Vettel on course for Red Bull’s first Canada victory

2012 Canadian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Montreal, 2012Red Bull are yet to score a victory in the Canadian Grand Prix.

They’re ideally placed to change that thanks to Sebastian Vettel’s pole position.

Can Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso come between Vettel and the win he lost on the final lap last year?

The start

The grid and opening sequence of turns at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has an unusual layout that invites opening-lap incidents.

Pole position is on the left-hand side of the track, on the racing line which leaves the pole sitter covering the inside of the first proper corner.

As the drivers on the clean side of the track tend to get away better, the third-placed starter often gets a run at the driver in second. This has happened in the last two standings starts here (2010 and 2008), but on both occasions the driver who started second was able to cover the move.

Back in 2007 Alonso started well from second but got too ambitious on the brakes at the first corner, skated across the run-off and fell to third.

Unless he makes a poor start, Vettel should be able to retain his lead quite easily – it’s Hamilton who stands to come under greater threat from Alonso.

Behind them, Mark Webber is starting off-line and his recent history of poor starts will have Nico Rosberg eyeing a chance to pick up a place on lap one.

Romain Grosjean has also made some poor starts this year and is seventh on the grid, directly in front of Michael Schumacher, who he has tangled twice with on the opening laps already. Both should give each other plenty of room if they want to still be in good shape on lap two.

Strategy

Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Montreal, 2010The cramped confines of the circuit leave little run-off in places and makes recovering stranded cars difficult. That makes for a high likelihood of safety car deployments.

This in turn has an effect on race strategy, dissuading teams from leaving drivers out in front on worn tyres, preferring to keep them on fresh rubber so they’re safe from attacks from behind.

Furthermore, overtaking is easier here than at many tracks, though the trimming of the DRS zones to a single, shorter section will hopefully make it not as unchallenging as it was last year.

Ordinarily another factor makes teams especially eager to be first to pit – the ‘undercut’, by which the first driver onto fresh tyres can lap more quickly, gaining positions on those who were ahead of him.

But it remains to be seen if that will work well here. In qualifying drivers were taking several laps to get the best out of their tyres.

What’s more, the tyres seem to be lasting very well over a race stint, as Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery explained: “The level of tyre degradation is so far quite contained with the super-soft lasting for 30 laps or more, so we could see a one-stop strategy from some teams while the majority might try a two-stop strategy.”

As was explained in the weather forecast, temperatures at the circuit are expected to continue to rise on race day. This will be better news for some teams and drivers than others.

Hamilton in particular was quicker in cooler conditions on Friday. Red Bull and Ferrari seem to prefer the warmer temperatures.

All the drivers who start in the top ten will be on super-sofs, with the exception of Jenson Button. He had used all his super-softs before Q3 began, so he ran on softs. If he can make them last long enough to finish the race with a single further stint on super-softs, he could recover something from what has been a poor weekend so far.

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’14.661 1’14.187 (-0.474) 1’13.784 (-0.403)
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1’14.891 1’14.371 (-0.520) 1’14.087 (-0.284)
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’14.916 1’14.314 (-0.602) 1’14.151 (-0.163)
4 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’14.956 1’14.479 (-0.477) 1’14.346 (-0.133)
5 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’15.098 1’14.568 (-0.530) 1’14.411 (-0.157)
6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’15.194 1’14.641 (-0.553) 1’14.465 (-0.176)
7 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’15.163 1’14.627 (-0.536) 1’14.645 (+0.018)
8 Paul di Resta Force India 1’15.019 1’14.639 (-0.380) 1’14.705 (+0.066)
9 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’14.892 1’14.480 (-0.412) 1’14.812 (+0.332)
10 Jenson Button McLaren 1’14.799 1’14.680 (-0.119) 1’15.182 (+0.502)
11 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1’15.101 1’14.688 (-0.413)
12 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’14.995 1’14.734 (-0.261)
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’15.106 1’14.748 (-0.358)
14 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’15.552 1’15.078 (-0.474)
15 Sergio Perez Sauber 1’15.326 1’15.156 (-0.170)
16 Bruno Senna Williams 1’14.995 1’15.170 (+0.175)
17 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’14.979 1’15.231 (+0.252)
18 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1’16.263
19 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1’16.482
20 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’16.602
21 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1’17.492
22 Timo Glock Marussia 1’17.901
23 Charles Pic Marussia 1’18.255
24 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1’18.330

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Montreal, 2012Hamilton continued his run of qualifying within the top three, but said he was “very surprised” to get on the front row of the grid.

