Red Bull’s tyre gamble to beat Hamilton (Canadian GP pre-race analysis)

Webber will start the race on the medium tyres - not the green-edged super-softs

Webber will start the race on the medium tyres - not the green-edged super-softs

Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber share the front row of the grid for tomorrow’s race.

But with one starting on super-soft tyres and the other on mediums this variation in strategies could make for an unpredictable race. Who will come out on top?

The start

It’s a short run to the first corner at Canada and the pole sitter is well-placed to defend his position into the first corner. Hamilton has some experience doing this at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve – he held his lead from pole position here in 2007 and 2008.

He will also have the added advantage of starting on the super-soft tyres while Webber and Sebastian Vettel behind him will be on the medium compound. That will give Hamilton an extra advantage getting off the start-line, but could become a problem later on – more on that shortly.

Behind the the two Red Bulls are Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. They’ll start on the super-soft tyres and with their F-ducts will have a good chance of nabbing a place off one of the RB6 drivers at the start.

The first turns at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve tend to provoke crashes – we’ve seen some big pile-ups here in the past.

The midfield will be especially congested – something Michael Schumacher will be wary of starting from 13th. Look for him to make some progress in the early laps.


For the first time this year we have drivers at the sharp end of the grid starting on different tyres. Most of the top ten are on the super-softs apart from the Red Bulls in second and third, and Robert Kubica in eighth. It remains to be seen what the drivers outside the top ten will do.

Tyres have been a big headache for teams this weekend. Grip levels on the track were poor on Friday and much of the rubber build-up during the first practice sessions was washed away by overnight rain.

The low grip levels have seen driver struggling with graining, especially on the super-soft tyre. Those starting on it have a tyre that’s faster over a single lap but more prone to graining and less durable under a heavy fuel load.

But Red Bull will have to use the super soft tyre at some point during the race – at which point they could become vulnerable to anyone chasing them, especially as their straight line speeds are among the slowest.

Hamilton will be keen to switch to the medium compound tyre as soon as possible. After qualifying Martin Whitmarsh said that wasn’t a concern because they were expecting most cars to make two pit stops – something else we haven’t seen much of in dry races this year.

Nonetheless the teams will still be hunting for gaps in the traffic behind them which they can get their cars out in after a pit stop. Red Bull made a smart and little commented-on call with this in the last race.

It seems they gambled on when Nico Rosberg would make his pit stop and brought Vettel in early to take advantage of it. Either that, or they were very lucky. But, given Schumacher pitted on the lap before Rosberg came in, it was a justifiable risk to take. And it certainly worked – Vettel got ahead of Hamilton by making his pit stop earlier (aided by a slow McLaren pit stop).

This is shaping up to be the most unpredictable race of the year so far. And that’s before we consider the complexities of traffic – 24 cars on one of F1’s shortest tracks – and the weather, which keeps threatening to produce rain.

Lotus vs Sauber

Finally, a quick word for the battle at the back of the grid. Having qualified within two-tenths of a second of Kamui Kobayashi, Heikki Kovalainen fancies his chances of scalping one of the established teams in the race:

We just need to find a little bit more to really take the fight to the guys in front, but tomorrow I think we can race them, I think we can have a go. I thought I had Kamui for a while, but he just got in front at the end, but you always find a little bit more when you think you can get the guy ahead and that shows how far we?ve come.
Heikki Kovalainen

We’ve discussed the progress being made by the new teams recently and it seems the combination of more development from Lotus and a difficult weekend for Sauber could give Lotus their first chance to get in among the established teams on pace. Keep an eye on how this one unfolds tomorrow.

How do you expect the Canadian Grand Prix to play out? Have your say in the comments.

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68 comments on Red Bull’s tyre gamble to beat Hamilton (Canadian GP pre-race analysis)

  1. David BR said on 12th June 2010, 23:07

    All true, but seems better to be on pole. The track conditions are unpredictable, the super-softs may be okay, the SC may come out, everyone may have to start on wets… factor all that in and I’d say advantage Hamilton. Looking forward to seeing Alonso put in a stonker of a race, just a hunch.

