Michael Schumacher's suspension failure at Monaco has thrown the title race wide open. Had his Ferrari made it to the finish, Schumacher would currently hold a massive 26-point lead in the championship. But it didn't, and David Coulthard's win...
Michael Schumacher's suspension failure at Monaco has thrown the title race wide open. Had his Ferrari made it to the finish, Schumacher would currently hold a massive 26-point lead in the championship. But it didn't, and David Coulthard's win reduced the German's advantage in the championship to just 12 points.
If the Scot has serious title aspirations, and he's made it clear that he does, now is the time for him to show them. He has looked more focused and determined than ever this year, but has to out-perform team-mate Mika Hakkinen as he did in Monaco if McLaren is to throw its weight behind a Coulthard championship bid.
Montreal is an ideal place to start. Coulthard has a miserable record in Canada, with fourth in 1996 his best result. Schumacher, however, has won the race three times ('94, '97 and '98), finished second twice, and has been on pole on four occasions.
The layout of the Montreal circuit seems to favour Schumacher's aggressive, pressing style. To set a quick lap a driver really has to attack the kerbs and carry as much speed as possible through the chicanes onto the short straights.
The current course design dates back to 1996. Before that the track was a series of tight corners linked by long, fast straights. This made the track a real car breaker -- especially tough on brakes and engines.
The track was re-designed in the safety revolution that swept across F1 in the mid-1990s. In 1994, temporary chicanes were installed, and two years later the permanent versions that exist today were introduced. The track is still tough on cars though, as Heinz-Harald Frentzen discovered when crashed out in the dying laps of last year's race after a brake disc shattered. After fourth place in Monaco, Jaguar is hunting more points
The track is named after Gilles Villeneuve, the legendary French-Canadian Ferrari driver, and is situated on an island on the St Lawrence River. It held its first race in 1978, when local hero Villeneuve drove a superb race to score his first ever victory.
Despite the track's relatively high speeds, it is actually a street course and the close proximity of the perimeter wall can be very unforgiving, as Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve and Damon Hill all found to their cost last year. Schumacher's crash handed the race to Mika Hakkinen, and the Finn desperately needs a repeat result this year if he is to win his third world title. Hakkinen looked out of sorts at Monaco, but he is sure to bounce back after such a miserable race.
The Jordans were very competitive around the streets of Monte Carlo, and ought to bring that form over to Montreal. Frentzen ran a strong race in Canada last year, however, the team's poor reliability must be addressed if the drivers are to be real challengers. Reliability has not been a problem for Benetton, and Giancarlo Fisichella has finished every race this year. The Italian has a great record in Canada, and over the past three years he has finished third, second and second. If he qualifies well he could be in for another good result.
After Eddie Irvine's fourth place in Monaco, Jaguar Racing will be hoping for another points-scoring performance. Irvine has been on the podium three times in Canada; including his first ever top-three finish in 1995. Last year he finished third and set fastest lap as he charged through the field after an early spin. Johnny Herbert equalled his best ever result at the track when he finished fifth a year ago -- his first points of the '99 season.
Other drivers who ought to go well are BAR's Jacques Villeneuve, who always likes to put on a good show in front of his home fans, and Ralf Schumacher, who's been in good form this season for Williams. However, Schumacher might not race in Canada, as the cut he sustained at Monaco is worse than first thought. If Schumacher is forced to miss the race, Brazilian F3000 driver Bruno Junqueira will take his place.