“We definitely struggled with working with the tyres in FP3 and in qualifying,” he said, “having to push extremely hard to try to get the temperature, to get the tyres to switch on, but very, very fortunately we had still a new set in Q3 and just managed to get through.”

Schumacher was surprised to be told he had failed to cross the start/finish line early enough for his lap time to count, despite having seen green lights on the gantry as he passed the pits:

“Our calculation for Q3 was to go for two laps and attack on the second one after we had seen at the beginning of Q3 that one lap did not work properly. I don’t really know how we managed not to make it over the line early enough to start the second lap but, when I passed the line, the team told me it was too late.”

It turned out he failed to make it in time by just four-hundredths of a second.

Raikkonen’s failure to reach Q3 was partly due to a hydraulic problem which caused a problem with his differential. His team say there will be no problems fixing it before the race.

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Sebastian Vettel 20.509 (2) 23.730 (2) 29.544 (1)
Lewis Hamilton 20.687 (7) 23.707 (1) 29.693 (4)
Fernando Alonso 20.481 (1) 23.807 (3) 29.604 (3)
Mark Webber 20.612 (3) 23.828 (5) 29.800 (11)
Nico Rosberg 20.638 (4) 23.982 (12) 29.787 (10)
Felipe Massa 20.738 (8) 23.890 (6) 29.717 (5)
Romain Grosjean 20.655 (5) 23.947 (9) 29.735 (7)
Paul di Resta 20.972 (17) 23.974 (11) 29.584 (2)
Michael Schumacher 20.793 (12) 23.813 (4) 29.724 (6)
Jenson Button 20.775 (10) 23.942 (8) 29.875 (13)
Kamui Kobayashi 20.767 (9) 24.044 (16) 29.752 (9)
Kimi Raikkonen 20.871 (15) 23.937 (7) 29.824 (12)
Nico Hulkenberg 20.783 (11) 23.962 (10) 29.751 (8)
Daniel Ricciardo 20.943 (16) 24.186 (17) 29.948 (15)
Sergio Perez 20.830 (13) 24.037 (15) 30.035 (17)
Bruno Senna 20.838 (14) 24.005 (14) 29.967 (16)
Pastor Maldonado 20.664 (6) 24.000 (13) 29.947 (14)
Heikki Kovalainen 21.388 (20) 24.379 (18) 30.241 (18)
Vitaly Petrov 21.349 (18) 24.765 (20) 30.368 (19)
Jean-Eric Vergne 21.367 (19) 24.409 (19) 30.454 (20)
Pedro de la Rosa 21.873 (22) 25.021 (22) 30.577 (21)
Timo Glock 21.622 (21) 25.074 (23) 31.079 (22)
Charles Pic 21.955 (23) 25.152 (24) 31.148 (23)
Narain Karthikeyan 22.049 (24) 25.016 (21) 31.163 (24)

Each of the top three drivers set the best time in a different sector. Vettel was fastest through the final part of the lap.

Intriguingly, team mate Webber was not especially quick here, his sector time ranking 11th. He was a quarter of a second slower than his team mate through this stretch, almost exactly the same as in qualifying last year.

Sergio Perez was disappointed to miss the final ten: “Unfortunately on the first lap of my last run with new super soft tyres I flat spotted them when braking into turn eight. The car was then vibrating a lot, which meant I could hardly see the braking points”

However HRT beat Marussia for the first time this year thanks to Pedro de la Rosa. “We?ve been quick the whole weekend,” he said, “it wasn’t a coincidence and we should do well tomorrow.”

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 324.8 (201.8)
2 Sergio Perez Sauber 324.6 (201.7) -0.2
3 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 324.0 (201.3) -0.8
4 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 323.7 (201.1) -1.1
5 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 323.3 (200.9) -1.5
6 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 323.0 (200.7) -1.8
7 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 323.0 (200.7) -1.8
8 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 322.2 (200.2) -2.6
9 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 322.0 (200.1) -2.8
10 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 322.0 (200.1) -2.8
11 Jenson Button McLaren 322.0 (200.1) -2.8
12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 321.8 (200.0) -3.0
13 Paul di Resta Force India 321.6 (199.8) -3.2
14 Romain Grosjean Lotus 321.6 (199.8) -3.2
15 Felipe Massa Ferrari 320.0 (198.8) -4.8
16 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 320.0 (198.8) -4.8
17 Timo Glock Marussia 319.9 (198.8) -4.9
18 Charles Pic Marussia 319.3 (198.4) -5.5
19 Bruno Senna Williams 318.8 (198.1) -6.0
20 Pastor Maldonado Williams 317.8 (197.5) -7.0
21 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 317.0 (197.0) -7.8
22 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 316.9 (196.9) -7.9
23 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 316.0 (196.4) -8.8
24 Mark Webber Red Bull 316.0 (196.4) -8.8

While it’s clear that Red Bull have the slowest top speed, the gaps between the cars aren’t that great.

For example, Hamilton was eighth-quickest through the speed trap, yet just over 6kph quicker than Vettel.

Your view on the Canadian Grand Prix

Who do you think is going to win the Canadian Grand Prix? Which driver will offer the strongest challenge to Vettel?

Have your say in the comments.

2012 Canadian Grand Prix

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Images ?? Red Bull/Getty images, Red Bull/Getty images, McLaren/Hoch Zwei

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49 comments on Vettel on course for Red Bull’s first Canada victory

  1. Prof Kirk (@prof-kirk) said on 10th June 2012, 9:19

    If Vettel doesn’t get a +1 second gap within the first few laps I think his top speed will soon become a bit of a problem.

    • libertywho (@libertywho) said on 10th June 2012, 9:56

      Generally he is really good at starts, plus they do have quite aggressive set up for the race, gear ratio etc. I think what will hurt him more is SC, but otherwise it is hard to see another winner today.

    • Chris1234 said on 10th June 2012, 10:16

      Not necessarily. His third sector time was the best and TV commentary believed that vettles traction out of the hairpin was the key factor for that.
      So it is likely that he manages to maintain a gap out of the hairpin so that the driver behind him doesnt get a good slip stream.
      So I believe that as long as his tires arent much worse he will manage to stay in front before the last chichane.

    • BBT (@bbt) said on 10th June 2012, 11:14

      If Vettel leads after the first few corners I expect him to be more than 2 seconds in-front after just the first lap never mind two.

      Who is going to hit the ‘wall of champions’ first?

      • de Hooch said on 10th June 2012, 11:47

        who will HAM crash into while stationary in the pit lane???? funny, that year he made champ!!

      • Who is going to hit the ‘wall of champions’ first?

        Senna, Maldonado, Grosjean? The obvious choices I guess.
        Perez, Massa and Kovalainen seemed to be at the limit there all weekend so far as well. That kind of approach won’t work too many times in the race, I reckon…

        Still, it could be anyone since Montreal is an error-prone track and the field seems tighter than ever. Plus, is there anyone on the grid today who hasn’t actually made at least a couple of mistakes somewhere on the circuit in FP or quali? Don’t think so. :)

    • AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 10th June 2012, 11:41

      @prof-kirk, I believe Vettel just had shorter gear ratios, which should only help him in the race, because leading the race you never approach those low-fuel, DRS-enabled top speeds.

