The Canadian Grand Prix from a tyre point of view: Montreal, 7-10 June 2012
What’s the story?
Milan, June 4, 2012 – The two softest tyres in Pirelli’s range – the P Zero Red supersoft and P Zero Yellow soft – return for the Canadian Grand Prix, but they will face a very different challenge to Monaco two weeks ago. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is another temporary circuit, but it is a lot faster and provokes much more tyre wear. Along with frequently variable weather, which could cause the Cinturato Green intermediate and Cinturato Blue wet to be called into action, this makes Canada one of the most exciting and unpredictable races of the year, with a much higher percentage of stoppages, incidents and safety cars than usual.
As the semi-permanent track is used very infrequently, there is a high degree of circuit evolution over the course of the weekend, with the lap times getting progressively quicker as more rubber is laid down. The heavy braking areas (Canada is the hardest circuit on brakes of the year) and traction required to power out of all the slow and medium speed corners places heavy demands on the tyres, especially the rears. In general, the surface is extremely low-grip and this causes the cars to slide a lot, which further increases tyre wear. So knowing how to manage the tyres in Canada is a crucial skill, and the demands of the track will make it almost impossible to carry out long stints with just one pit stop, as was the case in Monaco. There are also several opportunities for overtaking over the 4.361-kilometre track, but this carries a risk, as the track is normally very dirty off line. Last year, the race was interrupted for nearly two hours due to heavy rain before McLaren driver Jenson Button won the race, having come into the pits six times (one of which was a drive-through penalty). This year, there will be far fewer stops if conditions stay dry – but tyre strategy will still play an important role in the final outcome of the race.
Pirelli’s motorsport director says:
Paul Hembery: “We go from Monaco to Canada: two of the most spectacular races of the year. Not only is Montreal a fantastic place to hold a race, but it’s also a great circuit. The soft and supersoft tyres should be able to demonstrate more of their natural characteristics than they were able to in Monaco, where drivers are constrained by very low average speeds and not much energy going through the tyre. This enabled them to complete very long runs even on the supersoft, which should not be the case in Montreal where the tyres have more work to do. Tyres have traditionally played a very important role in this race, especially if it rains. We saw how being on the right tyre at the right time enabled Jenson Button to win the Canadian Grand Prix last year even after six visits to the pit lane. That race was far from typical though, so we’ve not yet had experience of running the supersoft in Canada under normal conditions. The practice sessions will be vital for the teams to understand how exactly it works on full tanks in particular. We think we will see several different strategies at work, with teams likely to split their strategies in order to cover every possibility.”
The men behind the steering wheel say:
Kimi Räikkönen (Lotus): “Montreal is a challenging circuit as the grip level changes a lot over the course of a lap. There are different types of track surface, so you have to find a good setup and you need to be confident with how the tyres work on all the surfaces. We have seen quite a range of weather conditions and temperatures in Canada over the years, and track and tyre temperature seems to be an interesting challenge this season. There aren’t any high-speed corners on the lap, so the tyres have to do their work under braking and through traction demands. You need the car to be good under braking, as you don’t want to get any flat spots. This year’s Pirelli tyres are fine for me. For the strategy I work with my engineers and we make the best choices we can. Sometimes we get it right, like in Bahrain. Sometimes we get very close, like in Shanghai. After the race in China and after the qualifying in Bahrain, people probably started thinking that we are idiots and cannot do anything right. But we showed in the race why we did what we did. It was close already in China and this time our strategy paid back very nicely for us. It’s all part of racing and the same for everyone.”
Pirelli’s test driver says:
Jaime Alguersuari: “Canada is a fantastic track and I had a great race there last year, starting from the pit lane and finishing eighth. The tyres are absolutely crucial: you run very low downforce to get good top speed on the straights, and as a result it’s all about mechanical rather than aerodynamic grip. Because of that, and the track surface as well, I’d expect to see a lot of sliding from all the cars throughout the weekend, and this increases the tyre wear too. The combination of supersoft and soft will be very well matched to Montreal: temperatures are generally quite low and the grip levels are also very low. Looking after the rears is particularly important. If you drive in the right way though, you can have an advantage: there are definitely some good opportunities to overtake in Montreal and I’m sure it’s going to be a very exciting race.”
Technical tyre notes:
• The tyres in Canada take a lot of punishment from drivers using the kerbs to take the correct racing line, particularly through the final corner. The tyres impact with the kerbs at that point at roughly 130kph.
• Compared to most circuits in Formula One, Canada is very bumpy. This makes it even more difficult to find traction: one of the biggest challenges in Montreal. The rear tyres are the most stressed for this reason and drivers must take care to avoid wheelspin, which is a principal cause of tyre wear.
• Montreal has an unusual pitlane. The surface consists of one section of asphalt and one of concrete, each of which provide a different coefficient of friction, which naturally affects the amount of rubber laid down and grip.