Strategy guide for the Canadian Grand Prix

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Canada, Circuit Gilles Villeneuveca

Formula One’s sole tyre supplier Pirelli expects the one-stop strategy to become the favourite choice for today’s 70-lap Montreal Grand Prix, albeit Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez might opt for a different strategy approach due to their starting position. F1Technical's Balázs Szabó takes a look at the possible scenarios.

The Italian tyre supplier has brought the softest tyres in the range, as was the case for Montreal in 2019 and also for the last two races this year (Monaco and Azerbaijan). In other words: the C3 is the P Zero White hard, the C4 is the P Zero Yellow medium and the C5 is the P Zero Red soft. In 2019, the winning strategy was a one-stopper: starting on the medium and finishing on the hard.

Yesterday' qualifying saw Red Bull driver Max Verstappen claim his second pole position of the season, using the Cinturato Blue full wet during Q1 and the Cinturato Green intermediate in Q2 and Q3. All the drivers used just those two compounds on an inconsistently drying track during qualifying, with only Mercedes driver George Russell attempting a lap on the P Zero Red soft slick in Q3.

Following the difficult wet conditions yesterday, today’s 70-lap Canadian Grand Prix is expected to be dry. As for the possible best strategy, the Milan-based manufacturer estimates that the one-stopper will be the fastest, with best way being to start on the P Zero Yellow medium and then move onto the P Zero White hard.

According the the Friday’s long running, there’s broadly comparable degradation between the soft and the medium, but the medium offers a wider pit stop window and more driveability than the soft, so starting on it gives drivers more options.

Soft to hard is also a viable one-stop strategy, but it commits the drivers to stopping slightly earlier than they would on the mediums.

With drivers strarting out of positions, there is also a possibility that we might see different approaches to the race in terms of strategy.

Charles Leclerc, who will start from the end of the grid due to multiple grid-drop penalties for exceeding his power unit allocation, and Sergio Perez, who crashed out in the second part of the qualifying session, might try a two-stopper.

Pirelli thinks that it is slightly slower, but under the right circumstances it could work: especially as you lose less time in a pit stop here than on any other circuit on the calendar, also because the drivers effectively cut out the first and last corners by using the pit lane.

Another option might be to start on the hard tyre and going long: hoping to make the most of a safety car, for example, by avoiding a pit stop and then switching to a faster tyre at the end. This is a circuit where you can overtake, so track position isn’t quite as paramount as other places.

Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Mario Isola said: “With the risk of rain today identified, the drivers had an extra set of intermediates allocated for FP3 per the regulations. In qualifying, the track was ready for intermediates at the end of Q1, although the crossover point between full wets and intermediates was somewhat higher than we had anticipated.

„While the track dried reasonably quickly, it was inconsistent: with some parts fully wet, some parts damp, and other parts dry – leading to an exciting qualifying that really tested the skills of the drivers. As we have just one specification of full wets and intermediates homologated for the entire year, these tyres obviously have to be extremely adaptable to a very wide range of circumstances, including the unique conditions we saw here in Canada today.

„The wets and intermediates did exactly what was required here, with only one driver trying the slicks in Q3, but conditions were still too wet. It should be a very different story tomorrow, so now the teams have to make the most of the information obtained on Friday.”