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And so we return to the scene of last season’s most incredible Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Canada where Jenson Button prevailed over Sebastian Vettel on the last lap of the race having been last and almost a lap down at one point.
This track has a history for great racing and incident packed races so we should be in for a great race following the more strategic Monaco Grand Prix two weeks ago. With a premium on speed and breaking at this track we may see some cars pushed to their breaking points with the circuit being notoriously hard on the breaks.
The track can be abrasive and will most likely lead to 2 or 3 stops being the strategy of choice this weekend. It was this race in 2010 that lead to the idea of having the degrading tyres that Pirelli provide today.
One interesting point to note ahead of the race is that there will only be a single DRS zone at the track this season. The Zone will run from 600 metres before the final chicane. The DRS zone has been shortened by 50 metres compared to last season as it was felt that overtaking was too easy.
Monaco victor Mark Webber and his Red Bull team go into this weekend having had to modify the floor of their car so it’s yet to be seen if Webber and Vettel will see a drop in performance having seen a resurgence in performance since the Bahrain Grand Prix. At Monaco they became the first team to win two races this season. Red Bull’s traditional strengths are not usually a factor here and the team is still yet to win here despite their dominance of F1 in recent seasons. With a car that’s much closer to it’s opponents this season I would not expect to see them challenging for victory this weekend unless the forecast for rain on Sunday morning extends into the afternoon.
The most dominant team in Canada recently has been McLaren with four wins in the last six races at the track. The track holds a special place in both McLaren drivers hearts with Jenson Button having his greatest performance in last year’s race on the way to victory and Lewis Hamilton having claimed his first win at the track back in 2007. The McLarens have had some struggles following a bright start to the season, however in Hamilton’s hands they’ve appeared to be always in the mix for podiums. The results however haven’t came due to botched pit-stops and some debateable strategy calls that have left Hamilton to voice his complaints. Button has had a number of issues in recent races and his struggles with the car haven’t gone unnoticed. He has fast become Mr. Friday. By that I mean that he is up there on race pace on Friday afternoon but by the time we get around to the business end of things he has disappeared. This may have something to do with Button’s known requirements for a comfortable car. His style doesn’t seem to allow him to drive around a problem with lack of grip like a Hamilton or Alonso does. This is why he’s tended to be beaten by team-mates when a car has been difficult. Think back to his Benetton days with Fisichella or when the Brawn went off the boil in his championship year when Barrichello was beating him too. It’s a similar issue that Jarno Trulli used to have and something that Button must address if he is to challenge for this season’s world championship.
Fernando Alonso goes into this weekend still leading the world championship which is an astonishing fact given the poor form of the Ferrari at the start of the season. The Spanish driver has been on the podium in the last two races. He is on a roll and this weekend will be another test for the Ferrari updates introduced ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix. Team-mate Felipe Massa goes into this weekend off the back of his most impressive weekend this season. Having had speculation regarding his role in the team continue (with rumours of a Webber deal having been signed for next year already); Massa will need to continue the upward curve displayed in Monaco to try ensure a future in F1 should he be ousted in the second Ferrari seat. One more interesting rumour surrounding Massa’s future was speculation that Hamilton may not be finishing the season with McLaren with Ferrari being his possible destination according to some more far fetched stories following his recent swapping of praises between him and Fernando Alonso.