      • Prof Kirk (@prof-kirk) said on 10th June 2012, 12:23

        The disadvantage on Vettel’s short gear ratio strategy is when he is able to activate DRS or when slip streaming an opponent the effect is not as great.

        The advantage of the likes of Hamilton is when he is in the position to slip stream or activate DRS, it will be far more effective.

        Some interesting acknowledgements to Vettel’s pace so far, it reminds me of the Lotus (road car) trend of being able to brake late, maintain corner speed and be able to apply the power sooner than other cars despite being considerably demoted of raw engine capacity compared to its rivals.
        However if anyone is familiar with driving a car that uses that philosophy of an underpowered car to a much more capable chassis, such as a Renault Sport Clio, you know as soon as a Vauxhall V8 passes you down the straight you’ll be stuck behind it around the corners until the next straight, and it’s almost imposible to pass if the slower less grippy car around the corners if they hold a tight line. I for one am associating this with Vettel being the grippier car thats vulnerable in the DRS zone to the power of Hamiltons car.

        Honestly, if Vettel’s to loose the victory today/tonight/tomorrow morning, it will be because of a car malfunction, and with that said I’m going to be cheering for the under dog of Lewis.

        Fingers crossed for a 7th different winner!

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 10th June 2012, 17:36

      @prof-kirk Pretty much although he seems to get good traction out of the hair-pin which may help him, especially if he keeps some KERS in reserve. The couple of times he’s led this year he has managed to pull out a 1s gap.

  2. BasCB (@bascb) said on 10th June 2012, 9:39

    I really hope we will have another nice and exiting race. I must say its a good prospect to have Button on the softs on a bit of a different strategy as that might influence strategy choices of others to pit in time not to fall behind him. I do hope Grosjean gets his start done fine this time, its been a bit of a on week/off race story with him for them!

  3. AJ (@aj13) said on 10th June 2012, 9:43

    This race has the potential to be like an old fashioned Bridgestone race. Tyres lasting forever – undercut not working as tyres take a few laps to get up to speed.

    Vettel will probably try to run and hide as the higher track temp will likely slow the Mclaren car.

    I believe the only thing that will help this race is the safety car. “F1 purists” may enjoy today!

  4. sumedh said on 10th June 2012, 9:51

    I would pick Romain or Kimi to pull off a surprise. Jenson, not so much!

    The warm weather suits the lotuses. The Mercs liked the cold weather of Shanghai, if I am not wrong. So, they should go backwards in the race. Ferrari’s performance in Bahrain is hardly an indicator as their car is massively quicker now. Mclarens also like the cold weather. If I were to pick a podium, I would say VET, ALO and either of WEB/RAI/GRO.

    I wonder if it is not the car or tyres but the engine performance which is fluctuating with temperature. The Renault and Ferrari powered cars have done well in hot conditions – Spain, Bahrain. Whereas, in cold temperatures, it has been the Mercedez engines that have been faster – China, Friday practice of Canada.

  5. Eddie Irvine (@eddie-irvine) said on 10th June 2012, 10:26

    I don’t understand… McLaren in all the previous races was struggling acording to the press because of the cold temperatures and their inability to switch on the tyres, why here, where the temperatures are pretty high, it’s bad for them ???

    • timi (@timi) said on 10th June 2012, 12:44

      @eddie-irvine Becuase the temperatures are the same for all the teams, so the races Mclaren struggled getting tyres up to temp in cold conditions and their competitors succeeded indicate that even in hotter conditions they’d still be behind on tyre warm up, maybe just not by as much. You must remember the teams that can switch tyres on in the cold, will be even faster in hotter temps.

    • DaveW (@dmw) said on 10th June 2012, 14:20

      It seems every car/driver has an ideal temp window. So its not really a matter of colder or warmer is better. Mclaren fell out of their window Friday night. Hamilton seems better able to adapt than button but you can only do so much. I foresee high deg for mclaren. Early stop for Hamilton, two stops n

  6. Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 10th June 2012, 10:45

    I think it may be this race where we start to discover what the order will be (more or less) for the rest of the season. Teams are starting to understand the tyres, beginning to discover the right set-ups and drivers are becoming settled. It may be the end of the unpredictability that was allowing teams like Williams to win.