    • US_Peter said on 13th June 2010, 3:42

      Agreed. I think Red Bull (and Kubica) are taking a HUGE gamble on the prime tyres. With the high chance of an early safety car the advantage of being able to run further into the race could be quickly eliminated, at which point it actually becomes a disadvantage as their competitors have already done the required stint on the options, whereas they still have to run the options later in the race. Of course if there’s rain at some point all that becomes a moot point. If it rains at the start, then qualifying on the primes was a huge mistake, but if it rains say halfway through the race and the cars on primes can avoid pitting to that point they’ll eliminate the need to run the options once they switch to inters or wets. Keith is right that this is already set up to be a chaotic race before you even take traffic or weather into account, and that will just be icing on the cake. I’m already salivating in anticipation of watching it unfold. Should be a good one!

    • nik (@nik) said on 13th June 2010, 7:26

      The latest weather forecast for Sunday afternoon is 25 degrees, with only a 10% chance of rain. 57% humidity so it should warm the track up more than it has been in the past few days.

      With that, those starting on the soft tyre will only be able to run 6-7 laps on it the most. HAM et al are hoping for a safety car in the first 4-5 laps – but even that might not be enough.

      There is a chance here that the Red Bulls will only need to stop once – if they can extend the range of the hard compound out to 40-45 laps in the initial stint. The reason is because everybody else will be running the soft tyre on full fuel tanks and on a green track – which will see them wear away very quickly. If the Red Bulls can run the hard tyre out to lap 40-45, there is a very good chance that they could extend the same soft tyres out to a 30-35 lap run because of the lighter fuel load, higher temperature, warmer track and more rubber on the road. At that point of the race, they only have to defend their positions and since the chasing pack are likely to be running leaner fuel mixtures, the bulls will be able to push to soft target times and extend the range of the soft tyres while defending positions.

      It might not seem like it – but there is a big difference between running the soft tyre with a heavier car at the beginning of the race on a green track and running the soft tyre at the end of the race on a grippy and warmer track with a much lighter car.

      • nik (@nik) said on 13th June 2010, 7:27

        oh so in conclusion with all that, I am predicting (bar incidents) WEB VET ALO HAM (with a good chance VET will over-drive and end up further down)

        • Scribe (@scribe) said on 13th June 2010, 11:20

          It’s extremley doubtful that Redbull, the car with the highest tyre ware will be able to 1 stop this race. Particularly with the drivers they have comming under preassure from behind. And as you said on a green track a car like Redbull is still likley to eat it’s tyres. They are almost certainly two stopping, an if there is a saftey car, an with the number of rookies and new cars on the track it’s highly likley to say the least, the advantage to be gained from running long is reduced.

          Especially if someone like Jenson Button 1 stops.

      • Adam said on 13th June 2010, 12:13

        Got to love the optimism.

        Hamilton will barely make 5 laps on these tyres, but the magical difference of 80Kg of weight (on a base of 700KG) will mean Red Bull can run 35 laps on them.

        I’ll have whatever he’s drinking…

        • Daffid said on 13th June 2010, 13:13

          Doesn’t seem that far fetched to think they could last 30 at the end of the race. We’ve already seen this season that a fully rubbered in track can make 20 or so laps of difference, and as this is such a virgin surface, the improvement should be exponential in the race. It’s unlikely, but it’s certainly within the bounds of possibility.

        • David BR said on 13th June 2010, 22:17

          [Post race] Hmmm, seems like I was right to be optimistic!

        • Scribe (@scribe) said on 13th June 2010, 22:36

          CALLED IT!

          Lol had to really.

      • Patrickl said on 13th June 2010, 16:28

        Why would they be hoping for a safety car in the first 4-5 laps only?

        In fact it’s the entire duration from start till the time the Red Bull’s stop that they run the risk of losing out due to a safety car situation.

        The Red Bulls need to have “a pit stop sized” gap to the opposition to make their stop (and stay in front).

  2. Zahir (@zahir) said on 12th June 2010, 23:22

    Well on the BBC, Brundle or Legard said that some teams thought there would be no rain and some said there will be rain around the time of the start of the gp.

    Maybe Mclaren are on of the teams who think it will rain in which case they will start on inters or wets which means they dont have to run both tyres and that is why Lewis was sent out on options.

