MONTREAL, Thursday, June 7, 2001 - Of the 22 drivers competing in this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix, four are getting a little more attention than the rest from the fans and the media: Jacques Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya, David Coulthard and...
MONTREAL, Thursday, June 7, 2001 - Of the 22 drivers competing in this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix, four are getting a little more attention than the rest from the fans and the media: Jacques Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya, David Coulthard and Michael Schumacher.
Sunday's race, round eight of 17 in this year's FIA Formula One World Championship, marks the first of two visits the Formula One teams will pay to North America this season. They will return for the second annual SAP United States Grand Prix on Sept. 30 at Indianapolis.
Canadian native Villeneuve is a favorite of the sellout crowd that will cheer on their hometown hero who has a World Championship, an Indianapolis 500 victory and a CART championship on his resume. Colombian Montoya also is a fan favorite after racing for two years in North America and winning the CART championship in 1999 and the Indianapolis 500 last year.
And everybody will watch Germany's Schumacher and Scotland's Coulthard as they continue their battle for the World Championship.
Villeneuve hopes his good luck continues after finishing third in the recent Spanish Grand Prix and fourth in the Monaco Grand Prix in his Lucky Strike British American Racing-Honda.
"There have been highs and lows this year," Villeneuve said. "It started out tough, but we had good races in Spain and Monaco. We're more competitive now than we were last year. And I hope we used up all our bad luck early in the season. We had a good race in Monaco, so to come in here after a good week is encouraging. It's always special to race in Montreal."
Said BAR-Honda Director Craig Pollock: "This is probably the biggest race of the year for British American Racing, obviously with Jacques being Canadian and all the Canadians being behind him. But I think it's like any other race, we're just here to do our best. Unfortunately, up until now our best hasn't been good enough, so let's just hope the changes are going to be there."
Montoya believes he and his Williams-BMW teammate Ralf Schumacher should be competitive this weekend. "It should be a pretty good weekend," Montoya said. "We did a lot of work in the test at Monza last week. The team has a pretty good shot at winning this race. We are looking forward to a good race here."
Montoya arrived in North America early before this race. He spent two days in Miami jet-skiing with his family and also went to see the film "Pearl Harbor" with his parents. Coulthard also came to Montreal early to attend the opening of Villeneuve's new restaurant, Newtown. "I came out on Saturday to Jacques' restaurant opening," Coulthard said. "As I turned up a little bit late, I didn't get the chance to try the food, but it's obviously popular because when I tried to book a table I was declined! But it looks great, and he has some great-looking waitresses. Since then, I've just been training and keeping a low profile in my hotel room."
With four wins and two second places in his Ferrari so far this season, Michael Schumacher heads the championship with 52 points. Coulthard, who has two wins and has never finished lower than fifth in the first seven races in his West McLaren-Mercedes, is second with 40 points.
Coulthard has always been competitive at the Montreal circuit, but for a variety of reasons he has only scored one fourth and one fifth place in his seven starts. Schumacher, meanwhile, has won four times, finished second twice and fifth once in his nine starts in Canada.
"Although I like Canada," Schumacher said, "I can't say that the circuit is a particular favorite of mine. But I have always gone quite well here. I am not even sure that the circuit suits my style of driving. I prefer high-speed corners, and there are none of them here.
"So I can't find any real explanation as to why I have been successful here in the past. But I am optimistic that I can maintain my good record this time, as well."
Set in a park-like atmosphere on an island in the St. Lawrence River, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is located against the backdrop of the city of Montreal. It's one of the favorite venues for many F1 teams and fans.
"I always look forward to Montreal because I really like the city, and it has a fantastic atmosphere," said Jordan-Honda driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen.