The Canadian Grand Prix kicks off the next round of back-to-back races, with the US GP at Indianapolis following just a week later. Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a lower downforce, high speed track, although something of a stop-and-go ...
The Canadian Grand Prix kicks off the next round of back-to-back races, with the US GP at Indianapolis following just a week later. Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a lower downforce, high speed track, although something of a stop-and-go circuit; it's heavy on the brakes as fast sections are often followed by low-speed corners.
The track has been resurfaced since last season and Michelin's Pierre Dupasquier believes the conditions will "evolve significantly" over the weekend. "Our engineers have taken a look at the track and their research indicates that the asphalt won't be particularly abrasive," he said. "That said, it is completely new and has yet to be tested by any racing cars."
Similar to Monaco with its close barriers, there are some parts of the Montreal track where it's all too easy to make a mistake. "You do a lot of running close to the concrete walls on the back section of the circuit, so you need very good balance to give you the confidence to get the lap time," said Sauber technical director Willy Rampf.
For engines, a high percentage of a lap of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is spent at full throttle and there is also the long straight. "For the V10, Montreal sets a simple challenge: the engine must be as powerful as possible," stated Renault's R?mi Taffin, Fernando Alonso's engine race engineer.
While the flat out sections are perhaps not particularly stressful for an engine, the change from high speed sections to slow corners is more of a consideration. The circuit has a reputation of being a car breaker and with many drivers using an engine that has already competed in one race, the attrition rate could be high.
Montreal is a popular venue and it's Jacques Villeneuve's home event, at the circuit named after his father. "Montreal is a special race for me," he commented. "That's not only because this is my home race so it feels special to come here, but because there are many great aspects to this event. The track is located in a very nice area and the crowd is fantastic."
Alonso has become something of a fixture at the top of the drivers' standings and had a lucky win in Europe, which put him even further ahead of McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen, who crashed out when leading. The Spaniard believes a podium or perhaps the win should be possible in Montreal.
"I said after the Nurburgring that during the race, the car had felt good to drive again -- I could attack all the way to the end of the race, and did not have to be defensive like in Spain and Monaco," he remarked. "I hope that will be true again in Canada."
Raikkonen insisted he had no regrets about not opting for a tyre change in Europe, despite the fact that it cost him dearly. The further repercussions are that the Finn will be out early in Saturday's qualifying, which will put him at a disadvantage. However, McLaren has the speed to perform well at a circuit like Montreal.
Nick Heidfeld has certainly been performing well for Williams, with a second place at each of the last two races. Teammate Mark Webber never made it past the first corner in Europe and both drivers are still suffering from less than optimal starts, something Williams has been working on.
"A lot of further investigation by BMW and WilliamsF1 has gone into our starts so we hope to improve upon the current situation," said technical director Sam Michael. The FW27 will also have some aerodynamic upgrades this weekend, mostly at the front and rear wings.
Ferrari is still having a tough time but Rubens Barrichello made it onto the podium with third at the N?rburgring. "I still think we have a chance of winning in Canada," the Brazilian remarked. "We might just get the right tyre and win the race, it might rain and we might win the race, or we might win the race. I want to win the race!"
At the time of writing the weather forecast for the Montreal weekend was indeed for at least some rain, but we will have to wait and see. David Coulthard had a good run for Red Bull in Europe and came home fourth. This weekend Christian Klien returns to competition alongside the Scot, after a four race stint on third driver duties.
Tonio Liuzzi will be sidelined in favour of American Scott Speed in the third driver role. Speed does not agree with the general opinion that American's don't really care for F1. "It is a common misconception that people in America are not interested in F1," he said. "Interest in F1 in the States is definitely growing."
Toyota did not fare so well in Europe; Ralf Schumacher spun off to end his race, while Jarno Trulli had to serve a drive-through penalty because his mechanics spent too long on the grid after the 15 second warning signal. However, Trulli and the team remain in a solid third place in the drivers' and constructors' standings.
"In the past, we have enjoyed a reasonable level of performance at Montreal," said Toyota technical director Mike Gascoyne. "Given the speed and reliability of the TF105 this season, we have to look to get a strong podium finish."
BAR has still yet to open its scorecard this season. Jenson Button and Takuma Sato both finished outside the points in Europe, hampered from the start by early qualifying runs resulting in grid positions outside the top ten. The will be out a little later on Saturday afternoon and looking for an improved result.
"There are some reasonably good overtaking opportunities and so the drivers and the fans should be able to look forward to a great race," said Button. "We ran quite well there last year, finishing in fourth, so we are hoping for an improvement in our performance this week."
Jordan is battling on at the rear of the grid but hopes perhaps for a bit of luck this weekend, as Montreal is the home race for the company which owns the team. "We would like to do especially well in Canada, which is the home base of the Midland Group," said sporting director Trevor Carlin.
One would have to imagine that Renault and McLaren will be set against each other near the front again this weekend in Canada, and it would be nice to see Giancarlo Fisichella and Juan Pablo Montoya shrug off the bad luck and mishaps they have had recently to join their teammates in the fight for the win.
However, Williams has also been at the sharp end recently and Toyota is hanging in there, so while Renault and McLaren perhaps look the stronger teams it's by no means a foregone conclusion one of them will take the victory. It's harder than ever this season to make predictions and if the weather decides to join in, anything could happen.