Canadian GP: Tyre and Pit Stop Strategy
It took a while to get going but the Canadian Grand Prix finally came to life in the closing laps as differing strategies unfolded. Lewis Hamilton became the seventh race winner of the season after two-stopping. Fernando Alonso’s gamble on making just the one-stop proved expensive, while Sebastian Vettel minimised the damage of taking the same route by making an unscheduled late stop. However, Romain Grosjean demonstrated that the one-stopping wasn’t bad for everyone with a well-earned second-place while the podium was completed by Sergio Perez, who also stopped just the once but was one of several drivers to start on the prime tyre for a longer first stint. Meanwhile, Jenson Button had a weekend to forget as he struggled to 16th via three stops.
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At the front, the battle was between Vettel, Hamilton, and Alonso. That was the order from the start up to the first pitstops were Hamilton stayed out a lap longer to leap-frog the Red Bull driver. Alonso went two laps further and passed both but on cold tyres was unable to keep Hamilton at bay. That’s the way it continued until Hamilton made his second scheduled stop.
However, Alonso and Vettel looked to go to the finish after just the one-stop. It looked as if Ferrari and Red Bull were caught between covering Hamilton and each other but it was the Austrian-outfit that was first to blink as they responded to the increasing lap times by making a damage-limiting late stop. Alonso stayed out but with Hamilton clawing back a second a lap, it was inevitable that Alonso would be caught and indeed, he eventually slipped back to fifth – and behind Vettel at that.
Below are the gaps to the leader in seconds. What is evident from this is that even while the pace of the Ferrari and Red Bull was still reasonably consistent, Hamilton was always going to catch and pass them as he closed at a rate of just over a second a lap, giving plenty of notice that perhaps they should stop to preserve the podium finish.
Red Bull may claim it was obvious in hindsight but the data was there before you even bring second-placed Romain Grosjean and third-placed Sergio Perez into the equation, still, they at least reacted. Ferrari got greedy and were perhaps lucky that the rapidly closing trio of Nico Rosberg, Mark Webber and Kimi Raikkonen didn’t also pass Alonso – they probably only needed one more lap. As it is, fifth-place could yet turn out to be a costly mistake in this closely fought season.