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. Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 10th June 2012, 16:45

    Interesting mix of cars with different strengths. Presumably the Red Bulls and Mercs will be quick in the first part of the lap, and the McLarens and Saubers faster down the straights. That’s not what the sector times from qualifying say though!

    Tyre-wise, I hope we see something closer to a flat-out race here, where it’s no good trying to conserve tyres and hold on to track position like at Monaco. And a pit stop here only costs 17 seconds or something (pit lane cuts the last and first corners) so I’d like to see more drivers making extra stops and going for it.

  2. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 10th June 2012, 17:44

    Tough one to call. I usually expect Vettel to do well when he’s sat on pole owing to his ability to pull out that all important 1s gap, however, I think he could suffer down the long straight. But then again he had good traction out of the hair-pin consistently yesterday. I remember Schumacher did really well here last year but he just struggled due to competitors DRS. Maybe this year that won’t be quite as easy for them with a reduced zone and an arguably better W03. I expect Mercedes will score well (not counting any collisions!), Vettel will do well and Hamilton should be pretty good as well. Alonso looked to be struggling a little on tyres yesterday, he was weaving a lot so I’m thinking he might drop back?

    Let’s see :)

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