Episode 11 of the 2017 Strategy Podcast: by Apex Race Manager provides insight & analysis of strategic decisions made during the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Contact us on twitter @strategyreport.
Race11 – 70 Laps – 4.381km per lap – 306.630km race distance – low tyre wear
Formula 1’s annual visit to the Hungaroring featured a fascinating, but not particularly thrilling, 70-lap race. Ferrari took a controlled 1-2 finish, with Sebastian Vettel picking up his second Hungarian Grand Prix win, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.
The first lap was frenetic and fast-paced, before an early safety car neutralised the action. It started to become a bit processional during the mid-part of the race, but it all came alive towards the end as the top five closed up.
Unfortunately, with the circuit being notoriously difficult to overtake on, the order largely remained the same – apart from Lewis Hamilton letting through his team-mate Valtteri Bottas. But, it was a much more intense way to end the race.
High temperatures and slightly heavier tyre degradation predictions indicated a two-stop strategy could possibly be the quicker option, but in the end, it proved to be a much more straight-forward race. Here are all the major strategy headlines:
Of course, one of the biggest stories from the Hungarian GP was the first-lap contact between Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo at Turn 2. It took Ricciardo out of the race with damage and fluid pouring out of his car, while Verstappen managed to continue on, with a 10-second time penalty.
Verstappen and Ricciardo were side-by-side going into the corner. But, Verstappen locked up, ran deep and slammed into his team-mate. The resulting time penalty proved costly for both drivers, as Red Bull’s pace really came alive in the race – as Verstappen showed.
For much of the first stint, Verstappen was ahead of Lewis Hamilton, but the RB13 looked after its tyres very well – as we have seen before – and he went longer on his pitstop. But, of course, with his penalty, he dropped well behind Hamilton after his lap 42 switch to softs.
But, with not only fresh tyres but good pace, he was able to quickly close on Bottas, Hamilton, Raikkonen and Vettel, and ended up finishing only 13-seconds off the lead. Imagine what could have been possible without the penalty? A podium, for sure.
Hamilton soon caught Bottas after the pitstops and was clearly the quicker of the two at the time, so Mercedes told Bottas to let his team-mate through and give challenging the Ferrari drivers a go. He did, but frustratingly, after a long stint hunting them down, he couldn’t get close enough to try a move.
When Hamilton had gone past Bottas, he’d promised to let him back through if he was unsuccessful. Verstappen was closing and right behind Bottas on the last lap, but he was a man of his word and let the Finn ahead at the very last corner to take third place.
In all honesty, it was a pretty straightforward race for the top drivers. Bottas went first with the pitstops, diving in on lap 30, followed swiftly by Hamilton on the next trip around the circuit. Ferrari reacted but at that stage, they had a decent advantage – with Vettel and Raikkonen stopping on lap 32 and lap 33 respectively.
Raikkonen was actually frustrated that he was stopped so soon. He felt his pace was good, and he could have gone longer on those tyres. It was a feeling also felt by Hamilton, but team radio issues that were only resolved later in the race prevented him from communicating that to Mercedes at the time.
One-stop for most
Even though the temperatures were extremely high in Hungary, as usual, the early safety car neutralised the race and allowed drivers to extend their first stints – which made it a safe one-stop, in the end. The tyres held up well, with better than predicted degradation, and few drivers experienced issues.
Even though drivers had just one pitstop, there were still a number of issues during those trips to their pit boxes. Nico Hulkenberg had a particularly slow stop, as did Romain Grosjean – which caused his retirement. Even the leaders suffered slightly sluggish stops, so it wasn’t a clean or swift afternoon in the pits.
It was a tough race for the Swiss outfit. During the safety car, both Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein pitted, and it looked like a daring strategy move to ditch the super-softs for soft tyres. However, it was actually due to both picking up punctures on the opening lap, and this put them off-strategy with the rest of the pack.
Wehrlein played it safe and stopped again for another set of softs on lap 28, but Ericsson stayed out much longer. It looked like he was trying to get to the end but on lap 63 he pitted for super-softs, which ruined that possibility.
