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. We want turbos said on 13th June 2010, 8:03

    Or what happens if say a Mclaren or Ferrari get a good run out of the hairpin on the 1st lap and drive clean around the Red Bulls on the straight? That would make Lewis’s day.

    • kowalsky said on 13th June 2010, 13:39

      but what kind of turbos? the ones with power, like in th 80’s i assume. I hope they do not limit the boost too much. They were limiting them to two bars of pressure in 1988, while in 1987, they were using 4 bar, may be even more sometimes.

    • Scribe (@scribe) said on 13th June 2010, 14:47

      Yeah, an the Redbulls tyres will be a little cold, apparently the hards take 2 or 3 laps to come in. Alonso and Button have the chance of F-ducting Redbull in the early stages as well.

      No turn 8 escape here, Redbull could become seriously vunerable on used tyres.

  2. Randy said on 13th June 2010, 8:05

    I think there is a 90% chance of a safety car, 75% of two, and 50% chance of three or more. It will be these safety cars and not the tires that will be the determining factor.

    Kovalainen is quietly having a brilliant season, always getting the maximum from a tough package. I have not made my mind up on his true talent level yet, but his morale, attitude, and leadership are second to none. He is setting the example for young drivers on how to conduct yourself in a professional manner. Success is sure to follow in the improving Lotus.

    • Scribe (@scribe) said on 13th June 2010, 14:49

      Yeah Kovalinen made himself lead driver of the team with fairly consumate ease, an Lotus seriously have their eye on the ball.

      I won’t call him the next finnish sensation but Heikki might be around F1 for a long time to come.

  3. Bleu said on 13th June 2010, 8:36

    For me I think only real advantage for Hamilton would be if safety car comes to the exact moment he’s stopping. Therefore he could take the advantage of softer tyres as long as they are better, but it would bring him just behind those who started on primes and didn’t pit. It’s interesting to see whether he can be ahead of Kubica after his first stop.

  4. Whitty 123 said on 13th June 2010, 8:37

    The only thing that is annoying, is that we have to wait later till race start! Haven’t been as excited for a race for quite a few years now.

  5. statix said on 13th June 2010, 8:55

    Just read some info from drivers bout tyres. Soft comp. is ok for up to 5 laps. After this degradation is huge and lap times may be even about 5s slower. Starting on softs seems to be very very bad tactics.
    Only rain can save all this guys on softs :)

  6. I think it is funny that we all started the season complaining about it being boring.

    We then complained about the lack of overtaking. (I personally still would wish for KERS to come back in a less restricted form, or for Turbos.)

    More recently we’ve been complaining about the tyre regulations which seem to ensure all the teams start on the same rubber, which makes race strategy “predictable and boring”.

    I have kind of been on the fence with my own views on all these comments. So I wouldn’t say I’ve argued one way or the other.

    What I do know is that most of these complaints seem to be being proved moot, one after the other. This is turning into an exceptionally good season, bar the first race.

    The main problem in F1 IMHO was the push for more circuits, like Valencia, which prohibit overtaking. Monaco is the exception. We should always have Monaco. I am pleased that the US track is hopefully not going to be a Valencia or a Singapore.

    • Ady said on 13th June 2010, 12:01

      I agree, it’s turning into a classic season.

      I beleive FOTA are looking at writing into the rules an enhanced F-Duct for next year as a cheaper alterntive to turbo’s or KERS.

      These rules may also prevent a defending driver from using it, thereby giving the attacker a slight advantage.

  7. I just wanted to add, that I found Martin, Adrian and Ross’ comments on team orders, overtaking, and tyres when pushed by Eddie Jordan on The Beeb to be interesting. Ross’ made the most sense.

    And I think we the spectators should remember what we watch the sport for.

  8. Question: If the temperature is higher will the supersofts last longer?

    I thought the problem was not that they were falling apart but the cold weather was increasing the graining and it would take 7 laps or so to get through that phase.

    If that is correct then, if Hamilton can use his straight line advantage to keep the RBs behind for those 7 laps, after that he should be OK?

    • We want turbos said on 13th June 2010, 10:52

      If they’re 5s a lap slower the Red Bulls will fly past Hamilton in the bends, also he’d be so much later getting back on the power there would be no straight line advantage!

    • Dave said on 13th June 2010, 10:53

      I believe this is correct. The reason the super-soft fell to pieces on Friday was because of the low temperatures and green track. The tyres were ripping apart rather than graining.
      Alonso did 4 laps on the softs in qualifying yesterday without any degradation issues so if it hasn’t rained overnight, the softs could last up till lap 12-15.

  9. Renzo said on 13th June 2010, 10:49

    I think red bull did’nt have much choice on choosing tyres because of graining and generally tyre wear. If it was a gamble they could have decided to switch strategies between vettel and webber. FP1-2-3 showed that after 7-8 laps the supersofts tyres start to loose in performance, even 3 seconds a lap (with full tank) and particularly the rb6 is very hard on tyres

  10. Hi, i guess SC is almost a “sure” in the canadian gp, given the past 3-4 years records. In 2007, we saw multiple crashes, including robert kubica, sato & more! So sc within the first ten laps will advantage soft compound runners as they would pit immediately for the harder compound, and it could be a gamble (one stop) or 2 stops. The bulls will have to pit for the prime again( if their original set can’t’ last for 40-45 laps) & eventual the soft to fulfill the regulations, So their strategy could still be ineffective. We know that the bulls are’nt one of the kindest to its tyre and given the fast pace at the start of the race, i think they would need 2 stops in total.

    Mclaren prob will require 1-2 stops as well, but lets not forget, both the stops are for the cars to go on prime tyre which is the faster of the two.

  11. pres1dent said on 13th June 2010, 11:54

    We haven’t mentioned the fact that even when the RB’s outqualify the McLaren’s by half a second they seem to be pretty equally matched in racepace. With roughly equal pace in qualification between them, this might prove to be a struggle for the RB’s to keep up.

    Can’t wait to see what happens!

  12. Wmcg said on 13th June 2010, 13:48

    No one has touched on the back marker’s possible impact on this track – one of the shortest for the year, the front-runners will surely catch up quite quickly – being a very narrow circuit this could lead to some incidents. No rain overnight here in Montreal, clear skies this morning.

    Can’t wait to see McLaren’s strategy, here’s hoping it works out!

  13. xtophe (@xtophe) said on 13th June 2010, 14:15

    Let’s see if the different tire strategies actually make a difference in the race itself. So far, we can only guess really.

  14. BBT said on 13th June 2010, 15:16

    Good news for VMM that there was no rain over night.

    However with the short run to turn one I expect one maybe even both of the RBR to get along side Hamilton.

    Why do I say this? Because RBR have a lot better traction of the start and slow corners, don’t be surprised if its enough to get in front of VMM even though they don’t have the F-duct (not much of an advantage in the short run to turn one) and soft tyres.

    I expect a broken front wing (at least) from one on the top 5 in the first corner, but hope not as this could be a cracking race.

  15. UniTab said on 13th June 2010, 15:17

    I have Trulli 1st to Retire @ 17/1,
    Rosberg Fastest Lap @ 17/1.
    Sutil Top 10 @ $1.50.
    Everything else is Unpredictable…

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