RACE DEBRIEF

    To understand the subtleties of car performance and driver technique, there’s no substitute for standing trackside and watching (and listening to) the protagonists at work. For FP1 in Canada, Mark Hughes ventured to the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve’s tricky Turn 3/4 chicane to see how each driver approached this technical sequence…

    In the early part of FP1 it fell to Williams’ Nicholas Latifi, occupying Robert Kubica’s car to perform the role of track cleaner, dust rising from the dirty track as he put some F1 miles under his belt. He didn’t lack confidence, though, even if his progress was a little wild at times. In the small piece of track between the entry and exit kerbs of Turn 3 the rear of the car was frequently in a pendulum-like swing as he asked more of it than it really had to give.

    The Turn 3/4 chicane is a piece of track that is actually a very good indicator of how well any given car is working, or how well the driver is tuned into it. This became increasingly apparent as the track progressively gripped up as the others eventually joined Latifi. Unsurprisingly, the Mercedes looked the fastest, grippiest car through here by a significant margin – and both Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton were using all of that grip and more, to spectacular effect.

    Their respective approaches to the bends, however, are slightly different. Hamilton commits earlier to full throttle than anyone else, well before the apex. This frequently pulls him well out wide of the ideal line between the two kerbs, forcing him into a shallower entry into Turn 4. But so well does the car rotate, so suddenly does it adopt a new angle of yaw, that it doesn’t present a problem.

    Canada FP1 Turn 3 and 4 analysis

    Hamilton commits earlier to full throttle than anyone else, well before the apex

    Bottas is a little less committed with the throttle, but carries in enormous momentum. He takes about the same amount of inner kerb as his team mate, but is much more adamant about the piece of track he wants the car to be on as he lands from that kerb. He is reluctant to go as far out wide as Hamilton, wanting the ideal approach to Turn 4. When he was on his fastest lap, this determination to keep the car on his preferred line meant he had more steering lock applied and the rear of the car slid spectacularly as the front tyres gripped.

    This is all happening at speeds inaccessible to all the other cars. The nearest in terms of grip were probably the Red Bulls, but the McLarens seemed to be carrying a nice, more drivable-looking balance. Carlos Sainz looked particularly good, carrying a smooth, high-speed momentum and an unerring thread-the-needle line. By contrast Lando Norris tends to take a little more inner kerb, using that to hurry up the direction change by hitting it before the car has finished turning. It looks more spectacular, but perhaps slightly less effective.

    The Renaults didn’t look great, with a general understeer balance and a nervy, stiff-looking response to the kerbs. Daniel Ricciardo stayed clear of those kerbs right from the start, but Nico Hulkenberg tried a few times – trying to do what Norris is doing in the McLaren - before abandoning that approach, as the car was just not compliant enough.

    2019 Canadian GP

    The Renault just does not indulge Hulkenberg his improvisations

    Ricciardo also surrendered earlier than Hulkenberg on the understeer that was trying to pull him out wide into that bit of track that only Hamilton is comfortable using. Daniel instead blended out of the throttle at this point, in order to get the preferred line into Turn 4. On one occasion Hulkenberg stayed hard on the gas with the understeer until eventually the front tyres did grip up – but too suddenly, giving him a big oversteer moment. The Renault just does not indulge him his improvisations.

    Antonio Giovinazzi several times had the Alfa wildly out of line through here, not seeming as well tuned into the car as team mate Kimi Raikkonen. In fact, the Italian had a half-spin here just before going off properly and hitting the wall a few corners further on.

    That’s the old school challenge of this superb ‘70s-era track.