Not much variation
Unlike recent races, we didn’t see that much variation in the tyres the drivers started on. Just Paul di Resta – making his return, replacing the unwell Felipe Massa at Williams – and Daniil Kvyat took the slightly riskier strategy of lining up on the soft tyres.
In the end, the super-softs proved strong and durable enough to run at good pace without little degradation for well over 30 laps. Verstappen’s 42-lap stint was the longest on that set, and many others did impressively stretched-out first stints, while Ericsson did a mammoth 62 laps on the softs.
The medium tyre was pretty universally unloved for the entire weekend, only making appearances in Friday practice before being ditched. The softer compounds are just too durable and quick to not take advantage of.
Jack Leslie @JackLeslieF1
Supersoft: Palmer (46 laps)
Soft: Ericsson (62 laps)
Stints by Driver
Episode 10 of the 2017 Strategy Podcast: by Apex Race Manager provides insight & analysis of strategic decisions made during the 2017 British Grand Prix.
Contact us on twitter @strategyreport.
Race10 – 51 Laps – 5.891km per lap – 300.307km race distance – low tyre wear
Mercedes driver and three-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton was an unstoppable force at his home race, taking a dominant and record-equalling British Grand Prix victory at Silverstone.
He led every single lap in what was a lights to flag victory, but while there wasn’t much action at the very front of the field, there were plenty of entertaining battles and storylines further back – with the podium positions only decided on the last lap.
Late drama due to tyre problems prevented Kimi Raikkonen of a strong second place, with Valtteri Bottas benefitting to finish runner-up and give Mercedes a 1-2 finish. Raikkonen finished third, though, with Sebastian Vettel picking up a puncture just one lap after his team-mate.
It wasn’t the most fascinating strategic race, but nevertheless, there were plenty of interesting headlines to delve into. Let’s take a look…
Rain stays away
In typically Silverstone style, rain played its part during the British GP weekend, but it didn’t arrive for the race. Light showers disrupted the early stages of FP3 and impacted the first segment of qualifying, but the circuit eventually dried out and the sun started to emerge from behind the clouds.
On race day, there was a smaller chance of rain, but despite reports of a few drops, it never really materialised. This meant teams avoided any strategy curveballs and kept it at a straightforward one-stop race. Annoyingly, it did start to chuck it down at Silverstone after the race…
As we’ve seen before, drivers largely stuck to just two of the three dry tyre compounds during the weekend – the soft and super-soft, which both proved to be durable and had similar performance levels (around seven tenths between them).
Pirelli has been very cautious with its 2017 compounds and it’s prevented drivers from using alternative strategies, with most being one-stop races. It was the same story at Silverstone, although there was a bit more of an opening for a two-stop, but this would likely leave drivers in traffic.
Vettel’s mixed fortunes
Ferrari racer and championship leader Vettel pretty much lose his chance of F1 victory at Silverstone in the first few corners, when Max Verstappen got ahead of him and into third. The Red Bull was lapping around one second slower than Hamilton and this dropped Vettel out of contention by the first stops.
However, he did move ahead of Verstappen with an early pitstop on lap 19, ditching super-softs for softs. It was a perfectly-executed undercut, with a brilliant outlap and a slightly faster stop. This enabled him to pull ahead of Verstappen, but he didn’t have the pace to hold off a charging Bottas.
The tyre issues
Pirelli has said that the tyre woes suffered by Ferrari on lap 49 and 50, for Raikkonen and Vettel respectively, are different. The Italian tyre manufacturer is now evaluating what happened. What’s clear, though, is that Vettel’s was a puncture as his tyre was completely destroyed, while Raikkonen’s still kept its shape.
The late drama cost Vettel the most, as he slipped to seventh, while Raikkonen’s tyre let go later around the lap and was still inflated so he made it back to the pits at a quicker pace. This was crucial in keeping him P3.
Bottas fights back
For the second race in a row, Mercedes knew one of its drivers had a grid penalty before qualifying and did something different to set up an attacking race strategy. Bottas set his best Q2 time on softs, which meant he started on the middle tyre compound for a long opening stint before pitting on lap 32.
By that stage, he had already made up a few spots after a good first lap, but having the supersoft tyres at the end of the race allowed him to charge up the order and enjoy some brilliant battles. Verstappen holding Vettel up early on helped, as did Raikkonen’s issue, but it was nevertheless a strong performance – to go from ninth to second.
