Joe’s Track Preview: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

Well, after two wins apiece for Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, the world of Formula 1 descends onto the Ile Notre-Dame of Montreal this weekend.

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve; renamed following the Canadian’s tragic death in 1982, is a 2.7-mile, 14-turn ribbon of tarmac perfection which has become one of the most loved tracks on the circuit by both the teams and drivers due to its high-speed straights and heavy braking zones.

Perhaps two of those high-octane areas will arrive at the L’Epingle hairpin at Turn 10 and the final chicane at Turns 13 and 14 located at the end of the back straight – adjacent to the infamous ‘Wall of Champions’ – where some of the biggest names of the sport have damaged much more than pride over the years.

However, another area which will undoubtedly provide an abundance of thrills and spills is between Turn 7 and Turn 8, with the FIA opting this year to implement a third DRS Zone.

But of course, with any race, particularly it seems this season – with teams excelling at specific tracks more so than in previous terms – strategy may prove to be king, and this weekend’s rubber will play a significant role within that.

For the second weekend running, Pirelli has opted for the hypersoft compound to be part of the team’s set up; which will be a carbon copy to that of the selection of Monaco a fortnight ago, meaning the teams will be able to run one step softer than last year.

“While Monaco was the first appearance for the new hypersoft, we can almost consider Montreal to be the real debut for this tyre, as Monaco is completely atypical,” Pirelli’s Head of Car Racing, Mario Isola, told F1’s official website.

“The track surface at Montreal is actually quite smooth, but we should still see more than one pit stop due to the combination of the softest tyre nomination that we have ever brought to Canada, and a more demanding track layout than Monaco.

In the past, there has been an extremely wide variety of strategies seen at this race, and the arrival of the hypersoft should now open up those possibilities still further.

In reality, nobody knows exactly how it will perform in Canada in terms of wear and degradation, so the homework done during free practice will be more important than ever.”

Tune into the Candian GP this weekend (8th to 10th of June

Joe’s Track Preview: The Circuit de Monaco

Unadulterated bravery is arguably the most critical aspect as Formula 1 heads for its sixth stop of the season; the iconic Circuit de Monaco.

A fixture on the championship schedule since 1955, not much has changed on the streets of Monte Carlo since – aside from some minor alterations to the entry of Rascasse over a decade ago.

The Monaco Grand Prix indeed is a race which provides some of the most exhilarating moments on the calendar, although if overtaking is your thing, you will not find much here.

With the tight streets of sea-abreast Monaco walled with Armco car-killers, aside from the tunnel – one of the few places on the track where drivers can put their foot down – or some serious Daniel Ricciardo-sized cojones, qualifying is arguably the best shot of securing maximum points.

In fact, in its 64 races, pole position has lost out only 10 times, highlighting that grid position is everything on the roads of Monte Carlo.

Speaking of the surface, the Circuit de Monaco provides the lowest wear on tyres on the calendar, which is partly due to the super-slow corners dotted around the track – including the Loews hairpin, which sees the cars drop their speed to around 30mph.

However, although there is no chance of cars hitting full tilt with downforce set to maximum across the paddock, we will finally be able to witness Pirelli’s hypersoft compound for the first time as it makes its debut on the world famous street circuit, which, in testing, has shown to be a full second faster than the supersoft.

“We’ve tested the hypersoft in Abu Dhabi and Barcelona: of those two, Abu Dhabi is a better comparison to Monaco and there we saw that the hypersoft was worth about a second per lap than the ultrasoft; so we could see some more records broken this weekend,” Mario Isola, Pirelli’s Head of Car Racing, told Formula 1’s official website.

“Nonetheless, the hypersoft is definitely a race tyre rather than a qualifying tyre, so it will be interesting to see how it adapts itself to the unique demands of Monaco, and what effect it has on strategy.

“Collecting as much data about it as possible in free practice will be particularly important. The drivers have all each nominated between eight and 11 sets of hypersoft, so we should see plenty of running on it throughout the weekend, if it stays dry of course.”

Joe’s Track Preview: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya

Well, who else needed the last fortnight to get over Baku? What a race weekend that was!

It amazed me how much action was served up in Azerbaijan, despite the teams experiencing the chaos of the street circuit last year. However, speaking of tracks that should be well known yet still provide the thrills and spills of a newbie; the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is Formula 1’s next stop.

Although the teams and drivers spend lengthy spells at the home of the Spanish Grand Prix over the winter, as well as of course summer testing and the upcoming race weekend, the 2.8-mile course still offers many difficulties.

If the mixture of high and low-speed corners doesn’t catch you out, or the new track surface, the unpredictable crosswinds probably will; meaning once again it is set to be a challenging three days for the drivers.

Turn 1, in particular, will be an exciting contest – with it one of the few overtaking hotspots, although the latter stages of the circuit are seen as the most tricky – with maximum speed vital yet hard to come by in the final two corners.

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, overall, is known as a place where teams struggle to reach their optimum set-up, with the high tyre wear a significant factor in that.

With that in mind, Pirelli has allocated the medium, soft and supersoft tyres – a softer trio of compounds compared to last year due to the new surface, with the latter making its debut at the Barcelona track.

“This year, Barcelona isn’t exactly like going to a new circuit for the teams: but the changes to the surface are still significant enough to alter some of the track’s fundamental characteristics,” Pirelli’s Head of Car Racing, Mario Isola, told Formula 1’s official website.