    • Bigbadderboom (@bigbadderboom) said on 10th June 2012, 11:04

      Certainly looks that way @vettel1 there probably be more of a rythmn to the rest of the season. But I still can’t see anybody running away with it, Vettel, Alonso or Hamilton have to be favourites but there are at least another who could upset the apple cart. As for today I think we will need to see an SC or an almighty cock up from RB to stop Vettel winning, but I will be watching Jensons times carefully, I think he has a genuine podium chance.

    • Damon (@damon) said on 10th June 2012, 11:38

      I strongly hope NOT!
      But with the season slowly entering its second half when there is no drastic car development anymore, what you say might begin to occur.

      The season has not been unpredictable so far – it’s been COMPETETIVE. That’s the right word for it. I hope it stays that way.

      • Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 10th June 2012, 12:15

        @damon – it has been competitive, but you cannot possibly say that it isn’t unpredictable. In previous races the winners and podium places have been determined by who can get the tyres “in the window”. Williams managed it in Spain, Sauber managed it in Malaysia: two teams which would not have been predicted to be podium contenders preceding the race.
        Now it appears teams are begging to understand the tyres, hence Red Bull, Ferrrari and Mclaren have started to emerge as the top contenders for the World Championships. It will for sure be a much closer championship this year @bigbadderboom and I agree that Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton and possibly Webber will be the main contenders for the WDC (Button appears to not be able to keep pace with his teammate). I imagine Alonso or Vettel will win the championship.

    • Jeanrien (@jeanrien) said on 10th June 2012, 11:53

      I felt the same … but that’s quite logical, we expect the top team to have a quicker understanding and a beter development rate. Anyway until now it’s still pretty good and probably the best for F1 and you don’t get “Lucky winners” depending on conditions but a bit of order while still a driver amongst the top team have to be carefull not to make any mystake or he will fall way back and outside the points as this was not the case at all last year.

      Still a bit chaotic in the midfield and hopefully that gives extra battle for the lower points

  7. BradFerrari (@brad-ferrari) said on 10th June 2012, 11:04

    I think Fernando can pull something out the bag here. Ferrari seems to struggle during qualifying but have a much better race pace, with their speedy pitstops as well, I expect both drivers to move up the order. Hamilton will certainly be up there but recently his team’s performance has cost him dearly in previous races. But no doubt Vettel will be the man to beat.

  8. Rahim.RG (@rahim-rg) said on 10th June 2012, 11:28

    Raikkonen for Podium :)

    • de Hooch said on 10th June 2012, 11:53

      would be terrific!
      esp with the team doing such a poor job all round. For KR to rise above all that and make the podium would be fantastically inspiring.

    • rambler said on 10th June 2012, 18:34

      Yeah hopefully!

      also, there is a typo in the article. “Mark Webber is starting off-line and his recent history of poor starts…” Isn’t that meant to say chronical poor starts?

  9. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 10th June 2012, 11:33

    Personally, I’m liking Alonso for the win.

    I think it really comes down to a question of attitude. Vettel was talking about how pole position is a “vindication” for Red Bull, proving that their success was not a result of illegal floor holes and axle designs. To me, that sounds like he’s going out there with a point to prove, and by extension of that, he’s got a lot more to lose. Maybe it’s just in the way they present themselves, but I get the feeling that Red Bull assume that there will always be two competitive teams at every race, and they will be one of them. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and I think Red Bull crossed it several races ago.

