- Karun Chandhok's ESPNF1 column
'I'm sure people were left scratching their heads'Karun Chandhok June 13, 2012
- Canadian Grand Prix
What a confusing race that was! Once again Formula-Pirelli F1 threw us a curve ball in Canada - I mean who would've guessed Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez would end up on the podium after qualifying? Lewis Hamilton and Mclaren seemingly made the right strategy calls and made use of the strong pace they had all weekend to register their first win of the season.
Lewis has always been a bit of an ace at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve having won here twice already in the past. I remember watching from the commentary box at the last chicane last year and the way he was attacking the kerbs lap after lap with a level of comfort and confidence was a visible step up on anyone else. This weekend he continued that fine form.
All weekend, I told people that my money would be on Lewis but for a while on Saturday it looked like things may have swung back towards Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull. In the cooler conditions on Friday, the McLarens looked very good but as the temperatures went up, Seb made a step forward and his qualifying lap was another typical Q3 stunner, securing pole by three tenths of a second.
In the early part of the race the reigning world champion looked good, but as his option tyres approached the cliff he fell into the clutches of Lewis and Fernando Alonso. Seb pitted first for the switch to the prime tyres, but on the unique surface in Montreal the prime tyres took a couple of laps to get up to their optimum pressure and temperature. By staying out and putting in some storming sectors, Fernando and Lewis both jumped ahead of the Red Bull, which never looked in contention for the win for the rest of the afternoon.
A few weird things happened for the rest of the race which I'm sure has left people scratching their heads up and down the pitlane. For example, Grosjean was able to do 49 laps on one set of soft tyres while Perez managed 41 and then 29 on a set of supersofts with great pace. On the flip side Alonso and Vettel's pace dropped away massively. At McLaren, Lewis was storming away to victory, on a two stopper admittedly, while Jenson Button looked completely lost and ended up a lap down.
Williams went from victory in Barcelona two races to struggling all through the race here on Sunday while Lotus and Sauber once again showed that their ability to look after the tyres pays dividends in the latter stages of the races. Force India was another team that will feel the race was a lost opportunity. Paul di Resta did a great lap in qualifying but then suffered badly when he seemed to lose rear tyre grip on the super soft. For some reason, once again, the team seemed to struggle for pace relative to their rivals when it comes to running the prime tyre. Mercedes should've been the favourites for this weekend based on Shanghai and Monaco with their prowess in slow-speed corners and their good straight-line speed, but when it came to it they never really looked like being in contention. I think you begin to get my drift!
Seven races into the season and we still have absolutely no idea who's going to be strong going into the next race. However, there were a few things that we learned in Canada that could tell us about how things may play out in the future races.
- It's clearly important to pit before the tyres reach 'the cliff' as Red Bull found out. By pitting at the same time as Lewis, perhaps Seb could've hung on to second place as Ferrari and Fernando looked committed to a one stopper.
- While you could argue that qualifying isn't as important as it was in the Bridgestone era, it's still clear that having clear air can give your tyres an easier ride so qualifying on the front row still has great value.
- Cars that are soft on their tyres can never be counted as being out of contention, irrespective of where they qualify. Perez and Grosjean were able to show enough pace on used tyres to justify doing one stop less and that immediately saves them 20 seconds over a race distance, while Alonso was losing three seconds a lap at the end of the race on his tyres which had done just two more laps than Grosjean.
The only thing which I think I didn't particularly like was how easy it was to overtake with the DRS. In many ways, I think the Pirelli tyres has pretty much fixed the old problem of "how do we improve overtaking in F1" and it's a bit unfortunate for Charlie Whiting and the FIA that the DRS is now being seen as something that makes overtaking too easy. When they came up with the concept in the Bridgestone era it was clearly needed but perhaps now it could be a time to review that for 2013 if the tyres are going to be similar.