The Gilles Villeneuve circuit is not known for being a classical flowing race track. In fact it has been described as F1’s version of a go-kart track due to its stop start nature which in fact is something Lewis Hamilton likes about the place.
“Montreal has always been a good track for me”, says the world champion, “so hopefully I’m able to shine like I did the first time I went there in that great city atmosphere.”
You could argue Hamilton has performed better in Montreal than at any other of the established venues having won the race 4 times in 8 attempts, retired on 3 occasions and made the third step of the podium the other time. Second only to Schumacher in terms of wins in Montreal, Hamilton surprisingly has yet to win back to back victories on the Ile de Notre dame.
During the Pirelli era, dry races in Montreal have generally been two stop affairs, though in 2015 Pirelli were heavily criticised for delivering a predominantly one stop race strategy despite nominating their two softest compounds available for the GP weekend.
This year Pirelli have nominated their three softest tyre compounds for the upcoming Canadian GP and whilst most teams have elected to take more of the new ultra-soft tyre than any other compound, there is a high probability even a dry race may again be a one stop affair.
Last time out in Monaco, Lewis Hamilton completed a one stop race which included a final stint of 47 laps on Pirelli’s new ultra-soft tyre. This new compound was supposed to be short in range yet Lewis completed more than half race distance on his set of ultra soft tyres. Hamilton joked that Pirelli’s new ultra-soft tyre was in fact “a super-soft with purple paint”.
The Montreal circuit, like Monaco, is low grip and early simulations suggest a top ten starter would be capable of beginning the race on an ultra-soft tyre and completing over 30 laps. The predicted cold temperatures make the degradation of tyres even less likely and the teams had their first taste of what was ahead this weekend as they awoke this morning to a temperature of 8 degrees Celsius and rain.
Rain may well be the best hope for an interesting race at the 2016 Canadian GP, because even if the Pirelli ultra-soft tyres aren’t capable of delivering a one stop race, drivers could elect to do as Daniel Ricciardo did in Monaco and run the super soft tyre in Q2 and then the Ultra-Soft in Q3 for grid position alone.
On the upside, the Gilles Villeneuve circuit is statistically the least important pole of the season, with just a third of races since 2000 being won from the front of the starting grid. So even if Hamilton claims top spot on Saturday and his fifth consecutive front row start in Canada, the probability of another win for the world champion is just over 30%.
If Pirelli do fail us again then another statistic may spice things up on Sunday. The likelihood of a safety car in Montreal is 60% and this combined with one of the shortest pit stops on the calendar will see some teams gamble on a strategy change should Bernd Mylander and his Mercedes GT S be called into action. William Hill are offering 1/3 on a safety car along with some other interesting bets such as Joylon Palmer being the favourite to retire first – Jonathan will be displeased.
The likelihood of Mercedes again suffering brake failure difficulties in Montreal has receded with the cold weather forecast, and the driver the bookies believe to have the best chance of beating Lewis and Nico to the top step of the podium is Daniel Riciardo. Poor, poor Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel.