Formula 1’s European tour is briefly put on hold as twenty-two of the fastest drivers in the world arrive in Montreal, Canada. One thing I can say, there is a real buzz in the air – it seems the excitement of Monaco has travelled across the Atlantic.
And excited you may well be. I am sure we all remember Jenson Button’s last minute win in 2011 against all the odds? Or 1995, when Michael Schumacher generously gave his rival, Jean Alesi, a lift back to the pits? Canada may not be represented on the grid by a native driver but the Grand Prix does enough to secure its enduring presence on the Formula 1 calendar.
The first winner in Montreal was their home favourite, Gilles Villeneuve, in 1978. Rather fittingly, the circuit was renamed ‘Circuit Gilles Villeneuve’ following his premature death at the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix.
The circuit itself does not have the twists and turns of others; it only holds 13 corners to its name. This will not suit the Red Bull RB9 which specialises in high speed corners. It is instead, historically, McLaren and Ferrari who use their straight line speed to its full advantage. Indeed, the two teams share the record for the most constructors wins on a total of 13 each.
Rubens Barrichello is the long time ‘fastest lap’ record holder from 2004. The Brazilian pushed his Ferrari to a 1:13.622. The pole sitter from last year, Sebastian Vettel, came close to adding yet another record to his impressive haul – the German was just one tenth-of-a-second off this fastest time.
Maintaining a good line on the circuit is vital to ensuring a strong grid position – turns 3 and 4 are notoriously difficult and will push the drivers onto the kerb and near the wall for some edge-of-your-seat driving in Canada. In contrast, it is imperative that the drivers avoid the kerbs on the way to the ‘Wall of Champions’, this is one of few times when drivers do not want to join the same list as Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve. Interestingly, all three of these drivers endured the same fate in 1999.
If we are likely to see a McLaren resurgence and a return to their old form, Canada may be the appropriate backdrop. Jenson Button will be brimming with confidence following the “best win of his career” in 2011. His final lap in 2011 is the only lap the Brit has led in Canada during a 12 year Formula 1 career.
His team mate, Sergio Perez, may need to unleash his aggressive driving once again to replicate his podium last year from a 15th place qualifying.
For last year’s winner, Lewis Hamilton, a repeat of his victory does seem unlikely. Whilst you cannot discount either the Brit or Monaco victor, Nico Rosberg, from making it yet another pole position for Mercedes, the new improved, medium, tyre may not be used as the rain hits Montreal. Tyre wear for the German outfit has been key to their success and failures this year.
Canada usually produces a surprise result and gives the midfield teams an opportunity to gain big points ahead of their rivals; once the final chequered flag waves in Brazil, one point could amount to millions in funding for their 2014 model. In Formula 1, success breeds success. Don’t rule out the ever improving Force India, as they prepare for a monumental 100th Grand Prix.
My one to watch this weekend is Alexander Rossi. Be sure to keep an eye on the American’s times in the Caterham during FP1. In the wet conditions the Leafield outfit may be able to reproduce Giedo Van Der Garde’s surprise Q2 efforts in Monaco. Rossi, who is the team’s Reserve Driver, is a possibility to maintain a full time seat in 2014 or 2015 – this is his chance to put on a good show.
“I know this track, I have won there before. I am excited to drive on a circuit I know and I am thankful”.
Just one word of advice to the drivers: watch out for Ground hogs on the circuit, something Ralf Schumacher and Anthony Davidson know all too well.
IMAGES COURTESY OF THE BBC.