Formula 1 leaves behind the glitz and glamour of Monaco and travels across the Atlantic Ocean for the seventh round of the 2014 Formula 1 season - the Canadian Grand Prix.
The North American country first hosted a Grand Prix back in 1961 at the Mosport Park in Ontario, but it’s the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve(originally known as Île Notre-Dame Circuit) which has had the privilege of hosting every single Canadian Grand Prix since 1978(bar 1987 and 2009 when the race was not held at all). The inaugural race at this semi-permanent facility was won by home hero Gilles Villeneuve on whom the track was later renamed in 1982 following his tragic death at Zolder.
The 4.3km circuit is built on Ile Notre-Dame, a man-made island on Saint-Lawrence river, the third longest river in Canada. The circuit is in direct contrast to Monaco with the configuration of the track very similar to that of Spa and Monza - two of the lowest downforce tracks on the calendar. The track packs 14 corners and four long straights which are usually followed by chicanes. The wall of champions is the most famous corner having entrapped the likes of Michael Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve, Damon Hill and Sebastian Vettel, among others. Last year, drivers reached speeds up to 322 km/hr in the speed trap and going by the trend this season, that figure is likely to rise by at least 15-20 km/hr.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo explains in a simple and a humorous way as to how to perfect the Canadian Circuit: "Give the wall a kiss and you feel pretty good: kiss it too hard and that's it!"
Hamilton-Rosberg and other intra-team battles likely to steal the show
An old saying suggests that there is no space for friendship in love and war. And the saying holds true for the Mercedes pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg who’ve known each other since their karting days. Back in those days, they would have together dreamt of making it into Formula 1. Now that they’ve made it to the pinnacle of motorsport, things have changed. Both of them are aware that only one of them will lift the world title at the end of the season and neither of them would leave a stone unturned to be the one who stands on top of the rostrum at the FIA prize giving gala.
We need not remind you what happened at the Monaco Grand Prix, or the series of events that preceded the race. What should be given more focus is that Lewis Hamilton was letting the frustration get on top of him, while Nico Rosberg made most of his controversial pole position to take the race win comprehensively(while the pole position was controversial, in our opinion, Rosberg’s off at Mirabeau was no way deliberate).
Now the duo arrives in Canada, a track which suits Hamilton with the Brit recording three memorable wins at the semi-permanent circuit. He would be gunning to win his fifth win of the season at Montreal and consequently retake the lead in the standings from his German teammate. Rosberg, meanwhile, has successfully broken Hamilton’s momentum and although he has never finished higher than fifth in Canada, one must note that he’s never had a car capable of high point scoring finishing results at the circuit. If Rosberg manages to win at Montreal, it will be a major blow for Lewis Hamilton but the 29 year old Brit knows that if he gets everything right, he can be virtually unbeatable at a circuit where he took his first Grand Prix win.
While the Mercedes pairing is making more noise than pretty much anything at the moment, coming into the season, everyone expected the intra-team battle at Ferrari to grab headlines. However, six races into the season and it’s mostly been a one man’s affair with Alonso seemingly dominating his Finnish teammate. And while at Monaco, Kimi Raikkonen looked set to finish on the podium ahead of Fernando Alonso for the first time this season, his race was ruined by a puncture caused by Max Chilton during the safety car period.
The story at Red Bull is pretty much similar with Ricciardo, to even team’s surprise outperforming a driver who has dominated the sport since 2010. However, the main reason behind Vettel’s struggle is clear to everyone. To his defence, the four time world champion drove superbly at Spain from 15th on the grid to finish in fourth place, having battled with reliability all weekend. It would be interesting to see how the 26 year old fares against his Aussie teammate who is on a roll following two straight podium finishes.
Expect Mercedes to march ahead of rivals
A fortnight ago, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was right on the heels of the second Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton come the end of the race. In stark contrast, Mercedes drivers would hardly find a blue or a red car in their mirrors this weekend with the Canadian circuit rewarding the cars with more power.
Ferrari is bringing a major package to this race and it would be interesting to see whether it helps them pip Red Bull in terms of raw pace and in race trip.
Force India may spring a surprise this weekend and might be challenging for the ‘elusive’ final spot on the podium if Mercedes’ advantage over Ferrari and Renault powered cars turns out to be as big as it was in Bahrain a month ago. However, the Silverstone based team remains cautiously optimistic about their chances in Canada, if their pre-race press release is anything to go by.
Williams and McLaren would be hoping to make the most of this circuit due to varied reasons. After pre-season, Williams were expected to be the dark horse of the year, however when the actual season kicked off in Australia, team failed to maximise their car’s actual pace. McLaren come fresh from Monaco, having just broken their three race points drought. They’d be aiming to make the most of their Mercedes power unit as they continue to battle with Williams for fifth place in the constructors’ standings. McLaren has been the most successful team in world’s second largest country with 13 Grand Prix wins.
Further back, Lotus aren’t expecting a particularly good race, saying the circuit doesn’t play to the strengths of the E22. The team also needs to do something about Pastor Maldonado who has failed to show the glimpses of his old pace, let alone keeping himself away from the walls. Romain Grosjean, on the other hand, has behaved in a mature way and showed impressive pace in a car that is still hard to drive.
Toro Rosso haven’t scored a single point since April’s Chinese Grand Prix and are now level in points with fellow Renault runners Lotus. They scored a double retirement in Monaco.
Troubled times are likely to continue at Sauber who were pinning their hopes on the Barcelona upgrade. And despite cutting down 15-20 kg of weight from their car, apart from bringing aerodynamic updates, the Hinwil based squad is now in 10th place in the constructors standings following Marussia’s ninth place result around the Principality.
Marussia in turn are hoping to build on their ‘dream result’ while Caterham are fighting for their existence despite scoring their best ever result in Monaco a fortnight ago.
Tyre choice, DRS and other information
F1’s sole tyre manufacturer is bringing the red-marked supersoft tyre and the yellow-marked soft tyre this weekend. Last year, majority of the race completed the 70 lap race on a two-stop strategy with a few drivers having to resort to three-stops due to high tyre wear.
Despite being an overtaking friendly circuit without any artificial aids, FIA have installed two DRS zones at Montreal. The first of the two zones is between turn 12 and 13 while the second one is on the pit straight. Both zones share a single DRS detection point which is located some 100m ahead of turn 9.
Sun is likely to shine on Saturday and race day, however, that might not be the case during the first two practice sessions on Friday.