Ricciardo’s feisty charge
Daniel Ricciardo lined up 19th on the grid after penalties and a mechanical issue in qualifying. With more tyres available, he used fresh super-softs for his long first stint, looking after the tyres well – while also battling his way past slower cars.
He had a few knock-backs, after being forced wide early on and dropping back to last, and also losing three spots in the pitstop. The Aussie made those back up though in less than two laps. He was aggressive when he needed to be, but it was also a classic drive of tyre preservation too, keeping his super-softs in good shape and giving him fresher softs for a final fight to the flag.
No points for Vandoorne
Stoffel Vandoorne enjoyed his best weekend of the season so far, making it through to Q3 and almost scoring a point. It all unravelled with a slow pitstop on lap 26, allowing Felipe Massa to undercut him – helped by the Brazilian going from softs to super-softs. Vandoorne kept with Massa though and came close to finishing P10, but it wasn’t meant to be this time.
Sauber try the ‘zero-stop’
The early safety car period on lap two opened up the opportunity to take a risk and Sauber did just that with Pascal Wehrlein. He pitted to go from softs to the unflavoured mediums, the only time the compound was used in the race, before then stopping again to go back onto fresh softs.
The SC basically gave him two free pitstops, but while tyre wear continues to be low, degradation was higher than recent races due to the demanding Silverstone circuit. This meant degradation wasn’t low enough to pull off this daring strategy and several other drivers (such as Wehrlein) had to go for a second stop late in the race.
Jack Leslie @JackLeslieF1
Supersoft: Ricciardo (32 laps)
Soft: Magnussen (37 laps)
Medium: Wehrlein (1 lap)
Stints by Driver
Episode 9 of the 2017 Strategy Podcast: by Apex Race Manager provides insight & analysis of strategic decisions made during the 2017 Austrian Grand Prix.
Contact us on twitter @strategyreport.
Race 9 – 71 Laps – 4.318km per lap – 306.452km race distance – low tyre wear
While the first and last laps of the 2017 Austrian Grand Prix were pretty exciting and action-packed, the rest of the race fell a bit flat – caused, in part, due to the lack of strategy and the durable tyres at the Red Bull Ring.
Valtteri Bottas converted pole position into his second Formula 1 victory, holding off a late charge from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to give Mercedes a vital win. Daniel Ricciardo brought the “shoey” back with a podium for Red Bull on home soil.
As has been the case at a few races this year, strategy didn’t really play a crucial part in the race, with limited options. However, there were still some interesting storylines to dive right into:
One-stop for all
Sometimes, during the 2017 season, we’ve seen the one-stop strategy be the most popular – but a few drivers have tried the two-stop, just to give it a go. That wasn’t what happened in Austria, with all of the 16 classified finishers completing just one trip through the pits.
This was because the tyres at the Red Bull Ring were incredibly durable, and there was little difference in terms of grip and speed. In fact, it was the closest we’ve seen the three compounds in terms of performance all year, and this meant the ultra-soft wasn’t the only strong option.
But, as the one-stop race ruled the day, we saw a fairly standard strategy from most drivers – pitting between laps 30 and 44. Proof of how durable the tyres were is in the longest stints completed. On the softs, it was 56 laps (Nico Hulkenberg), on super-softs 39 laps were managed (Stoffel Vandoorne) and a monster 44 laps (Kimi Raikkonen) were done on ultra-softs.
We don’t often see drivers struggling with tyre blistering on these new Pirelli tyres, but it happened quite a lot during the race in Austria. It didn’t impact performance too much, although it did mean a few drivers struggled for a brief while, but it was definitely a factor and probably concerned a few strategists on the pit wall.
Due to the warm and sunny conditions on Friday, teams thought the soft tyre was arguably the best performer in terms of pace and durability. It’s got a high working range, but the milder conditions the rest of the weekend suited the lower working range of the super and ultrasofts, which sparked a bit of uncertainty on which tyre to go for.
A mixed starting grid
The starting grid is usually made up of two of the three tyre compounds, but that wasn’t the case in Spielberg. All three compounds were used for the start, with a couple of drivers (the most high-profile being Lewis Hamilton) opting for super-softs and Felipe Massa opting for softs.
It was interesting to see all three being picked, and just goes to show the close performance and durability of the compounds. There wasn’t a massive amount between them, and this meant all three were more widely used during the weekend – whereas, quite often, the hardest tyre is left unloved.
Quali move for Hamilton
Knowing that Hamilton had a five-place gearbox penalty before qualifying meant Mercedes could do something different and get the British driver to set his best Q2 time on the super-soft tyre. The leading teams have such an advantage that there was no real risk of Hamilton not making it to Q3 on super-softs, and the tyres were closely matched in terms of performance.
This meant that Hamilton had slightly less performance for the first stint, but as he was racing with cars slightly slower than his own, it wasn’t an issue. He was able to go a little longer and the tyres held up enough for him to make up ground in those final laps, before a final stint on the more grippy ultra-softs which allowed him to attack Ricciardo for third in the end – he just missed out on a podium.
The Kimi train
Ferrari appeared to keep Kimi Raikkonen out longer in his first stint, giving him the lead and attempting to slow down Valtteri Bottas – who had emerged behind the Finn on fresh tyres – and allow Sebastian Vettel to catch up. But, his tyres weren’t in great shape by that point and the Iceman failed to pull off the strategy call. So, it didn’t really work.
First lap drama
The start and first lap pretty much secured the results they scored for many. Bottas got a perfect start, so good the FIA investigated him for a jump start before taking no further action, and this allowed him to establish a gap and control the pace. Behind, Daniil Kvyat smashed into Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen, with the two drivers spinning around being forced to retire. Williams moved from the second-last row into the points due to the first lap and Jolyon Palmer also made up ground, so this was their gains came from, rather than strategy. A few drivers made up more ground than others and this meant they were able to elevate their positions without the intervention of strategy.
Hamilton was able to close on Ricciardo late on due to the slightly better performance of his ultra-softs and the general pace of the Mercedes. This meant it was a tense final few laps but he ended up just missing out, losing some time from a failed pass on the penultimate lap. We saw once again that the Ferrari seems to treat the softer compounds a bit better and while Vettel stopped before Bottas, his tyres seemed in better condition towards the end and the car has always gone well on super-softs. He closed the gap fairly quickly as Bottas appeared to struggle a bit, but he couldn’t get close enough to make a move and ran out of time.
Jack Leslie @JackLeslieF1
Ultrasoft: Raikkonen (44 laps)
Supersoft: Vandoorne (39 laps)
Soft: Hulkenberg (56 laps)
Stints by Driver
Episode 8 of the 2017 Strategy Podcast: by Apex Race Manager provides insight & analysis of strategic decisions made during the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Contact us on twitter @strategyreport.
Race 8 – 51 Laps – 6.003km per lap – 306.049km race distance – low tyre wear
So straightforward was the 2016 European Grand Prix, held on the streets of Azeri capital Baku, that few expected the retitled 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix to be anything more than another snooze-fest.
Instead the Caspian Sea-set race proved one of the most dramatic of the season to date. Carbon fibre shards sprinkled the streets like confetti such was the ferocity with which Formula One’s 20 drivers took to the challenge of sport’s most unusual circuit, as if to make up for last year’s dearth of racing.
Few of the thrills and spills came about through strategy, however — indeed it was more a race of circumspection than tactical execution — but the reasons for the action are traceable to a handful of key ingredients that conspired to create one of the year’s most memorable races.
Pirelli’s conservative rubber construction has been a theme of 2017, the tyre manufacturer forced to guess how much downforce the 2017 cars would produce long before any would have the chance to turn a wheel in anger.
This was certainly true in Baku, where the same-named compounds as 2016 — the mediums, softs, and supersofts — were selected. In 2017, however, the supersoft is as hard as last year’s soft, the soft as hard as the medium et cetera, meaning in truth the tyres were a step harder than last season’s already too stable rubber.
Combined with the dustiness of the city streets the tyres put grip at perhaps the highest premium of any F1 race on the calendar. For Mercedes, and in particular for Lewis Hamilton, this could have spelt trouble, with the Briton struggling with tyre warm-up at Monaco and Russia, circuits with similar characteristics.
