The longitudinal nature of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve meant we knew this venue would not suit us so well, as it favours straight line performance and we know that other engines in the field are still developing while our 2015 spec power units are not. However, we were still hopeful we could do a reasonable job.
In the first free practice sessions our priority was to find out how the three tyre compounds would work, with the Soft one in particular having a high working range and also having the potential to allow us to consider a one-stop race. We needed to find out how the tyres would work over a single lap for qualifying and also on a long run, for the race. It’s difficult, because there are not enough high speed corners to get them up to working temperature even though degradation is low. Apart from the tyres, we worked on getting our braking sorted out, as this is one of the key aspects at this track. Our long run pace looked quite promising on the first day and we felt we knew which direction to go in with the tyres. We could see a slight weakness in the second sector, which we put down to our top speed and Kvyat was suffering with some brake asymmetry, which can happen in very cold conditions, when the front brake on one side of the car works less effectively than the brake on the other.
The conditions were cooler and we knew we would have a tricky time in quali as we cannot turn up the power for qualifying as much as some of the others. However, our performance in FP3, especially with Carlos, gave us some hope and we weren’t so far away with Daniil either, although he still had a few issues with braking and tyre temperature. Once again, just like in Monaco, the gaps between us and the teams around us were very close indeed. Q1 was a pretty standard session and we ran the Ultrasoft tyre at the end to make sure of getting to Q2, which we did. We were hoping to get at least one car into Q3: however, with Daniil, we opted to go straight into a quick lap after the out lap, rather than do a build-up lap and he suffered with tyre temperatures not being right. Unfortunately, with Carlos, he hit that famous “Champions’ Wall” on his first run. A shame, as he was more comfortable with his car and he was on a pretty good lap up to that point. That was game over for him. Not only did he not set a time in Q2, he also damaged his gearbox which meant a five place grid penalty, as we had to change it, dropping him to P20 and Danii had a penalty to take from the previous race.
We thought one stop would be possible, but two looked viable as well. We decided to go for an aggressive strategy with both cars, starting them on new Ultrasofts, to try and gain positions early on. They both made good progress, especially Carlos who made up four places almost straight away. The plan was to stop him early, getting him out of the traffic, switching to the Soft and then see how long we could run. We also switched Daniil to the Soft, feeling it was the best tyre for a long stint, from what we had seen on Friday. Carlos managed to get ahead of several other cars and make it into the points. We then decided to two stop both of them, going back to Ultrasofts. This was a risk, but we felt it was the best chance to get a good result.
Carlos ended up eleven places higher than his grid position, so you can’t complain about the result. The car, the strategy and the driver all worked well and did everything they needed to do to make good progress and be in the top 10 after such a compromised start position. You wonder what might have been if he’d started higher up the grid. As for Daniil, he got more stuck in traffic than his team-mate. It was hard to pass other cars and his tyres were getting just a bit too fragile towards the end of the race. On what was a weak track for us, to get both cars home, one in the points, was not a bad effort.