Mercedes a potential F1 strategy outlier as Canadian GP tyre sets returned

Mercedes has been left a tyre outlier at the front of the Formula 1 grid, with it locked into a potentially different strategy approach at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

The disrupted weekend at Montreal, with FP1 effectively wiped out by CCTV problems and rain impacting Saturday’s running, has left teams facing more uncertainties on strategy.

It has, however, triggered greater freedom on tyre choice management throughout the event as teams have not needed to preserve race sets as much as they would at a more normal event.

But as the tyre choices of the top teams emerged on Sunday morning, it has been interesting to note that Mercedes has joined Ferrari as the only squad to leave both its drivers with just one set of hards for the race.

Among the top six runners, Max Verstappen, Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Ocon all have two sets of new hards and two sets of new mediums available, while Fernando Alonso has two sets of hards and one medium.

Starting on the second row, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have only one set of new hards available alongside their two sets of mediums.

It is understood that Mercedes opted for its tyre allocation, which is made after FP3, just in case the track dried out enough in qualifying for it to require slicks throughout. Having extra softs for those conditions could have been a big advantage.

This option is especially intriguing because Pirelli’s head of F1, Mario Isola, says his company’s prediction remains that the best approach to the race is a two-stop race, starting on mediums and then going for two stints on the hard.


Isola said: “Looking at the simulation and the data collected on Friday, we believe that the strategies as predicted before coming here are still valid.

“That is a start on the medium compound and a move then to the hard compound. Then finally a second set on the hard compound.”

That two-stop approach is something that Mercedes will not have the option of going for, as it will be locked in to only one stint on the hard.

It effectively means that it will either have to go for a one-stop, potentially medium to hard, or trying a two-stop that involves going back to the medium for the final stint.

Isola added: “An alternative strategy, maybe for people starting from the back of the grid, is beginning on the hard, and moving to the medium. So after around 45 laps, they move on the medium.

“That would obviously be with a lighter car because in practice, don't forget, with the medium we had some graining.

“That is still possible [to happen], especially after Saturday, with a completely green track and no rubber down. It is possible that we have dry conditions but still graining from the medium, while the hard is a lot more consistent.

“The other way is a two-stop. If they don't have a second set of hards, they could be starting on the medium, moving to the hard for the second stint and back to the medium for the last stint.

“The soft is not really a compound for the race. We know that too from last year.”

Mechanics in the garage with George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Mechanics in the garage with George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

While Mercedes is locked in to only one stint on the hard, Verstappen's tyre choice ultimately gives them more freedom to choose their approach – which could prove beneficial as it becomes clearer in the opening stages of the race just how the medium is holding up.

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If the medium is badly graining and not proving to be an ideal race tyre, then they can go for a double hard stint.

Should the medium prove to be more durable and consistent, then they can opt to run that after the hard for the dash to the flag.

Alonso’s tyre choice means that if he goes for a two-stop then his final stint will have to be on the hard.

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