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

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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.

2010 Canadian Grand Prix

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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

    1. 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.

      1. 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!

      2. 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.

        1. 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)

          1. 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.

        2. 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…

          1. 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.

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

          3. CALLED IT!

            Lol had to really.

        3. 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. 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.

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

      2. MacademiaNut
        13th June 2010, 4:36

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

      3. 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
      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!

      1. All time classics – huge call

        1. Watch out man, don’t build it up too much.

          1. My point exactly

      2. I doubt the tyre difference really helps. If the strategy works out, the cars will be 20 to 30 seconds apart till the final stops are made. I doubt that is the best ingredient for a classis.

      3. Your a legend, predict more classics.

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

      I love weekends with plenty to watch on the telly!

    8. 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.

      1. 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. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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. How knowledgeable everyone is

      1. Yeh! We are all prety cool on here, watch and learn son.

        1. lol! present company excepted (i.e. me), there are some very clued up folk here for sure.

    11. 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 :)

      1. Cars in the top 5 on softs will not stop for mediums if theres a saftey car, it would be a very odd moove, No one gives up that much position.

    12. 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!

      1. I’m still very confused that Hamilton didn;t try a lap on the mediums, he seemed quicker on that tyre all day.

    13. 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.

      1. 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.

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

      3. 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 :)

        1. Oops – meant P11->P24. I don’t think they’ll let Rosberg start on primes!

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

      1. Rob Gallagher
        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?

        1. So true, I forgot about that.

        2. does that mean that rosberg is worst than hamilton? we all know that.

      2. 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 ..

    16. We want turbos
      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.

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

    17. 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.

      1. 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.

    18. 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.

    19. 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.

    20. 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 :)

    21. 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.

      1. 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.

    22. 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.

    23. 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?

      1. We want turbos
        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!

      2. 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.

    24. 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

    25. 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.

    26. 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!

    27. 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!

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

    29. 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.

    30. 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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