    Alosno and Ferrari, on the other hand, have been quietly plugging away at it all season. They’re really turned themselves around – as evidenced by Massa’s performances both here and in Monaco – and they haven’t made the brash statements that Vettel has. And Alonso is the kind of driver who can keep carrying momentum with him. He has the championship lead. He has two podiums from the last two races. And he has a car that has only just come good. I think I’ve seen enough from him and Ferrari this year to actually show some respect for what they’re doing. I’m notorious for unloading on Ferrari at every opportunity, but I like what they’re doing. Anyone can win with a good car – but it takes character to rally a team the way Alonso has. I’m more than happy to be proven wrong by them.

  10. Damon (@damon) said on 10th June 2012, 11:35

    Watch out for Schumacher starting from the clean side.
    I just hope he doesn’t get into trouble and then is able to overtake those in front of him so he can fight for the top-5 at least.
    I wish Michael finallys score some serious points.

  11. sato113 (@sato113) said on 10th June 2012, 11:41

    interesting that hamilton is only 7th fastest through sector 1 even though mclaren are running alot of wing.

  12. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 10th June 2012, 12:04

    Unless he makes a poor start, Vettel should be able to retain his lead quite easily – it’s Hamilton who stands to come under greater threat from Alonso.

    I don’t think that this will be a race that is going to be won or lost in the first corner. Hamilton might stand to lose the most, but that does not mean that he will be so conscious of Alonso that he will go on the defensive from the start and simply let Vettel go. After all, the best defence is a good offense.

    However, I still think a lot is going to come down to what Alonso does at the start, particularly the position he wants to be in coming out of the hairpin. Montreal is very unique in that it is a clockwise circuit where the first corner is a left-hander, and I would argue that the right hand side is actually a better place for pole because it’s a shorter run to the first corner. I would not be surprised if Hamilton and Vettel are evenly-matched coming off the line. I think the smartest move for Alonso will be to bank on Hamilton wanting to control the race and following his line rather than Vettel’s into the first corner, and getting the advantage over Vettel into the hairpin. Coming out of the hairpin, I expect the running order will be Hamilton-Alonso-Vettel.

    • necrodethmortem (@necrodethmortem) said on 10th June 2012, 13:23

      And I expect VET to have a 1+ sec advantage after a few corners, à la 2011; followed by HAM and ALO, but ALO will overtake HAM after a faster pit stop; and WEB on his usual 4th, unless he butchers his start again, in which case ROS will be stuck there. The battle behind this borefest will be much or slightly better, because of MSC, RAI, HUL, SEN and MAL being further back than they could’ve. Possibly one of the Williams will get into the points, before throwing it away and bringing out a(nother) safety car. MSC will also get frustrated at some point and ruin someone’s race, as well as his own. DIR will make a one-stopper work and score good points. BUT will go nowhere. VER will gain quite a few places, but will need others to DNF in order to score points.

      Really hope most of what I said is completely false!

  13. Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 10th June 2012, 13:20

    Coming out of the hairpin, I expect the running order will be Hamilton-Alonso-Vettel

    I disagree, Vettel is normally very good at pulling away from pole so I expect him to be in the lead and to begin pulling away during the first few laps. I think Alonso may get the jump on Hamilton; as you probably know he is a very fast starter and is on the clean side of the track, so I expect it to be very close between them at the start. I’m betting on Vettel-Alonso-Hamilton.

  14. icemangrins (@icemangrins) said on 10th June 2012, 15:43

    Help me understand here guys.. Mercedes double DRS helps the car stall the front wing and thereby less downforce right…. that doesn’t explain why they are 21st and 22nd on the speed trap

  15. Neel Jani (@neelv27) said on 10th June 2012, 15:58

    I think it will be SV-LH-FA after the hairpin.

    SV has always been good with his starts. Even if we discount 2011 where anyone might say that he had the “fastest car” or “EBD” etc., even in Bahrain he was distinctively ahead by the 2nd corner. SV has the ability to nail it from the start. He nails in qualifying-esque laps at the start while others are still finding a rhythm. Canada being Canada won’t guarantee a run away victory for SV. Managing tires would be crucial and with hotter temps, it will be a bit more tricky.

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