The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is in direct contrast to the Circuit de Monaco where 2014 Formula 1 cars last raced at. The Canadian circuit boasts long straights followed by slow corners and chicanes, thus rewarding cars with more power. The configuration for this circuit is very similar to that of Spa and Monza - two of the lowest downforce tracks of the calendar. By this time, you would have already interpreted that Mercedes powered cars are likely to enjoy a massive advantage over their Renault and Ferrari powered counterparts. However, free practice two showed a different story with the works Mercedes just four tenths ahead of Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel on a single lap and not enjoying a major advantage in long runs either. So what’s the reason behind the less than expected gap between the German manufacturer and its rivals?
Well, most teams found out that the gap between the supersoft tyre and the soft tyre was somewhere around a second in Canada. However, Mercedes were able to extract only five extra tenths off a second from supersoft tyre, clearly indicating that they were running on high fuel during qualifying runs. If we add this half a second to the laptimes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, they march ahead of their rivals with a significant margin.
As far as the intra-team battle is concerned, Hamilton was two-tenths quicker than Rosberg in the long runs, continuing to show his expertise around this North American track. However, don't discount Rosberg yet. The German has sorted the issues he's had with his race starts and with DRS, it wouldn't be too difficult for him to pass the British driver on track.
As you might have already noticed, Williams of Felipe Massa looked extremely strong in the long runs with the Brazilian once dipping into 1:18s before a ‘cool-down’ lap. And while there’s no doubt that the Grove based squad has a strong chance of a podium finish at Montreal, the Brazilian's long run pace is somewhat deceptive as Massa did fewer laps than many of his rivals on options tyres, thus having more life in them at the end of the session.
Behind Williams, expect a toe-to-toe fight between Red Bull and Ferrari after the latter brought major upgrades to this race with the hope of peeping the former in the constructors stake. It would be interested to see which Ferrari drivers come on top this weekend. In Monaco, Kimi Raikkonen seemingly headed for a podium finish ahead of Fernando Alonso before a puncture caused by Max Chilton ruined his chances of beating the Spaniard for the first time this season. This weekend, Raikkonen was marginally faster than Alonso on a single lap but significantly faster than the two-time world champion when it came to long runs.
Force India, who were cautiously optimistic about their chances of a podium finish in Canada, might well have to resort to lower point scoring positions if Friday long runs are anything to go by. The semi-permanent facility on Saint Lawrence river has traditionally suited Force India but any chance of repeating their Bahrain result seems minimal.
And finally McLaren seemed to be the slowest Mercedes powered cars on Friday, however, they would be hoping to finish in points on a track where they have recorded 13 Grand Prix wins - more than any other constructor in F1 history.