Saturday, June 6, 2015
CANADIAN GRAND PRIX 2015 PREVIEW
In 1978, after similar safety concerns with Mosport, the Canadian Grand Prix moved to its current home at the Circuit Giles Villeneuve on Île Notre-Dame in Montreal. In 2005, the Canadian Grand Prix was the most watched Formula One GP in the world. The race was also the third most watched sporting event worldwide, behind the first place Super Bowl XXXIX and the UEFA Champions League Final.
This weekend is the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal, one of the F1 fraternity’s favourite races and a solid favourite with many drivers. Montreal is unique, with its long straights and corners lined with walls, especially the “Wall of Champions” on the exit of the final chicane once hit by three World Champs in the same 1999 race. With a combination of long straights, numerous chicanes and the close proximity of barriers to the track, the Montreal circuit places stress on engines and brakes as well as driver concentration. The track itself is bumpy and generally low grip, due to the fact that it is rarely used outside of the grand prix weekend. With the lack of long corners and emphasis on traction, tyre wear around Montreal is relatively low. Thanks to the configuration of the Montreal track, overtaking tended to be easier on it than at most circuits.
Track length : 4.36 kilometers
Race distance : 70 laps (305 kilometers)
Corners : 12 corners in total made up of straights, chicanes and a hairpin
Aerodynamic setup : Medium downforce
Top speed : 326km/h (with Dag 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.
There have been a number of changes to the track since last year; the wall and fence behind the run-off area at T10 have been renewed, whilst new walls and fences have replaced guardrails on both sides of the track between Turns 10 and 12. Also, from now on cars straying into the run-off area at T13 will have a new line between bollards to follow when rejoining the track.
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. In 2011 the race was halted for four hours while the officials waited for the rain to abate (incidentally, the rules were rewritten after this to ensure no such delays happened again). 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. Friday is set to be overcast, while Saturday and Sunday are forecast to be warm and sunny. Ambient temperature is predicted to be 19C.
The Montreal Plateau Webcam run by Adrian Platts is a useful way of keeping an eye on incoming weather systems at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, as it is located 2km west of the circuit and usually sees its incoming weather. Find it HERE.
Canada has the same tyre nomination as Monaco - soft and supersoft - but quite a different challenge. The track is a lot more demanding for tyres than Monaco, which should lead to a greater degree of wear and degradation. The biggest forces at work are longitudinal (acceleration and braking) rather than lateral (cornering) - and these are the factors that influence wear and degradation in Canada. The nature of the track also means that there is more opportunity to use tyre strategy to gain track position, with a variety of different strategies in the mix last year. Although the demands on tyres are not especially high, due to a low-grip surface, there are some big kerbs that require a tough tyre structure, and the circuit is also famously hard on brakes. Uncertain weather is often a factor at the semi-permanent track, which adds another element of unpredictability.
Last year's strategy and how the race was won: A variety of one and two-stop strategies were seen at the race last year, which was characterised by two safety car periods. Daniel Ricciardo won the race for Red Bull using a two-stop strategy, taking the lead on fresher tyres with two laps to go. The top four all stopped twice, with the highest-placed one-stopper being Force India's Nico Hulkenberg in fifth, who started on the soft and completed a 41-lap stint before switching to supersoft.
Expected performance gap between the two compounds: 1.0 - 1.2 seconds per lap.
After the single zone of Monaco it's back to two DRS zones for Canada. Both are run from a single detection point shortly after the exit of Turn 9. Being in DRS range here can be more important than being ahead on track; hence the somewhat amusing sight in 2013 of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso both slowing because neither wanted to be ahead at the detection point.
The first zone's activation point comes just after the exit of the right-hand kink of Turn 12 on the back straight, and it ends with braking at the final chicane. The second zone has an activation point just after the exit of the final chicane, and it runs the length of the pit straight and ends at the braking zone of Turn 1.
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. Montreal has the highest rate of Safety Car deployments per race of any circuit bar Singapore.
QUESTIONS AHEAD OF CANADA
Who Will Get Their Strategies Right?
The weather, crashes, safety cars and tyre strategies make for an interesting race in Canada and of course they are all interlinked. The weather is usually unpredictable and a few spots of rain can lead to a crash, which often results in a safety car and can ultimately change a team's strategy.
The word "strategy" is on everyone's lips following Mercedes' gaffe at Monte Carlo where Lewis Hamilton was on course for victory before the deployment of the safety car prompted the team to call him in.
Will The Brakes Hold Up?
The brakes usually take a heavy beating at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with cars going from 300km/h at the hairpin to about 60km/h all in the space of a few seconds.
Mercedes, Red Bull and Lotus, to name just a few, have all had brake issues this year already. Although Merc claimed a 1-3 finish at the Bahrain GP, both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had brake-by-wire failures at the same corner with the latter losing out P2 to Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari due to the issue.
Red Bull and Lotus have pretty much been hampered all season by brake problems and any small issue will take its toll on a circuit like Montreal.
Just How Much More Power Will McLaren And Ferrari Have?
The McLaren-Honda upward curve continued at the Monaco Grand Prix last time out with Jenson Button scoring their first points, but Circuit Gilles Villeneuve brings a different set of challenges and their Honda engine will come under scrutiny.
Both Honda and Ferrari have confirmed they have used their engine development tokens with the Japanese manufacturer using two and the Scuderia three ahead of the Canadian GP. If they get enough power, then it all indicates to a very good weekend for Button and Fernando Alonso, provided they can sort out their reliability woes of course.
Can Mercedes End Their Montreal Drought?
It's hard to believe, but Mercedes have never won a grand prix as a constructor at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Rosberg and Hamilton locked out the front-row of the grid last year, but they suffered almost simultaneous MGU-K problems and Hamilton went on to retire due to a brake failure (not that again) later in the race. Daniel Ricciardo then overtook Rosberg on the penultimate lap to claim his first win.
Hamilton, though, has an impressive record at Montreal as he won there three times with McLaren in 2012, 2010 and 2007 and also started in pole on several occasions. In other words it is a track that he fancies and should do well at if he is given the right equipment and he should have that underneath him, especially if you take into account that Merc will use new power units for both Hamilton and Rosberg. However, Canada is known for throwing up interesting results like Ricciardo's win last year or Robert Kubica's success with BMW-Sauber in 2008.
More Canadian Woe For Williams?
Valtteri Bottas warned that Williams can't afford to have another race where we are nowhere, adding that "somehow the slower the speed gets, we lose more downforce compared to the others". The good news for Bottas and Felipe Massa is that the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is pretty high-speed compared to Monaco, but their recent results in Canada don't make for pretty reading. Bottas and Massa were solid in qualifying in 2014, but they could be in for another tough race day, especially if the likes of McLaren move up.
Who Will Kiss The Wall Of Champions?
Will any names (rookies or veterans) be added to the infamous list of drivers who have made contact with the Wall of Champions where drivers reach top speeds in excess of 310kph on the approach to Turn 15?
Of the current crop, Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and Pastor Maldonado have all crashed at the final corner. Felipe Nasr, Carlos Sainz, Max Verstappen, Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi will all make their F1 debuts at the circuit this weekend so there is plenty of potential for a little brush here and there while Maldonado is also still in the field.
Will they make changes to the kerb at the exit of the final right-left chicane, which will result in a few more kisses? Time will tell.
Simple. Lewis Hamilton is gonna blow everybody away with a win in Canada. We all know he's good for it. Of course that is the Hamilton fan in me talking. But who knows what will happen. All I know is that it's gonna be edge of seat stuff again. So bring on Canada.
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