Sebastian Vettel will start the race from pole position on the ultrasoft tires. Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen are also on the same compound of Pirelli tires. But Max Verstappen (P3) and Daniel Ricciardo (P6) are on the hypersoft tires. How will the strategies play out in the race?
What Lies Ahead?
The Gilles-Villeneuve circuit offers good overtaking opportunities. There are 3 DRS zones this year for good measure. So the pole sitter Vettel cannot take victory for granted. The strategies of the various teams and the performance on the different Pirelli tires will probably decide the race winner.
The Ferrari and Mercedes drivers elected to set their fastest Q2 times on the ultrasoft tires, as they are more durable than the hypersoft tires. Both teams start the race on those tires and will aim for a one-stop pit strategy. They could go for the supersoft tires at the first pitstop and make it last for the rest of the race.
The different teams have performed better on different compounds of the Pirelli tyre. Mercedes has been strong in their long run pace on the ultrasoft tires compared to other teams in free practice. Red Bull Racing is the team that seems to extract the best from the hypersoft tires. Ferrari seems to be the team equally strong on the different compounds of tires.
Red Bull Racing Surprises
The Milton-Keynes based team has elected to start the race on the sticky hypersoft tires. Their main rivals felt that it is not a good race tire and will not last long. But Red Bull seems confident about their performance on this tire in race trim.
If both their drivers, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, make the hypersoft tires last long enough, they could still make it a one-stop strategy. But if not it will be a two-stop with hypersoft-ultrasoft-hypersoft stints. The team will then depend on the superior pace on the hypersofts to make up for the extra pitstop time. They will also be on the fastest tyre in the last stint, when their main rivals are on very old tires.
Max Verstappen can be expected to take no prisoners and go for it at the start. Hamilton said:“I am sure he will give it everything as we all know he always does and I hope he does and me and Valtteri will hopefully be there to maximise the points. That’s the key goal.”
With the top 6 drivers very close on pace and all of them in the first three rows of the grid, the start will be crucial. But it is equally important to keep it clean in the first lap. Vettel will hope to maximize his pole position by making a clean start, even as rivals jostle for position behind.
Vettel has a car that is well-balanced and has good performance on different tires. Verstappen will hope for a clean race and a strong finish. The Dutch driver has the car with the pace to challenge for the win. The two Mercedes drivers, Bottas and Hamilton, will hope that their quicker race pace on the ultrasoft tires will help them move ahead. They will also hope that their engine which is on its seventh race will hold up.
Ricciardo won here in 2014 starting from P6 when the Mercedes drivers hit trouble. The Australian is an expert at taking advantage of chaos ahead and winning from lower starting positions. So he will be in the mix for a race win or podium position. Raikkonen has shown strong pace all weekend and will also be in the mix.
Force India and the Renault drivers will jostle for the “best of the rest” positions. Sergio Perez who took advantage of the tire woes of rivals and scored a podium for Sauber in 2012 will be hoping for more of the same.
Exciting Race in Prospect
The three Pirelli tires, hypersoft, ultrasoft and supersoft compounds, have a clear differential in lap times of up to 0.4-0.6 seconds a lap. The top teams have shown they are strong on different tires. A one-stop or two-stop strategy is both feasible. The performance on the track on race day is going to determine which is the faster of the two strategies. This is a track where overtaking is possible.
There is also a high possibility of a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car on this track. In the first races of this season, this has been an unknown variable that has helped a driver win the race.
The top 3 teams are closely matched on pace. It all points to a very close and exciting race. Vettel has the advantage of pole position, but will he be able to hold on for a win?
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