Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, carrying race number 44, has set the 44th pole position of his career in Montreal, using Pirelli’s P Zero Red supersoft tyre – just as he did in Monaco. His team mate Nico Rosberg completed a Mercedes monopoly of the front row. The teams did not have much opportunity to get used to the performance of the supersoft, with yesterday’s FP2 interrupted by rain, and FP3 this morning delayed with red flags. As a result, there were a number of unknowns as the teams headed into qualifying, with the Lotus of Romain Grosjean emerging fastest in Q1, using the supersoft tyres.
Although there was no rain today, temperatures remained temperate in the region of 35 degrees centigrade on track. This discrepancy between the track conditions seen yesterday and this morning made it hard to fully understand tyre degradation. With warmer temperatures expected tomorrow, this pattern could change the understanding for the expected strategies for the race.
The two Mercedes drivers as well as the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and Williams of Valtteri Bottas were the only drivers to get through Q1 using just the soft tyres. For the rest of qualifying, the drivers used only the supersoft.
Such is the pace of car and tyre development that last year’s pole position time was already beaten in the opening minutes of Q2 by both Hamilton and Rosberg. The final top-10 shoot out in Q3 again went down to a battle between the two Mercedes drivers, with Hamilton lowering the benchmark still further, right at the end of the session. The rain yesterday meant that the track was washed clean of surface rubber, making it slippery at the start of the day and delivering the fastest times at the very end of each session.
In FP3, which was interrupted by two red flag periods this morning, Rosberg went fastest on the supersoft tyres, setting a time of 1m15.660s.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “As usual, Canada supplied an unpredictable qualifying session, even with completely dry weather. The teams came into qualifying not having had as much running on the supersoft as they would have liked, which clearly affected their preparations. We have a smaller performance gap between the two compounds than we see at most races, around 0.8 seconds, and this actually opens up more possibilities for strategy, as there are a number of different ways of approaching the race without risking too much time loss. Wear and degradation is low so a one-stop strategy is possible, but a two-stop strategy is likely as well.”
The Pirelli strategy predictor: The tyre nominations and surface conditions in Canada mean that a variety of different strategies are possible. However, a one-stop strategy looks most likely at the end of Qualifying, even though two stops also viable. A two-stop strategy for the 70-lap race is likely to be: start on supersoft, change to supersoft again on lap 15, then soft from lap 40. A number of variations on this theme are also possible, including running the soft in the middle stint.