    But I think running primes makes sense. By the time they have to run the options the track should be rubbered in enough. Should be really interesting though.

    • US_Peter said on 13th June 2010, 3:43

      Yep. Kind of depends on when (if) rain arrives.

    • MacademiaNut said on 13th June 2010, 4:36

      Yep.. what you certainly don’t want is rain after 10 laps. :)

    • Derek said on 13th June 2010, 11:55

      Yes it’s a gamble either way. But lewis has it right if a SC or it rains at the start. Red Bull are okay if it stays dry and no SC at start, but they will have to stop twice, one short stint on options.

  3. STRFerrari4Ever said on 12th June 2010, 23:29

    Well this race is shaping up to be one of the all time classics, the split in tyre strategy at the sharp end and the added possiblity of rain. Tomorrows race is going to be unpredictable and incredible I truly can’t wait!

  4. JUGNU said on 13th June 2010, 1:05

    Safety car advantage Lewis. As he will quickly pit and change tyres. No Safety Car Redbulls are in better position.

    But Hamilton, looking at his form if he finds himself behind Bulls after his pitstop we will see a great chase by him. Can’t wait to see the race. It should be very exciting.

  5. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 13th June 2010, 1:05

    If there’s a safety car, I expect Hamilton to eke out as much of the soft stint as possible.

    If there isn’t, McLaren will just wait to feed him back into some decent clean air.

    And if it rains…

    It should be interesting nonetheless!

  6. wasiF1 said on 13th June 2010, 2:46

    I want a safety car free race in a circuit which have see the SC in the lap 9 out of 12 races.I do think that this may be the race where we will see 2 stops but the question is when will Hamilton & Alonso make their pit stop relative to the Red Bulls? The weather will play another big role today.

    If the top 4 does make 2 stops where people at the back like Schumacher makes 1 then the racing will be great to watch this weekend.

  7. Fer no.65 said on 13th June 2010, 2:47

    Epic race tomorrow… that’s for sure! :D

    I love weekends with plenty to watch on the telly!

  8. DaveW said on 13th June 2010, 3:17

    Where’s the risk? Bridgestone says two stops will be needed, so what if he has to come in on lap 8 for tires.Everyone else will have to do the same. We know from practice and qualifying that he is quickest on either tire, so the only issue will be getting caught in a Luizzi-Train after the first stop. And he can get by those guys.

    Hamilton will be hoping Alonso can bag a RedBull at the start. I have a feeling that he will.

    Very classy of Dawkins to say Hamilton was “very very quick,” instead of mumbling about his balance or whatever. He got schooled pretty much all weekend by the youngster. Problem is, Alonso was also very very quick in a car that was clearly not as good. See Massa. It will take a G,H, and I-duct to get by Alonso.

    • David BR said on 13th June 2010, 15:12

      Yeah, as I said above, I think Alonso’s looking good. It’s what this season needs, Alonso challenging the RBR and McLaren tech battle with some audacious driving! What I would really like to see is an end of season square off between Webber, Ham and Alonso for the championship. Fireworks guaranteed.

  9. Daniel said on 13th June 2010, 3:40

    Everyone is saying that a safety car will be to Hamilton’s advantage, but maybe not. Hamilton should have a slight advantage with his softer tyres on the opening few laps. He should have a lead of say 4 or 5 seconds by 5 or 6 laps in. If we get a safety car at that point his advantage is lost and he still has the wear on the tyres.

    • US_Peter said on 13th June 2010, 3:51

      Hadn’t thought of that. Good point. I think the assumption though is that under a safety car Hamilton might pit and be done with the options within the first few laps. Of course if that happens with all the frontrunners on options, then the Bulls would still be at front in the clear air, but it’s doubtful that with their pace at this circuit that they could turn that into a huge gap, UNLESS the Hamiltons/otherfrontunners that pit early get stuck behind the midpack drivers that start on primes and don’t pit under the safety car. So many variables to consider it’s a bit daunting to think about.

      • statix said on 13th June 2010, 7:15

        of course they will stuck behind slower cars if they pit on first 10-15 laps. and they will have to, soft tyres will not last 15 laps.

