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Alonso's Canadian GP advantage over Hamilton EXPLAINED by F1 expert

Alonso's Canadian GP advantage over Hamilton EXPLAINED by F1 expert

Alonso's Canadian GP advantage over Hamilton EXPLAINED by F1 expert

Shubham Sangodkar
Alonso's Canadian GP advantage over Hamilton EXPLAINED by F1 expert

The Canadian Grand Prix gave us an equal Fernando Alonso vs Lewis Hamilton battle for the first time this season, where both cars were equally matched, and were stronger in different phases of the race.

After the race, it was wholesome to see them on the podium with Max Verstappen, complimenting each other’s driving in the post-race comments. Let us understand how the race evolved for both the drivers and what factors led Alonso beating Hamilton for second.

Race Start

Lewis Hamilton had a much better launch compared to Fernando Alonso in both the first and second phases of acceleration towards turn 1. They were both joking post-race about how Alonso’s reaction time is slower because he’s older.

Jokes apart, the reason Alonso had to give in and couldn’t defend harder was because it's easy to go off at that corner in Canada, and thus lose a lot of places trying to rejoin the track. Rather Alonso, the old fox, gave in and focussed on securing P3 at the start, as he was under a lot of pressure from George Russell.

The First Stint - Mode “Push”

Both the drivers had started the race on mediums, and Alonso was pushing Hamilton to wear his tyres out in order to obtain a tyre delta advantage. Seeing Alonso consistently keep within a second of Lewis, the Aston Martin team looked for an opportunity to undercut Mercedes in the pits.

However, that attempt was in vain due to the first safety car introduced by George Russel’s kiss with the wall on Lap 11. Funnily enough, if that had not happened Mercedes had the upper hand as they could tag team Alonso when it came to strategy.

The Second Stint - The Difference Maker

Before the race restarted, things looked as before – Alonso waiting to pounce and Hamilton looking to defend, with both of them on the hard compound tyres. With track and ambient temperatures being low, Lewis was struggling to keep his tyres in the right temperature window as the race resumed.

In general, the trend is that Mercedes thrive in hotter conditions and struggle to heat and maintain tyres temperature in colder conditions. In addition to that, the hard compound tyre is the hardest to fire up.

As seen in the plot below, Alonso had really good consistency with the hard tyre while Hamilton was not able to consistently put in quick lap times. This allowed the Spaniard to catch up with his old team-mate and eventually pass him on lap 22 with DRS open.

The Third Stint - Hamilton Is a Fighter

They say it's not over until it's over. While Alonso overtook Hamilton on lap 22, he was never able to pull more than five seconds away. As Hamilton pitted on lap 40, Mercedes looked at data from Ferrari and decided to put him on medium tyres, whose tyre degradation was much lower than expected. Aston decided to stick with hard tyres for the third stint. The medium tyres brought the Mercedes back to life again, as it was able to bring it up to temperature and maintain it in the right window, helping Hamilton start to close the gap. In addition to that, because Alonso had pushed so hard in the second stint, the team asked him to 'lift and coast', which basically means he had to manage fuel in this case. This led to Hamilton catching up to Alonso.

On Lap 60, Hamilton was just 1.5 seconds behind Alonso, but then the veteran decided to step it up and put in some fast laps to bring the gap back to three seconds. The traces are shown in the image below.

This race has shown that these two teams are now equally matched, and it will be exciting to see some battles as we head into the European leg of the season.

Shubham Sangodkar is a former F1 Aerodynamicist with a Master's in Racing Car Design specialising in F1 Aerodynamics and F1 Data Analysis. He also posts aerodynamics content on his YouTube channel, which can be found here.


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