DHL Fastest Pit Stop Award: 2016 FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX DU CANADA
Seven races, seven perfect pit stops. Williams are beginning to look unassailable in the chase for the 2016 DHL Fastest Pit Stop Award. Thanks to the super-speedy tire change in Montreal, the team founded by Sir Frank Williams has further consolidated its lead in this particular competition. But Williams’ record could have been at risk this time, because they had only two pit stops to deal with during the entire race, so the opportunities to execute the perfect wheel change were limited.
But they pulled it off – and were even faster than on their last outing in Monaco. When Valtteri Bottas made his one and only pit stop, the crew sent him on his way in only 2.11 seconds, the best time by a clear margin. In contrast, Felipe Massa tarried for an uncharacteristically long 2.77 seconds, a time not even good enough for the Top Five. Meanwhile, Mercedes were operating at a fast and furious pace to claim the next three spots: 2.27 and 2.42 seconds for Nico Rosberg, 2.41 seconds for Lewis Hamilton. Coming in behind the Silver Arrows in fifth place were Ferrari with their 2.58-second service for Sebastian Vettel.
But it has to be said that the all-round performance of the pit crews in Canada was brilliant: they managed to stay within the magic three-second mark an incredible 16 times, compared with only seven in Monaco.
Strategy decides outcome in Ferrari vs. Mercedes contest
After the race in Monaco, the Canadian Grand Prix will have made a pleasant change for the strategists. Unlike in the Principality, there is ample opportunity for overtaking on the Ile Notre-Dame. Consequently, track position and a minimum one-stop strategy are not necessarily decisive. Pirelli had declared that two stops, or even three, would be the potentially faster option. But Sunday in Canada was a prime example of how the outcome is dependent on circumstances in the race and can turn out quite different than the model forecast.
Despite the front row lock-out for Mercedes, Sebastian Vettel went into the lead after the first two turns. The Ferrari driver got off to a sensational start to leave the two Silver Arrows standing. For the first eleven laps, the four-time world champion led the field. Then came the virtual safety car triggered by Jenson Button’s smoking McLaren parked at the side of the track. Although the race was into only the eleventh lap, Ferrari decided to call Vettel into the pits, hoping to save on time. They switched him from ultrasofts to supersofts. This meant that he was committed to a second pit stop, because an exception had been made for the Canadian Grand Prix stipulating that the soft tires were obligatory.
But as it happened, the time saving for Vettel was minimal. The virtual safety car ended while he was still in the pits, so Hamilton and the others were immediately able to speed up. Vettel dropped back to P4. The fresh tires at least enabled the Ferrari driver to quickly overtake Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, and he briefly regained the lead when Lewis Hamilton came in for his single stop on Lap 24. But because the reigning world champion saw out the remaining 45 laps on this second set of tires while Vettel was obliged to come in on Lap 37 for a set of softs, Ferrari dropped back behind Mercedes. The Scuderia had effectively thrown the race away, while Mercedes triumphed by virtue of a clever move. “When Sebastian stopped behind the VSC, then it was clear that making just one stop was our best chance of winning,” said Toto Wolff. The man who had the fastest pit stop, Valtteri Bottas, employed the same strategy as Mercedes to claim a surprise podium for Williams.
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