Mercedes has been slowly coming to grips (pun intended) with this problem, and it showed as much this weekend when it turned around concerning Friday practice form into a full second of advantage over Ferrari, hitherto the superior car on its tyres, during qualifying. Hamilton alone had half of that time over teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Perhaps adding to Ferrari’s woe was a technical directive issued by the race director ahead of the event clarifying that the FIA would not tolerate oil being burnt as fuel for performance. Rumours of oil burning have been simmering for much of the season, but this clarification, which was the second of the year, suggested talk was more than just idle speculation — and lo, Ferrari’s engines seemed off the pace …
First lap carnage set up big wins for Ricciardo & Bottas
Casualties of the trying conditions were Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo, who dropped to the back of the field early in the race.
Bottas was the root cause, tangling with compatriot Kimi Räikkönen at turn two on the first lap, puncturing a tyre and damaging some of the Ferrari’s bodywork. Ricciardo, an innocent bystander, had some of the debris collect in his brake ducts, leading to severe overheating.
Bottas limped back to the pits one lap down, while Ricciardo persisted until lap five before stopping. Both were now on the soft tyre and determined to attempt an ambitious undercut.
Plans changed when the first safety car was triggered on lap 11, however, which gave Bottas a chance to unlap himself and both drivers the opportunity to move back onto the preferable supersoft tyre while the rest of the field made the mandatory switch to the soft tyre.
Could this have proved the strategic lynchpin, with both using the superior rubber to scythe through the field for the remaining 40-odd laps? Last time out in Canada Romain Grosjean was able to complete 68 laps on the supersoft tyre and finish in the points.
We weren’t to know, however; a red flag period to enable marshals to clear debris on lap 22 enabled everyone to switch back to the supersoft tyre, negating the advantage.
But the lack of offset wouldn’t deter either driver, with Bottas and Ricciardo making a phenomenal nine passes apiece from P20 and P17 which, combined with retirements and other accidents, brought them to the top of the field.
Vettel shoots himself in the foot
The race had to be turned on its head first, however, for Ricciardo and Bottas to press their advantage, and it conveniently did so between the second safety car and the red flag period.
Sebastian Vettel was caught unaware just before the second safety car restart by Lewis Hamilton slowing to both bunch up the field and give the safety car time to travel back to the pits down Baku’s ludicrously long straight without getting caught by the field.
The Ferrari nudged the back of the Mercedes, causing minor damage to both and leaving Vettel staunchly believing he had been brake-checked. Incensed, accelerated until he drew level with Hamilton and then drove into him.
Though the impact was heavy, neither car was damaged. Regardless, the stewards soon after handed Vettel a 10-second stop-go penalty, the most severe punishment available to them before disqualification.
Not only was it an unedifying brain-snap by a four-time world champion, but it lost him and Ferrari the race. They weren’t to know it, but the ensuing red flag period concluded with Hamilton’s car having its headrest improperly fitted to the car, requiring him to make an unscheduled pit stop late in the race.
Ironically enough, replacing the head rest took longer than Vettel needed to serve his penalty, so the German emerged from pit lane leading his rival, with Hamilton unable to reverse the order before the end of the race. The pair finished fourth and fifth.
Force India lose a one-two finish
Some circumspection would have paid dividends for Force India’s drivers, too, who retrospectively threw away what could have been an easy one-two when they crashed into each other at turn two after the second safety car restart.
Esteban Ocon made a lunge down the inside of Sergio Perez at turn two, but his momentum was such that he pinned his teammate against the barrier. Both cars were damaged and dropped to the back of the field.
Ocon recovered to sixth by the end of the race, but damage to Perez’s car ultimately proved fatal, putting paid to a sensational podium repeat for the Mexican in Azerbaijan.
Stroll is F1’s youngest (rookie) podium-getter
Lance Stroll scored his first Formula One points just two weeks ago at his home race in Canada, and though they were expected to deliver him a confidence breakthrough, no-one could have predicted the rookie would finish on the podium one round later.
Unlike fellow podium-getters Ricciardo and Bottas, Stroll’s third place was about keeping his cool while his competitors cracked around him.
