MONTREAL, Canada — It’s going to be hot at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Sunday, with the mercury expected to tip 29C come the race start. That is going to cause issues for anybody starting on the soft tyre, which was melting after just a handful of laps in slightly cooler temperatures on Friday.
It’s no surprise, then, that Ferrari and Mercedes opted to complete Q2 on the medium tyres so that they would start on the same compound in the race. Expect those who didn’t make Q3 to do the same before a single stop to switch to the hard tyres until the end of the race. The pit stop window to switch from medium to hard is somewhere between lap 35 to 40, with the potential for drivers further back in the order to kick off the pit stops earlier in an attempt to see the benefit of an undercut with fresh tyres.
In Friday practice, Mercedes appeared to have an advantage over Ferrari on long runs after a strong run on the medium tyres by Bottas. Hamilton didn’t complete any long runs, however, as he crashed early in the second practice session.
Those forced to start on the soft tyre due to their Q2 choice — Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris, Nico Hulkenberg, Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo — are likely to pit as early as lap five due to the rapid degradation on the softest compound in Pirelli’s range. That could see them drop into the midfield traffic, but with three DRS zones dotted around the circuit, overtaking is possible for cars with a pace advantage.
Another driver to keep an eye on is Max Verstappen. He qualified 11th — giving him a free tyre choice for the start of the race — but will start ninth on the grid as Kevin Magnussen will start from the pit lane and Sainz has a three-place penalty for blocking Alexander Albon in Q1. That will put him in a strong position to make progress, especially once Sainz, Norris, Hulkenberg, Gasly and Ricciardo make their early pit stops.
The key to fending off attacks from rival cars will be keeping the rear tyres alive, so don’t be surprised if we see another race run at a relatively slow pace as drivers attempt to protect their rubber.