Will Gray

Could new teams win points on safety car gamble?

Will Gray

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This weekend's Canadian Grand Prix offers the best chance so far for a new team to get on the scoreboard - but what will it take to put them in the mix and who has the best chance to make it count?

Lotus, Virgin and HRT have had a tough time on their respective debuts so far this year, but they have all managed to get cars to the finish and their reliability is slowly improving. In Canada, if they can stay out of trouble and get to the finish, there are several opportunities they could capitalise on that could put them within reach of a top-ten spot and the vital points that come with it.

But could it really happen?

Firstly, one of the biggest struggles the new teams are experiencing from a performance perspective is a lack of downforce, but Canada's lower downforce configuration is a bit of a leveller and the new teams should be closer to the midfield than ever this weekend.

This could particularly play into the hands of Lotus, who have an increasingly refined aerodynamics package in which they have addressed the basics, so while they may be lacking in the elements that boost the front-running teams above the baseline, their baseline for efficient basic aerodynamics could be reasonably good.

In addition to this, the tight circuit of Montreal makes the Canadian Grand Prix notorious for potential incidents. The "wall of champions" has bitten many experienced drivers in the past and although the race organisers have tamed it in recent years the close barriers and high speeds still make it one of the most dangerous tracks on the calendar.

In 2008, a quarter of the 20-car field was taken out in accidents; in 2007 it was six out of 22. If similar levels are seen this season, that could put one of the new team drivers up to 14th. Add in a couple of other mechanical failures to other established teams and the newcomers could be within fighting distance of an opportunity.

Then comes the safety car gamble.

The chances of a safety car period are higher here than at most circuits. In fact, you can almost guarantee it.

Statistics show the safety car has been deployed at least once in each of the last four races, with 24 laps run under it during four safety car periods in 2007, nine laps in 2006 and five laps in 2008 and 2005.

In the pre-race press conference, Virgin driver Lucas di Grassi admitted: "I think there is the possibility of a lot of safety cars and a lot of strategy gambles around it."

The new teams could be tempted with a reasonably confident gamble on at least one safety car period of no less than five laps. This would allow them to run a lower weight of fuel, as they need to use less fuel when running slowly behind the safety car, and by doing that they could improve their lap times by what could be a significant amount.

If they do, then the performances so far suggest that Heikki Kovalainen could be the man to benefit, as although he has finished just three of the seven races, he has the best average finish of all the new team drivers. And Lotus boos Mike Gascoigne has been know to like a strategy gamble...

Stats: New team finishes

                                   Finishes                Average

Karun Chandhok                    5                      16

Jarno Trulli                            4                     16.5

Heikki Kovalainen                   3                      14

Lucas di Grassi                      3                      17

Bruno Senna                          2                      16

Timo Glock                            2                       18

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