A strong qualifying result — eighth ahead of teammate Felipe Massa — meant he benefitted from the retirement of Max Verstappen (P7), the Force India clash and Kimi Räikkönen’s puncture (P4), Hamilton’s head rest stop (P3) and Vettel’s penalty (P2).
It looked like the 18-year-old would finish runner-up — or perhaps win the race had Ricciardo’s engine mimicked Verstappen’s and failed spontaneously — but Bottas’s dogged pursuit of the Williams car meant the Finn snatched second place by just 0.1 second as the pair crossed the line.
McLaren the unhappiest points scorers in history
McLaren had its first 2017 points at last, but you wouldn’t have guessed it by looking at the team, which seemed no less despondent than when it had suffered one of Honda’s trademarked late-race engine failures.
Fernando Alonso proclaimed after the race that he could have won the grand prix had any other engine powered his car — indeed the Spaniard had picked his way up to eighth from his P19 grid slot by the red flag period, just two placed behind Ricciardo.
Was there a degree of theatre to it against a backdrop of McLaren’s seemingly inevitable split with Honda by the end of the year? Absolutely — but then Alonso has always excelled in these dogfight-style grands prix.
His and the team’s frustrations would have been amplified by the only brief part Alonso was able to play in a scrap with Vettel and Hamilton as they attempted to recover ground after their late-race stops.
Briefly Alonso held them back, and he dared to spar with his fellow class-leading drivers, but his car was never going to be up to the task.
Points were nonetheless in the bag after a classic Alonso drive in subpar machinery. The question persists: will it be the engine or Alonso that leaves McLaren in 2017?
Michael Lamonato @MichaelLamonato
Supersoft: Ricciardo, Bottas, Stroll, Vettel, Hamilton, Ocon, Magnussen, Sainz, Alonso, Wehrlein, Ericsson (29 laps)
Soft: Ericsson (12 laps)
Stints by Driver
Episode 7 of the 2017 Strategy Podcast: by Apex Race Manager provides insight & analysis of strategic decisions made during the 2017 Canadian Grand Prix.
All of our previous F1 Strategy Report Podcasts are here.
Contact us on twitter @strategyreport.
Race 7 – 70 Laps – 4.361km per lap – 305.270km race distance – low tyre wear
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is known for producing exciting Formula 1 races and it didn’t disappoint in 2017, with a fun and frantic Canadian Grand Prix packed full of fascinating moments.
Despite high temperatures and the challenging nature of the track, a smooth track surface makes for relatively low tyre degradation – meaning it wasn’t the most exciting strategic race we’ve seen.
That was despite the three softest tyre compounds being taken to the race. But, while it wasn’t the most open race in terms of strategy, there were still plenty of headlines and stories to take a look at.
How Hamilton won it
Simply put, Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton were in a league of their own on race day. While Ferrari looked in the mix on Friday and close on Saturday, Mercedes worked hard to get on top of their tyre woes – especially with the ultra-softs – and this showed during the Canadian GP.
Also, with Hamilton out front, he was in clean air and able to manage his own race. So, he put in a relatively straight-forward one-stop race, pitting for the only time on lap 32. A radio message appeared to indicate Mercedes would go to the safer soft tyre to get to the end, but encouraging pace and degradation on the super-soft probably changed their mind.
Bottas loses ground
In the end, Valtteri Bottas didn’t have the pace to challenge Hamilton, and he finished 19 seconds behind first place. But, the Finn could’ve had an easier race had he not come out behind Esteban Ocon at his only pitstop.
This was slightly earlier than planned, because Mercedes said he suffered a flat-spot and needed to get it changed. He needed to find three seconds to emerge ahead of Ocon and could’ve done that had he stayed out without the flat-spot, but the earlier trip to the pits meant that wasn’t possible.
He lost around two seconds behind Ocon before the Force India pitted on lap 32, which cost him some ground. Bottas would still have finished well behind Hamilton but he would’ve had an easier run, after a poor start and getting stuck behind a slower car.
Vettel’s recovery drive
Sebastian Vettel’s chances of a podium finish vanished on lap one when he was tagged by Max Verstappen’s Red Bull at the first corner, which damaged his front wing. Ferrari still looked very strong in race trim but that knock in downforce clearly impacted Vettel’s early speed.
