2018 Canadian GP Preview – By Bob Constanduros
This weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix is only the seventh round of this year’s Formula One World Championship, so we are not even a third into the series. And yet there are many aspects of the sport which are just about to take up their most serious challenge of the year. This doesn’t involve just Formula One, but the whole sport as it comes up against the football World Cup which in turn loads up its workload on the remaining workforce in Formula One.
It is approaching the point that we have five Grands Prix in six weeks, and for some, it’s eight motor sport events in successive weekends, counting Le Mans and the Goodwood Festival of Speed. This is going to prove a tough time for many in the sport and in Formula One we could well see a change in the hierarchy as the going gets tough and the tough get going – particularly those with a big enough workforce to keep up the development race.
That’s looking into the middle distance; for the moment, we are focusing post-Monaco, pre-Canada. You might think they have much in common and to a small extent they do. Both are, to some extent, road circuits. Monaco obviously is a street circuit but Canada is more a road circuit, much smoother than it was, as was Monaco.
The other similarity – although less than previously – is the fact that they are both races that are bordered by barriers and walls. Again, Monaco’s barriers are all too close and apparent. Certainly Canada’s used to be but they have been replaced in several areas by debris fencing and improved run-off. Little mistakes in Monaco have always been rewarded by an interface with concrete or metal walls; the same was true of Montreal but now that’s less the case. Having said that, the result of a mistake can often be more serious: ask Olivier Panis or Robert Kubica.
One other little similarity is that it has often been a one-stop circuit – like Monaco. Pirelli are bringing the same range of tyres as used in the Principality but on a very different circuit. The Italians are expecting a two stop strategy which should liven things up.
It is a circuit that is all about traction and brakes. There are only seven braking events around the circuit, say Brembo (or six if you talk to Mercedes) but six of those are from over 260kph, 17% of the lap is spent braking. In four instances, the car loses 150kph. It really is tough on brakes and the use of a car’s brake ducts – a fine art in itself – can also lose 0.2s. In turn, this procures heavy demands on a car’s ERS.
The corners are relatively slow and also involve fast changes of direction in five instances, so there’s something else for an engineer to bear in mind – looking for downforce while at the same time trying to take off downforce for this low downforce track. The straight, past the old pits and startline area, is one of the longest in the calendar, only just shorter than China’s.
It is therefore a low downforce, straightline speed circuit and one to which certain cars will be ideally suited. And there the similarities with Monaco will end. Those that were suited to Monaco, probably won’t be to Montreal, and vice versa. Should be good news to the ears of the Lance Stroll fans.
The other thing is engine power, of course. All four engine manufacturers have been planning engine upgrades here but now it seems that Mercedes won’t be delivering and will be delaying until the French Grand Prix. Which gives Renault and Ferrari an advantage, and how big will Honda’s development be? It is designed to persuade Red Bull to use its engines in 2019.
One man who will be looking for all the power he can get will be Monaco winner Daniel Ricciardo. His engine problems during his victorious drive in Monaco look as though they may cost him dearly. At the time of writing, there’s no knowing how big his penalty will be, but it is cruel and incomprehensible that Monaco’s winner and hero is suddenly demoted to the back of the grid at the next race. Some things need changing.
Some things, however, probably don’t. An odd missive from the FIA tells us that the cars will be stationary on the grid for ten minutes longer before the race for media opportunities. If that involves the drivers, don’t bet on it. You can be assured that they will run back into the garages immediately the cars are stationary on the grid and there they’ll stay until the national anthem. In fact this may almost be a rule for most drivers, whereas before most didn’t think it was worth it. It may have exactly the wrong effect.
There are some pretty major stats for this race, particularly from championship leader Lewis Hamilton. He has admittedly finished only seven out of his ten races but has been on the front row nine times, has won from pole five times, has another pole and another win to his name, making six of each. But Sebastian Vettel has been on pole three times, one of which resulted in a win and he has an unrivalled record here, being classified in every one of his nine races. Ricciardo’s first win was here in 2014, from sixth on the grid, and Kimi Raikkonen won from seventh in 2005.
Finally, Fernando Alonso is one of those with a phenomenal workload, including last weekend’s Le Mans test day and next week’s 24 hours. He won here from pole in 2006 and some say he’s making his 300th Grand Prix appearance, but that’s not strictly true; it’s actually around 297th but who’s arguing?
The weather looks settled at the moment, but breezy which might upset cars’ balance. This city, which suffers so much from harsh winters, seems permanently under construction – like Monaco – but the fans flock to see the Grand Prix. It’s an expensive place to visit so not everyone likes it as much as some say, but it’s a popular Grand Prix and one that is under development so likely to remain on the calendar. Good luck to it; we’ve had some cracking races here and I think Sunday’s could definitely live up to the name.