“We too have made a change by reducing the tread depth on the slick tyres to reduce the risk of overheating, as we will also do for Paul Ricard and Silverstone, but it’s not a change that any of the drivers will notice in terms of performance or stint length.

“The teams already have some knowledge of the new asphalt from pre-season testing, but the weather is now much warmer, the cars considerably faster and there will also be some ageing of the surface.

“This year, we bring the supersoft to the Spanish Grand Prix – effectively, two steps softer than the softest nomination in 2017, as all the compounds are a step softer anyway – so the homework done in free practice will be particularly important.”

Joe’s Track Preview: The Shanghai International Circuit

Two down already! You get the feeling this season is going to fly by; especially as this week links the first back to back race weekends of the campaign.

Sebastian Vettel, undoubtedly, will be eyeing his third straight win of the year, having beaten his Mercedes counterparts in both Australia and Bahrain; showcasing that Ferrari have the capabilities to outmuscle the Silver Arrows on two very different circuits.

Again, on Sunday, and the lead up prior, the Prancing Horse, as well as the other 19 cars on the grid, will be tested to their maximum as they scale the 5.4km, wasteland sitting grey ribbon of Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix.

A 16-turn circuit, which houses an equal number of right and left-handers, offers up one of the most challenging tests the drivers will face throughout the year.

Debuting in 2004, the teams soon learned that looking for time in the slower bends, of which there are many, cannot result in neglecting the high-speed straights.

Because of this, they attempt to utilise the downforce and natural mechanical grip during the tighter, more technical aspects of the track, while making sure their aero packages don’t hinder the car too much as the prime overtaking spots come into view.

The longest straight on the circuit, situated between turn 13 and 14, pips the 1km barrier; however, also provides one of the heaviest braking zones on the calendar – as drivers drop from over 320kph to a little over 60kph to tackle the almost 90-degree right-hander at the end of the DRS zone.

It’s also a tough afternoon for tyres, with the Chinese Grand Prix known for its degradation. So, it’s unlikely to see a repeat of Vettel’s heroics last weekend in the latter stages on Sunday, although, be prepared for a wild variation in strategies thanks to Pirelli’s tyre allocation.

“The new wider range of 2018 P Zero compounds have allowed us to come up with some nominations this year where there is a gap in the tyres selected: in the case of China, alongside the medium, we jump from soft to ultrasoft, leaving out the supersoft”, Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing at Pirelli told F1’s official website.

“There’s quite a big gap from medium to the softer compounds, which are quite close together (with the exception of the hypersoft). So, by missing out the supersoft in China, we end up with three choices that are quite evenly spaced out, which in turn opens up several different possibilities for strategy.“These strategy calculations have of course already begun, with teams selecting different quantities of the ultrasoft heading into the race, and we could also see some different approaches to qualifying as well.

“With China being an unpredictable race anyway, thanks to a number of different overtaking opportunities and notoriously variable weather, this tyre nomination introduces another parameter, which should hopefully contribute to an even better spectacle.”

And I for one cannot wait.

Be sure to keep up with all the action with PitCrewOnline via the website and social media channels! (@PitCrew_Online) Of course, as always, if you enjoyed this week’s edition of Joe’s Track Preview, feel free to shoot me (@jwpowens) a follow too.

Enjoy the race!

Joe’s Track Preview – The Bahrain International Circuit

Well, well, well, what an opening weekend Australia gave us.

From Mercedes’ ‘software bug’ which afforded Sebastian Vettel to sneak in for the win to Williams’ somewhat shocking showing towards the rear of the pack, the Melbourne Grand Prix served up a scintillating few days.

However, there’s no time to let the dust settle, as this weekend sees F1 hit the desert. This, of course, means it’s time for Joe’s Track Preview.

The Bahrain International Circuit played host to Formula 1’s first Middle Eastern venture in 2004, and bar 2011, it has welcomed the Grand Prix world to its door every year since.

The 15-turn, 5.4km ribbon of tarmac is built on an old camel farm, and offers a tasty mixture of long straights and slow corners; meaning the opportunity to overtake is never too far away – particularly at Turns 1, 3 and 11.

However, if you are into your high-speed barrier collisions, you probably won’t want to tune in on Sunday, as the tyre walls are about as close to the track as the Qatari state.

The excessive run-off areas bring a different obstacle, however; the infamous track limits. Cue some interesting in-race radio chatter and most likely a deflating ending as the anoraks rule supreme.

But, despite the structurally forgiving circuit, a lack of grip is expected to be a significant issue this weekend; more so in Friday practice. And although by Sunday’s race the rubber will have well a truly bedded in, the drop in temperatures as twilight hits and the lights go out could provoke some rather spectacular mistakes.

Due to the expected lack of traction, Pirelli has nominated the same tyre choices for that of last season; medium, soft and supersoft – although each compound is one step softer this year.

“Bahrain provides a very different challenge to Australia, but one of the things it has in common is that is quite a stop-start circuit characterised by longitudinal rather than lateral loads, which also means that it is rear-limited in particular”, Pirelli’s Head of Car Racing, Mario Isola, told F1’s official website.

“Because of the abrasive surface and also thermal degradation we would expect more than one pit stop for most drivers, especially as the entire tyre range is softer this year and Bahrain has produced a variety of interesting strategies in the past.

“The race schedule, with track temperatures that fall considerably during the evening, means that teams need to maximise their learning from the sessions that are most representative and draw the most effective conclusions from the unusual track conditions in the evening.”