-an-hour by metro. I just checked the local CBC weather. 30% chance of rain Saturday and sunny Sunday … but that can and often does change.


Sky F1 aired a rerun of the 2011 Canadian GP last night and I found it one of the most exiting finishes ever! Jensen Button coming from last place,after 5 visits to the pit lane, to take the win after scaring Vettel off the track on the last lap! Pity he doesn’t drive like that all the time.


i fell a great sense of pride with all the

great comments about the Canadian GP. I hope they sign the 10 year deal and keep this

classic on the calendar!


I was gutted when Montreal lost its slot on the 2009 calender. Being a “mid summer” race, it’s loss on that years calender was sorely missed by everyone.

Canada is indeed a fantastic track, a great event and, best of all, always a superb race.

I guess its because the F1 calender over the last few years has been full of dullard tracks such as Shanghai, Bahrain, Hockenhiem, Abu Dhabi, Korea and the like. Great facilities but zero atmosphere.

Montreal has the rare combination of being a fantastic track with a brilliant atmosphere. The Canadian spectators are enthusiastic, the event is well organised and as for the 2011 race……….well the excitement ratings were off the scale for that one!


This is a race that you could gain a lot IF your car had traction control…. maybe somebody can record the cars powering out of the corners to have a better picture of this cheat… some say, Reanuld engines have some mode of traction control, wouldn’t surprise me, even Ferrari wouldn’t surprise me, but we will see, or hear 🙂

Looking forward to this race, and your recordings.


I’m so excited. Renault bringing updates to allow Red Bull to run 100% power output, Ferrari bringing a significant updates to their car too. Lewis and Nico friends or for PR. So these are the questions to be answered this weekend.

1. Will Lewis and Nico feud continue publicly?

2. Has Red Bull or Ferrari closed the gap to Mercedes?

3. Will this be the weekend Vettel beats Riccarido, can he?

4. Who will be the best of the rest this weekend presuming the usual suspects finished 1&2?


Renault engine update, Ferrari engine update, I thought these things were sealed?

If they’re not sealed, they now know how Mercedes moved the intercooler to gain the advantage, so why not just copy that? Either they’re sealed, or they’re not?


The engines them selfs are sealed but they can do software updates. Hope this helps.


This sums up my thoughts exactly –

“I feel that Montreal will be a return to the mean. i.e. Hamilton winning again. I do like Nico, i don’t think he’s a bad guy but his 4 victories since Hamilton joined the team are hardly what you would call stellar. Monaco last year, fairly he put it on pole but everyone knows the race is over after the first corner. Last year at Silverstone Hamilton’s tyre blew out when leading, then Vettel retires from second and Nico comes through to win. Melbourne this year Hamilton retires his car, Nico wins (Hamilton comes back and wins next 4 races). And then Monaco this year, well…. interpret that one how you want. Im not saying Rosberg so far has needed help to win his races, the facts say it.”


It’s sad that not many mention the tragedy regarding the track marshall last year. It was a terrible way to go and hopefully they honor his memory in some small way and avoid any tragedy this year!


Agreed! Thanks for that.


James – given the 100kg fuel limit this year, would it be possible to add a note on fuel consupmtion to the track characteristics section?


One of the best races on the calendar. A perfect case in point that you don’t have to spend multi-millions of pounds on a race track to create great racing.

With all the talk of where F1 going, its expense, becoming more energy efficient etc, Canada serves as the perfect reminder as to why we all love F1 in the first place.

Great racing, enthusiasm from local fans, its near a major city, not in the middle of sugar cane field somewhere.

Formula 1 is at its best when its done simply. It doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Thats what makes it enjoyable. I just wish Mr E and the manufacturers would realise this.


“…its near a major city,…”.

Wrong. It’s IN a major city. The

entrance is on a Metro stop, and

the Casino is in the middle of

the track.

The only bad points (the reasons

I do not go every year), is the

horribly rude local fans, and the

‘Woodbridge Mafia’.

Meeting American fans is always

a joy. Truly professional.


