By Bob Constanduros
Six races in eight weeks; that’s the rollercoaster we’re on now and in that time the whole complexion of the Formula One World Championship could change. In fact it could be a fairly dramatic couple of weeks coming up. The first of the three doubleheaders is Canada followed a week later by the first Grand Prix at Baku in Azerbaijan, conveniently called the European Grand Prix – even though us Europeans need visas to go there.
The point about these two races and the preceding Monaco Grand Prix is that they are all street circuits – or virtually. Obviously Monaco is and so is Azerbaijan; here in Montreal, the runoffs are about a foot wider than they were in Monaco – OK, a generalisation but there isn’t much room for error here and the average speed is pretty high. In fact one preview says it’s the first high speed circuit of the year; get this one wrong and it can bite, big time.
It’s been important for teams to be on the ball before they come here, to be at the top of their game. Updates have to be tested, developed and ready for this intense eight week period; teams have to hit the ground running. So it’s interesting that Renault have already introduced their engine update which cost them three tokens prior to the Monaco Grand Prix and obviously bore fruit.
But Ferrari and Honda also have developments here. Mobil have produced new fuel for McLaren, a new concept which will provide a one per cent power increase – and a tenth of a second per lap – but which will also enable further gains. They produced four fuels last year and they expect to do at least the same this year.
Meanwhile Ferrari are introducing a new turbo here for Sebastian Vettel. Again, it cost them three tokens and the upgrade they had before Russia cost them the same. It will given the an ERS gain through the MGU-H. On top of this, Shell are as ever working on new fuel for them, and there is revised rear suspension as well.
The Canadian Grand Prix is certainly a regular on the calendar. This is the 47th version, the 37th here in Montreal although it hasn’t been a clear run as occasionally the race has briefly dropped off the calendar for political/financial reasons. It is the fourth shortest circuit on the calendar, but one with just six braking points, although four of them are from over 300kph, making it a circuit that is crucial in this area. It is also one of the toughest on fuel, so watch out for both those factors in the later stages of the race when teams will be fuel saving at the same time looking after the brakes.
Then there’s the weather. It is ten degrees outside this morning, Thursday, at the time that free practice will start tomorrow. And it’s wet. However, the temperature is expected to rise but that’s not without wet weather. The tyre selection here is the same as at Monaco with the use of the ultrasoft, supersoft and soft tyres available, but the lower temperatures will lessen the difference between the various compounds.
The temperature is very variable, but there are also some interesting tyre choices. Valtteri Bottas, both Sauber and both Toro Rosso drivers have chosen only two sets of softs, while the Renault pair have five; everyone else is in between. In terms of supersofts – listen to this – Renault and Haas have gone for none at all; the Sauber pair have five sets! Again, the rest are in between. Haas have ten sets of ultrasofts while Force India, Sauber, McLaren and Manor have six sets. For the record, the Mercedes drivers have three sets of softs, two sets of supersofts and eight sets of ultrasofts.
So there are some quite aggressive tyre choices here on a circuit where we really don’t know what sort of conditions we’re going to be dealing with. This is perhaps the least obvious of all the circuits in this run of six Grands Prix, so we will just have to see what happens which basically means that it’s just another day in Grand Prix racing: no one really knows what to expect and that’s just the way we like it. Now I’m going off to find somewhere warm!