Canadian GP: BAR preview

After the highs and lows of Monaco, the Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda team heads west, across the Atlantic, to Canada and the cosmopolitan city of Montreal. The 2003 Air Canada Grand Prix will be the 25th F1 race held in the city and the eighth...

After the highs and lows of Monaco, the Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda team heads west, across the Atlantic, to Canada and the cosmopolitan city of Montreal. The 2003 Air Canada Grand Prix will be the 25th F1 race held in the city and the eighth Canadian Grand Prix for local hero, Jacques Villeneuve. This race is also a milestone for B*A*R as it will be the team's 75th Formula One Grand Prix.

Monaco was a difficult weekend for B*A*R. Thursday's running showed them to be on the pace of the top teams, but on Saturday morning Jenson Button had a big accident whilst exiting the Tunnel during a free practice session. This resulted in his retirement from the remainder of the Grand Prix weekend.

After qualifying in 11th place with a significant level of fuel, Jacques Villeneuve was showing strong pace during the race itself but ultimately retired in the late stages with an engine failure. The team has conducted a comprehensive test at Monza since Monaco and is now looking forward to the challenges of Montreal. Jenson Button is fully fit for the Canadian Grand Prix.

The Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve is a demanding, low downforce track, requiring heavy braking and smooth power delivery. The race has a fairly high rate of attrition due to first corner incidents and a well- deserved reputation as a car-breaker. The track is situated a stone's throw from downtown Montreal which takes on a carnival atmosphere during Grand Prix weekend.

In his first Canadian Grand Prix in 1996, Jacques Villeneuve finished on the podium in second place. Since then he has had no luck at the circuit named after his father. He retired during the early stages of last year's race after qualifying in a solid ninth place. B*A*R also has a love-hate relationship with the Montreal track - the team's best finish here is eighth place for Olivier Panis in 2002, and eighth for Ricardo Zonta in 2000.

Jacques Villeneuve:

"We worked on the new engine for Montreal at our test in Monza. The car looks good in low downforce trim, so we should be competitive in Canada. Although we have had a lot of reliability issues at most of the past races this season, I am looking forward to the race in Montreal. Hopefully we will have a more positive weekend compared to the ones we have already had."

"The race track is not that interesting during qualifying because the corners are slow and there are a few chicanes, but it is great for the race. There is some heavy braking, which allows for plenty of overtaking opportunities."

"Montreal is a fantastic location for the grand prix. The race track is in a nice spot and we, as drivers, are closer to the crowds than at most tracks. Races in Montreal have always been very exciting."

Jenson Button:

"After my crash in Monaco I'm looking forward to getting back on track in Canada and hoping the weekend goes a bit more smoothly for me! It's a funny circuit as it's just a few long straights divided up by tight chicanes, so it's a case of full throttle, hard on the brakes, full throttle, hard on the brakes, and so on."

"The track is pretty dirty at the start of the weekend so it's vital to be one of the last runners in Saturday's qualifying session. This means it's important for us to get a good spot on Friday. Given the car's performance so far this year I think it will be well-suited to Montreal, so I'm confident we can have a good crack at the points this weekend. I'm happy to report that I feel fine and I'm ready for Montreal!"

David Richards, Team Principal:

"Twelve months ago we arrived in Canada with a significant upgrade package and, one year on, it is clear that we have made steady progress. The team should be proud of their efforts."

"Monaco was a tough weekend for us with extraordinary highs and lows and, after the pace we showed, it was disappointing to come away empty-handed. I'm pleased that Jenson is now fully fit and ready to get back on track in Canada, and I hope that Jacques' luck will finally change so he can have a good race in front of his home crowd."

"The Montreal circuit is tough on the cars as you are either hard on the throttle or hard on the brakes throughout the lap. There is a fairly high rate of attrition and strategy will be key here as the safety car makes regular appearances at this race. We're confident that the work we have done in testing this week, particularly with the latest specification of the Honda engine, will stand us in good stead for Canada."

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director:

"The Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve is an interesting challenge, being part street circuit and part permanent road course. The circuit is dominated by two fast straights broken by chicanes, a very tight first- gear hairpin and a set of flowing medium-speed corners at the beginning of the lap. Because the track is only used once a year it is very dirty at the start of the weekend, which means there is little grip for Friday's Practice Session."

"It does however improve during the weekend as more rubber is laid down. The lap time is relatively insensitive to downforce level, though there is clearly a trade-off between the ability to overtake and stability and traction out of the slow-speed corners. Here, the car needs to change direction well in the chicanes and handle the bumps, as well as being stable under heavy braking. It will be the hardest track for brakes until we get to Monza, so the team will run the largest brake ducts and highest performance brake material we have."

"At this race a year ago, we introduced a significant aero and gearbox update package and, since that time, we have made huge progress in all areas. We have seen a dramatic improvement in the car design and build quality, as well as in aerodynamic performance. Honda have also made substantial progress with the engine, which is now getting close to the top of the grid in terms of power. The first half of the season has seen the team regularly qualify in the top six on Fridays and several times in the top three. Reliability has however prevented us from capitalising on the car's performance."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:

"Testing with the new specification engine in Monza this week has gone well, and we're looking forward to seeing what we can do in Montreal."

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jenson Button , Olivier Panis , Jacques Villeneuve , Ricardo Zonta , Gilles Villeneuve , David Richards , Shuhei Nakamoto