  10. Bartholomew said on 13th June 2010, 3:47

    How knowledgeable everyone is

  11. sumedh said on 13th June 2010, 4:16

    If this was a straight race without rain or safety car, I would expect the cars with softer tyres to come in around lap 12-lap 15 and change to mediums and not stop again. The Red Bulls and Kubika would perhaps go on till around lap 35-lap 40 and use the softer tyres later on a more rubbered-in track.

    If there is rain, then all strategies can be thrown out of the window. It is just a matter of being on the right tyre at the right time then.

    If there is an early safety car (Lap 1), I expect the cars running on softer tyres to come in straight away and change to mediums. Teams haven’t had major problems with the medium tyres and as is typical with Bridgestone harder tyres this season, they can perhaps last the entire race.

    The risk for Red Bulls is that if there is a safety car period in the time after Lewis’s stop and before their stop (which is unexpectedly, a large time window for this race, in my estimate, from about lap 15 to lap 40), then the Red Bulls’ strategy is screwed

    Even if Lewis makes an early stop and tries to go 65-odd laps on a single set of medium tyres, the Red Bulls will most likely after their pit stop end up around 10-12 seconds behind him. But with supersofts ans fresher tyres, I think they will fancy their chances of overtaking Lewis.

    We have a good race in the offing today :)

  12. TommyC said on 13th June 2010, 4:45

    surely the medium tyre is the one to start on (assuming a dry race). if red bull can qualify within a quarter of a second on the mediums, the performance gap shouldn’t be huge in the first stint. hamilton basically did one more flying lap than he should have so his tyres will be worn a tad more than they should have been. surely the supersofts will just dissintergrate with full fuel loads at the start if friday is anything to go by. if the red bulls can maintain decent pace to hamilton for the first few laps, they should be fine by the time they need to stick the super softs on at the end as the track would have rubbered in. the same thing happened in monaco last year when vettel started on the softs and they deteriated really quickly but worked fine for webber at the end of the race.
    either way i think we’re in for a super race!

  13. GeeMac said on 13th June 2010, 5:31

    I actually think Red Bull are quids in to win this race. Assuming their strategy is Prime-Option (or Prime-prime-option) they should be able to win this. A good long quick stint on the prime tyre (or two stints on prime) at the begining of the race, and a quick blast on the option at the end of the race (when the track has rubbered in and the car is light) should see them overhaul any advantage that Hamilton manages to gain at the start of the race.

    • TommyC said on 13th June 2010, 5:56

      well, you exlained that much better than me. i think safety car/s and rain could intervene though so it will be interesting to see how it all unfolds.

    • US_Peter said on 13th June 2010, 6:48

      That’s assuming though that RBR can stay out long on the primes and gap the field enough to pit and stay ahead.

    • juanfanger said on 13th June 2010, 7:11

      Prime-Option-Prime might be the best way to go:

      1st stint – run long on primes and get clear of the midfield before pitting. P10–>P24 may well all start on primes, in which case Lewis will come out behind most of them when he pits early, particularly if there is an early safety car to keep the field bunched.

      2nd stint – fast on good options with rubbered-in track while Lewis is chasing on increasingly wearing primes.

      3rd stint – pit from the lead at about same time as Lewis’ 2nd stop. Potentially long one on primes to the finish with chasing cars still having to catch and overtake.

      Of course this could all get wrecked by rain or a safety car at the wrong time, or Lewis just being too fast :)

  14. Hamish said on 13th June 2010, 6:21

    I suppose Hamilton can’t rear end anyone coming out of the pits if hes leading them out.

    • Rob Gallagher said on 13th June 2010, 7:05

      Isn’t it funny how people seem to forget Rosberg crashed into the back of Hamilton in the pit lane aswell?

    • He was leading into the pits in 2008, but for some reason (fuelled longer or just a poor job by McLaren) he was passed by both Raikkonen and Kubica. Back then, of course, the field was bunched up when everyone pitted behind the safety car so it was more likely positions would change in the pit lane.

  15. got my prediction bang on after practice 2, some front runners are indeed starting on the harder compound – interesting race ahead, so many possibilities, SC, rains ..

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