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

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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.

Strategy

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.

2010 Canadian Grand Prix

Browse all 2010 Canadian Grand Prix articles