Mercedes come to the track with high expectations due to the track’s propensity to engine power and top speed. With the high amount of time on full throttle this track should be amongst the list of tracks that Mercedes’ double DRS could prove to be a huge advantage. With temperatures expected to stay away from scorching it should mean that Mercedes will have an easier weekend on their tyres. They most definitely will go into qualifying as one of the favourites and after the performance of their car in Monte Carlo there is reason to believe that they’ve unlocked more potential in the set-up of the car. Rosberg has been mighty impressive since the disappointments of the first two races of the season and other than some hiccups in qualifying in Bahrain has looked to have the potential to put Mercedes into an unlikely title challenge. Across the garage Michael Schumacher has looked back to the form that helped him claim 7 world championships however his impressive qualifying performances at some races has not resulted in big points hauls. Schumacher currently has 2 points compared to Rosberg’s 59. Schumacher has tended to have the majority of Mercedes’ reliability issues go his way and will be looking to turn things around at a circuit that he has enjoyed a lot of success at. He’s won here 7 times and last season saw him finish 4th for his most competitive performance to that point since his comeback began. His pole position in Monaco was impressive; but was lost due to the penalty he received for colliding with Senna in Spain in the previous race. His race day would have been frustrating due to it ending with a fuel pressure problem whilst he was running comfortably in the points. If Mercedes can get the tyres right and the rain stays away this could be the old master’s weekend to return to the winners circle.
Lotus will go into this weekend off the back of their worst race this season. They had been mightily impressive in practice with Grosjean; but the young Frenchman was out of the race by the first corner having collided with Schumacher’s Mercedes and Alonso’s Ferrari on his way to suspension damage and a spin off the back of a poor start. Team-mate Raikkonen had struggled with the steering of his car all weekend and was a bit of a mobile road block on Sunday afternoon on his way to 9th. They should be suited to the track and could be contenders for a podium. Grosjean and Raikkonen are on record as saying they believe wins are possible with the car and the Enstone based team will be hopeful that they can have an uneventful weekend to get the best from the car in a season that’s seemed to have numerous dramas hinder their performances.
The midfield battle should be interesting the with recent resurgence of Force India. Williams had a trying weekend in Monaco with Senna struggling for pace and Pastor Maldonado having a return to his more frustrating form that earned him the nickname of Maldomaniac in some areas. Maldonado retired on the first lap following a collision and had started last following a penalty for a collision with Perez’s Sauber during practice. The team did manage to pick up a point for Senna’s 10th place but it was largely fortuitous following other’s errors and strategy calls. Can Williams get back to that Spanish Grand Prix form? I don’t think so. Sauber have traditionally been strong at the track and the team in it’s BMW-Sauber days claimed victory with Robert Kubica back in 2008. Torro Rosso probably will not factor in this weekend’s battle for points bar some failures on the top teams part.
Can the Canadian Grand Prix produce a seventh different winner in the seventh race of this incredible Formula One season? Given that the likes of Schumacher and Hamilton haven’t been victorious as of yet, it may be possible.
Canadian Grand Prix Facts:
This year’s race is the 43rd Canadian Grand Prix and 33rd to be held in Montreal.
Michael Schumacher has won seven times in Canada, more than any other driver. The only country where he has won more times is France (eight wins).
Schumacher has been on the podium in Montreal 12 times in 17 starts there and been on pole six times.
In the past decade, only three races in Canada have been won from pole position (Alonso in 2006, Hamilton in 2007 and 2010).
McLaren’s Hamilton has raced four times in Canada, been on pole three times and won twice. He took his first grand prix win at the circuit in 2007.
Ferrari have won 11 times at a circuit named after their late great Gilles Villeneuve, who died 30 years ago, but not since 2004.
Red Bull have never won in Montreal.
The circuit, with long, high-speed straights and slow corners, is hard on brakes and engines with 60 percent of the lap at full throttle.
The notorious ‘Wall of Champions’ after the final chicane is so named for the big names who have crashed into it in past races. The list of victims includes Michael Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve, Damon Hill, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel.
Last year’s rain-hit race in Montreal was Formula One’s longest ever, ending after four hours, four minutes and 39.537 seconds.
Jenson Button to be fastest in First Practice: 12/1 each way (currently ¼ the place odds for top 3 with Paddy Power).
Michael Schumacher to win: 12/1 each way (although numerous bookies have him at 12/1 I’d suggest using Ladbrokes as they’re offering ¼ the place odds for top 3).
Di Resta at 5/2 with Paddy Power for a points finish is worth checking out.
Mercedes at 9/2 (BlueSq.com) for highest scoring team could be a bit of value too if they perform to expectation.