I agree with what you say about not needing to spend mega-bucks on all these new super expensive tracks. Circuit of the Americas isn’t bad for a Tilke track, but you could spend a fraction of the 400 million bucks that it cost to build on upgrading, say Road America, to F1 standards and probably have a better track.


Couldn’t agree more. I’d raise my hand and vote for Road Atlanta.

F1 cars through those esses would be something to see :).


For the record, one again COTA is not a Tilke circuit. Please make a note of it …


@Kenneth Chapman..

That’s absolutely correct Kenneth…

Cheers !

kenneth chapman

@jeremysmith…actually tilke was contracted to construct COTA but it was designed basically by the original promoter and kevin schwanz…i think that was who it was but i stand to be corrected.


The magic comes because it is accessible. You don’t have to spend hours in a car trying to park, and spend a fortune on concession stands. You simply pack your cooler, jump on the metro, walk to your seats and enjoy the race.

There is the thrill of pushing the cars to the limit WITH consequences. I do understand that safety is absolutely critical, but this leads to the new track designs that we have- each trying to out-shine the last but really just a bunch of white elephants…


I completely agree with you.

What I would like to see on these new tracks, and the ones that have been re-modelled, is say 4 or 5 metres of tarmac beyond the kerbs on the exit of big braking zone corners, like the hairpin coming up in Montreal, then beyond that, a gravel trap.

I say this from the viewpoint of, if you have a small lock up and run a bit deep, I don’t think that’s really deserving of going out of the race. And having a bit of tarmac around the outside of corners allows drivers to drive around accidents without being forced out onto the dirt.

But, if you make really quite a sizeable mistake, then you should be punished.

And the tarmac before the gravel trap would serve as a surface on which you can brake, instead of just skipping across the gravel trap at high speed into a barrier.


Completely agree

kenneth chapman

@ james….off thread somewhat but do you have any intentions of a follow up article on the ‘fuel meter’fiasco earlier on in the season. bringing us up to date would be appreciated. also could you comment on what happened to the release and publication of the ‘pit to car’ transcripts covering monaco? no one seems to have put them online?


kenneth chapman

@ james….thanks for that. as you no doubt are well aware, the gill sensors appear headed for the trash can and the new sentronics seem to be all the go.

also some intrigue going on there as well as the new sensor company seems to be made of ex gill chappies and a couple of other companies.

as for the transcripts not being available, that then begs the question as to why that should that be? they have been released in the past. do the olfactory senses detect a rodent?


Can’t do anything on the second item

A follow up on fuel sensors is a good idea, thanks


Cheers James,

Mind if I ask you a question?

What are the chances of a fan coming to a Grand Prix and joining yourself or Ben Edwards in the BBC commentary box for the practice sessions, to discuss f1 from a “fan outside the bubble of F1” perspective? 🙂


We do phone ins, like Slicks O Six on BBC 5 LIve for that very reason, several times a year. I imagine there will be one post Silverstone.

Not sure it’s a commentary box thing. Although in FP1 and FP2 Ben and I read out plenty of tweets and messages from fans, “outside the F1 bubble”


You can’t beat the classic tracks – Montreal, Silverstone, Spa, Monza, Suzuka, Interlagos. They may be a bit frayed round the edges, but they have given us spectators some wonderful races rather than these dreary Tilke-dromes…..


Absolutely. There is very definitely a divide in the calendar, split between the “fans” races if you like, such as the ones you’ve mentioned above, and the races that are there for business and marketing reasons, like pretty much all the rest.


The infographic above is brilliant. 🙂


Nailed it again James, keep up the good work, Lewis is not the Messiah, he’s just a naughty boy, 😉


Very naughty!

David in Sydney

Either ROS or HAM will bin it this weekend which result in the other taking significant advantage.

If they both bin it it’s be a Hulkenberg, Alonso or Vettel win.

RIC for a podium once again.


Last engine upgrade for the year from Renault. Will be interesting to see where they stand in the overall scheme of things..


Renault said Canada was the first time they’d be able to run full power. I can’t imagine Red Bull will leap frog Mercedes, but I think they’ll be closer than some expect.


