D he result of the GP Canada speaks for itself. One stop wins against two stops. Mercedes did everything right and Ferrari did everything wrong. Valtteri Bottas' third place ahead of Max Verstappen in the Red Bull is further confirmation. But it wasn't that clear after all.
Mercedes entered the race without a clear tactic. Ferrari does. Team boss Maurizio Arrivabene confirmed: “It was a two-stop race for us from the start.” The long runs on Friday revealed to the Mercedes strategists that the soft tire can last 48 laps. Probably longer in cool weather. This meant that Lewis Hamilton had to get to at least lap 22 with the ultrasoft tires. Each more lap reduced the risk of running out of tire rubber at the end of the day.
At the command post of the Silver Arrows, one was therefore not unconditionally committed to a one-stop race. “It all depended on how heavy the grain on the ultrasoft tires would be and how long it would take for the tires to get into their working window. If it takes too long, two stops will give you too much racing time. ”
“ It was also important how much faster we would be as Red Bull. In a two-stop race we would have run the risk of overtaking them. If the difference had been too small, we would have lost too much time. Then of course the usual: The position on the track and the gaps to the rear. ”
Mercedes opted for one-stop tactic after 10 laps
After 10 laps, James Vowles and his colleagues were there clear that it would amount to a one-stop race. The warm-up process was taking too long and there was very little tire wear. The risk with 2 stops got bigger and bigger. The moment Ferrari pits its drivers on lap 11, Hamilton was informed on the radio that he should prepare for a stop.
Mercedes sees Ferrari's strategy as an invitation to win a race that you had actually already lost at the start. Not so much because of Ferrari's decision to make two stops. More because of the timing. So early in the race Ferrari blocked every chance of trying to stop after all.
Not splitting the tactic carried the risk that it was wrong for both drivers. Sebastian Vettel defended his command post: “We didn't think that the soft tire would last that long. Afterwards you are always smarter. '
Ferrari chose to change tires on lap 11 because Jenson Button had to retire on lap 10 with a major gearbox damage in the middle of the long straight. When the McLaren caught fire, race director Charlie Whiting had the VSC symbol shown for a virtual safety car phase. It had to be clear, however, that the wrecked McLaren would be quickly recovered at this point. This was already evident in practice when Rio Haryanto was stranded in the same place with a punctured tire.
No free stops for Ferrari
Button was only 22 seconds behind Sebastian Vettel at the time. From Vettel's point of view, this meant that he would need around a minute from his position before he reached the pits. There was a great risk that the VSC phase would be canceled by then.
And that's exactly what happened. Even before the Ferrari with starting number 5 parked in front of the pit, the race was opened again. Ferrari wanted to warn Kimi Raikkonen, but the Finn was already on his way into the pits.
This meant that Vettel and Raikkonen did not have two free pit stops under yellow, but two much too early tire changes under normal conditions. Vettel fell to 4th place, Raikkonen to 15th place. Williams operations manager Rob Smedley was also astonished: 'Judging by the TV images, it quickly became clear to us that the VSC phase would not last long.'
Mercedes understood the Ferrari tactics for a second reason Not. “Our tires got up to temperature very slowly. Everyone must have seen that after the start. This reduced the risk for Ferrari that Lewis overtook Vettel by an earlier stop. Their early pit stops gave us a chance to beat them. It encouraged us to stick to a stop. ”
Soft tires an unattractive option
It was clear early on that the soft compound was the best tire for the race. This made the ultra-soft and super-soft tires an unattractive option in the opinion of the Mercedes strategists. Even under the circumstances, Ferrari's tactic of inserting a 26 lap stint with Supersoft tires made little sense.
“The Supersoft and the Ultrasoft behaved practically the same way. They delivered good lap times for 10 laps, then came the grains. When it's cold, you get grains. The softer the mixture, the worse. So you don't want to voluntarily drive twice on soft tires. ”
In retrospect, Ferrari should only have reacted to Mercedes. Vettel was comfortably in first place. Hamilton lacked the top speed to overtake the Ferrari on the track. In the best value Vettel came to 338.4 km /h, Hamilton only to 332.7 km /h. The soft tires on the Ferrari would have lasted just as long as on the Mercedes. And if not, both would have had to pit again.
After Hamilton's stop, Mercedes was 80 to 80 on lap 24Percent certain that it will last to the end. “Whenever we asked Lewis to accelerate, he responded without the tires breaking.” When Nico Rosberg stopped because of his puncture on lap 51, the Mercedes engineers were certain. “Using the wear and tear, we were able to extrapolate how long the tire will last. It was clear that Lewis would get through to the end. ”