It was puzzling as to why Ferrari didn’t pit Vettel to change the front wing behind the safety car, was while he would’ve been at the back of the train, he would’ve had more time with quick tyres and a proper front wing to bounce back and make up ground in a quicker fashion – even though a two-stop would still have been the way to go.
Instead, Vettel was stopped under green flag conditions on lap five, before a long super-soft stint. The team opted to go for a second stop late on, fitting ultra-softs for a late challenge that almost didn’t pay off, but did in the end – as he jumped ahead of the Force Indias. He was 29 seconds off the lead after his first stop and finished 35 seconds behind Hamilton, so the pace was clearly there.
Ferrari decided to pit Kimi Raikkonen early in order to undercut Sergio Perez, who had passed him after a wild moment at Turn 8. But, the Finnish driver wasn’t really close enough before the stop to properly make use of it. When it became clear Ferrari needed to go for another plan if they wanted to pass the Force Indias, they pitted Raikkonen for ultra-softs, but a brake issue halted his charge.
Daniel Ricciardo was pitted on lap 18 to cover off Raikkonen, but he was further up the road so there wasn’t really any need for it. He was put on softs, the most durable tyre – a risk in some respects, with its lower grip levels and performance, but they knew it’d get to the end.
It meant Ricciardo had to defend hard but his tyres were still in good shape by the end. But, he did question afterwards if the super-softs would’ve been better, as they lasted a large number of laps and many drivers reached the end on them. Perhaps that would’ve made his life easier, in hindsight.
When Raikkonen and Ricciardo pitted, Perez found himself in clear air but didn’t make the most of it. His pace wasn’t strong enough to properly take advantage of an overcut and Force India pitted him the next lap anyway, going onto super-softs. This was the better option as he was able to attack Ricciardo on the higher grip compound, but he did start to struggle by the end of the race.
Force India vs Force India
One of the major storylines to emerge from the Canadian GP was the inter-team battle at Force India, with Perez refusing to let Ocon through and challenge Ricciardo, which eventually cost them both a spot to Vettel. On lap 49, the Ferrari’s were 13 seconds behind but on much fresher tyres.
Ricciardo did struggle a bit on the soft tyre and with its lower grip levels. But, Ocon did appear to have better pace and Perez also had his issues on the super-soft, especially towards the end. So, it seemed logical to let Ocon have a go, at least for a few laps, as he seemed to have superior pace.
Perez wasn’t having it though and even negotiated with the team over the radio. There didn’t seem to be a clear voice or a firm stance on it, and in the end Perez and Ocon scrapping let Ricciardo escape a little and helped Vettel close in faster.
Alonso misses out
Fernando Alonso narrowly lost out on a point, as he was running 10th when his engine failed with two laps to go. Unsurprising, the engine failure may have been, but his pace up to that point was pretty encouraging and he’d run as high as fourth due to a very, very long ultra-soft stint.
He switched to super-softs on lap 42 and was lapping well, before his race went up in smoke. All weekend he was well clear of Stoffel Vandoorne in terms of pace, and was pushing hard in the race. Honda just let him down once again…
Stroll’s first points
Lance Stroll’s come under fire during his rookie campaign so far for some erratic moments and underwhelming drives, but he fought back with a charging drive on home soil in Canada. He picked off a few cars on ultra-softs before pitting for super-softs on lap 25, where his pace transformed and he was able to make up even more ground to finish ninth.
One-stop the way to go
As predicted by Pirelli, low tyre degradation meant a one-stop was the favoured and safer strategy, although a two-stop was used by a few and was the more aggressive choice. It’s not often in 2017 we see all three compounds being used in a race, but we did in Canada as the difference between them was less. The tyres held up well all weekend, with 45 laps the longest ultra-soft stint (Vandoorne), 68 on the super-soft (Romain Grosjean) and 52 on softs (Ricciardo).
Jack Leslie @JackLeslieF1
Ultrasoft: Vandoorne (45 laps)
Supersoft: Grojean (68 laps)
Soft: Ricciardo (52 laps)
Stints by Driver