Canada has always been a thrilling circuit. Looks like the Merc PU will power down the dominant straights. Tire degradation will surely change strategies and safety car deployment seems very likely. Am waiting for the other teams to break the duck and be on the top step of the podium. Will there be some incidents with Lewis and Nico, I welcome that! Remove the Elastoplast but the wounds are still wide open. Bring it on!

Off topic-I noticed the F1 promos are still using the V8 audio.


Canada sound like it’s going to be another good one at the end. I like it when strategy is key.

To bad is on at 3AM(!) here. No more American races please 🙁


I’m assuming you’re based in the Australasian continent or the Far East – ‘ve posted above perhaps the race could be run on a Saturday -it’ll still be a 3AM start in Australasia but the pain would be softened by being on a Sunday morning rather than Morning morning!

Is it true Tahiti is based east of the International Date Line? Perhaps the dedicated F1 viewer in Australia and New Zealand could book a weekend away there to coincide with the Canadian GP so they can watch the race at a more hospitable time!

Not even Mr E can change the positioning of the International Date Line…………….


I get up at the un-Godly hours to watch

the eastern fiascos and Dubai, etc.

Early Sundays for the European races.

We have two North American races that

are at a sane hour, and Brazil.

Time tha rest of ya learnt tae quit

yer greetin’.


PS Why does the International Date Line begin just before New Zealand when the International Time Zones go west and east of Greenwich Mean Time?

Having said that, if that was the case, the UK would be 24 hours ahead of the likes of Paris, Modena and Stuttgart!!!!!!!!!!

Nah, sorry to our friends and commonwealth colleagues in New Zealand and Australia but unless anyone can think of somewhere better to put the International Date Line, it looks like its staying put!


Also why is bianchi on 4 penalty points? Did he cause a massive crash?

kenneth chapman

ooops, ‘defining’

kenneth chapman

whilst i have never been a great fan of montreal, it is a defing race in many ways. the fact that i need to be wide awake and bushy tailed at 3.00am also has an effect on my ‘wah’

this race should be a mercedes walkover and i would be very surprised if anyone gets within a ‘bulls roar’ of them. it will be interesting, as usual, to see what happens to following four/six places though. ferrari are pinning a lot of hope on their upgrades and red bull will have, what renault are promoting, the full ‘enchilada’ vis-a-vis a 100% output from their PU.

it better be good…


@ KC

the full ‘enchilada’…

I don’t know why, but that expression always makes me smile 🙂

Note to self – use it in a post.

kenneth chapman

@ C63……yes, the ‘full enchilada’ adds a certain piquancy. it spices things up. it is not original though and a uni lecturer of mine at art school was prone to using it on occasion and i just appropriated it, like you are intending to do. besides, mexicans are prone to filling their ‘enchiladas’ to the brim with all manner of spicy ingredients hahaha.


I was thinking the other day that, because of the time-zones, perhaps Montreal could have a Saturday race?

Having the race start, at say 10.30 AM local time wouldn’t make much difference if you live right at the start of the International Date Line – i.e New Zealand, Australia, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, East Timor et al……….however, having a Saturday race at Montreal would mean F1’s heartland customer base in Australasia/Oceania would still have to watch the race live in the early hours – but on a Sunday morning, rather than Monday.

Kyalami used to have the race on a Saturday, as did Silverstone, so F1 does have pedigree in having a race a “day early”.


I think Bernie is trying to convert Oceania races to night/twilight races so they are more friendly to European times, not the other way around.

Besides, don’t you want to see Greg Rust and Alan Jones (Australian commentators) bleary eyed 3am in the morning? 🙂


“So AJ, what do you think of yesterday’s qualifying?”

“ZZZZZZZZZZ…………….Oh, were on air???Sorry Greg, um………..yeah, good, wasn’t it?”

Perhaps Rusty and Jonsey have stocked up on a certain energy drink which is promoted by Sebastian and Daniel!


No chance Gaz Boy. We Canucks party too hard over the GP weekend to run the race on Saturday! We recover on Sunday during the race for our trip back home!


O Canada! I love the Canadian’s enthusiasm and vibrancy, it’s what makes Montreal such a wonderful event and special atmosphere. Not to mention the best race of the year!

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