The Formula 1 fraternity departs for North America this week for the Canadian and United States double header, which kicks off with the Montreal round of the Championship next Sunday.
Following the opening five races of the season, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes leads the Constructors' World Championship with 76 points. Fernando Alonso and teammate Lewis Hamilton lie in first and second positions of the Drivers' standing respectively, both with 38 points.
FOUR FAST FACTS
What is the main characteristic of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve?
The track, which was named in the memory of the French-Canadian driver, comprises a number of very high speed straights punctuated by slow corners and hairpins, with the drivers braking hard from top speeds of up to 315km/h. The slowest corner is the L'Epingle hairpin, which is taken at 55km/h. To avoid losing time on the straights, this characteristic means that the cars need to have excellent corner balance to allow the drivers to get on the power as they are exiting the corners.
The nature of the track also sees the greatest demands with regards braking. Canada-specific brake packages are run, including an increased cooling capability and in addition the set-up of the car has to ensure excellent braking stability. Vodafone McLaren Mercedes spent time at the recent Paul Ricard test evaluating this area with Pedro de la Rosa at the wheel of the MP4-22. Finally, the location of the track can lead to significant head and tail winds, which have an effect on the performance of the cars.
How does the nature of the circuit affect Bridgestone Potenza tyre choice?
The track has relatively low grip levels and as a result, softer compound tyres tend to deliver the best performance as they provide the grip required. The surface is not massively abrasive, so it does not affect the performance greatly. The track is not a permanent racing circuit, and as a result it gets grippier during the weekend as more rubber is laid down.
What levels of downforce are used in Montreal?
At the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a low-medium downforce configuration is used. This is to ensure the cars can be as fast as possible on the long main straight. The low downforce and low grip conditions means that cornering is more of a challenge, and even though the turns are all largely low speed, it is still necessary to be very precise. The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes will also run a Montreal-specific aerodynamic package for the race in order to optimise performance.
When did the freight and the team depart for Canada?
The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes sea freight departed the UK for Canada in the week prior to the Spanish Grand Prix. The contents will cover both the Canadian and United States Grands Prix. It is scheduled to arrive on Friday 1st June. Air freight will leave the McLaren Technology Centre on Saturday 2nd June, arriving in Montreal on Sunday 3rd / Monday 4th.
"We have a great momentum in the team right now after such a fantastic result in Monaco, which is a positive way to be going into the North American double-header. There has been no opportunity to test since Monaco; however the team has been pushing hard off track to keep the momentum going. Until last year, I hadn't had great results in Canada, so it was fantastic to win there. It is always a tough race, and you see a lot of retirements because you are stressing the whole car with the high speeds and the hard braking zones."
"The track conditions also change over the race weekend, the grip levels improve as more rubber is laid and the dusty conditions. On race day, it is much better than Friday. We have some new packages on the car for Montreal; we are all pushing hard to attack and fight for more race victories. It is a good circuit to race on as there are a number of places you can overtake, which makes it more exciting for the drivers, teams and fans."
"The result in Monaco was great for everyone in the team, it was a dream result considering it was my first year there in a Formula 1 car, and it means we are going to North America at the top of both Championship tables. I cannot wait to get back on track and continue to focus on racing. This will be my debut at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, because of the chances there are to pass; it looks like a great track to compete on."
"It has some very distinctive characteristics, such as the low grip, the long straights, hard braking and so on, so my initial laps will focus on understanding all these and how best to drive the track to get good times. I have completed preparation work with my engineers at the McLaren Technology Centre specific to Canada and the US, and it will be great to finally take to the track here in Montreal."
Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula 1, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes:
"The Canadian Grand Prix is a very different event to the Monaco race. We go from the slowest, tightest track packed with corners on the calendar to a circuit that is all about long periods of power and braking. The MP4-22 performed incredibly well in Monte Carlo, however as the track conditions are poles apart, we are not going to Montreal with the same expectations."
"We go to Canada aiming to fight for the victory and to maintain our positions at the top of both the Constructors' and Drivers' Championships; however are realistic about the potential to dominate. The test at Paul Ricard prior to Monaco had two days of Canada running and useful intelligence was gained. It is going to be a tougher battle and the track is notoriously tough on race cars, but we will keep pushing."
Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
"The first three letters are almost the only things which the street circuits of Monaco and Montreal have in common. The layout of the track located at the Ile Notre Dame, the Olympic park of 1976, could hardly be more of a contrast to Monaco. Instead of maximum aero downforce as in Monaco, there will be only a little; instead of slow turns we will see fast corners, instead of short straights, there are long ones."
"The longest straight is the section between the L'Epingle hairpin and the chicane prior to start and finish; 1,100 metres or 15 seconds are run under full throttle. This is particularly demanding for brakes and engines; four times per lap, the drivers slow down from speeds of more than 300km/h to about 100km/h. During the test one and a half weeks before Monaco, our team completed an intensive test at the Paul Ricard circuit's long version to prepare for this race."