More Honda horsepower in bid to stop Ferrari
Jenson Button and Takuma Sato will have a further revised Honda V10 engine to play with this weekend at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on the Ile Notre Dame in Montreal, eighth round of the 2004 FIA Formula One World Championship. But will it be sufficient to put the Anglo-Japanese team ahead of Ferrari at the chequered flag?
Since Nurburgring all of the major teams have been hard at it, testing either at Silverstone or at Monza (in some cases at both). The results were interesting, with Sauber coming out on top in Italy, courtesy of Giancarlo Fisichella, and Jaguars Mark Webber pipping Sato in England. What does that mean? Well have to wait and see.
Certainly, Ferrari start the favourites as usual. As Michael Schumacher demonstrated so convincingly in Germany a fortnight ago, it barely matters whether he runs heavy or light in qualifying, the end result is usually the same: victory. There is no reason whatsoever to suggest that Ferrari will be anything other than highly competitive this weekend.
BAR, however, are placing great hope in that latest version of the Honda V10, which is expected to have another 10 bhp. That may not sound much, but its a big jump on what is already suspected by many to be the most powerful engine in Formula One racing.
"We were very strong in free practice at the Nurburgring, but it showed how important it is to qualify well, Button says. I didn't get a very good lap in qually and this made it very difficult for me in the race. Having said that, to not have a good race and still be able to get a podium shows our strength. I'm very confident as we head to Canada. The performance of the tyres should be good at this track and I think the car will work well. We also have another step with the engine which will help us as this is a power circuit.
"The track also demands a car which, mechanically, is very strong - and our car is. There are a lot of very slow chicanes in addition to the long straights. The step with the engine should be an improvement for us. We know it's going to be quick, but we don't know by how much yet. My aim is to get on the podium and this is a race I would love to win, given the chance."
As Sato points out, there are similarities between Montreal and Imola, where BAR were highly competitive, So I'm feeling confident and eager to pick up where I left off at the Nurburgring two weeks ago."
A schedule of four races in six weeks has been pretty gruelling for the teams, especially with testing in between, but with five podiums so far this season BAR are very optimistic of adding another, possibly even their first victory. One of the most important aims of their weekend, however, is to finish both cars in the points to try and catch Renault, who have enjoyed terrific reliability in finishing both cars in every race bar Monaco, where Fernando Alonso crashed. In theory Montreal should suit Renault, even though the long straights from the hairpin to Turn One place a premium on top-end horsepower.
Likewise, Williams should be strong here. They have won the race in the recent past and will have some aerodynamic revisions and minor mechanical updates for this year.
Renault are also expecting a performance boost, thanks to an engine update. New camshaft profiles are among the features that have realised the team's horsepower boost of the season.
The heavily revised McLaren MP4-19B ran at Silverstone last week, where Kimi Raikkonen was able to post some competitive lap times, but the team have taken the decision not to bring the new car to either Montreal or Indianapolis next week. It is not known whether this decision was influenced by the cars performance, or by the logistical problems associated with running a car for which spare parts may as yet be relatively scarce. Its race debut is now scheduled for the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, in July.
Sauber will have some further aero modifications on their C23, while Jaguar are feeling more confident after their Silverstone test and believe they have got to the bottom of the starting problems that dogged Webber in Germany. Toyota, Jordan and Minardi will all have small specification changes to their cars.
Montreal is considered a medium downforce circuit. With speeds of over 330 kph on the straights and a number of slow corners, both power and excellent braking performance are essential. As part of their preparations all the teams have been testing their latest brake cooling specifications. These will be combined with the hardest pads and discs in order to cope with the frequent and heavy loadings the brakes must endure.
Other factors teams must consider in deciding their race strategy are overtaking, the track surface and the weather. Passing is not at all uncommon at Montreal, in particular going into or exiting the chicane, while its smooth tarmac means teams can run relatively soft rubber. However tyre performance can vary dramatically with only a small change in temperature and changeable weather is often a feature of the Canadian Grand Prix weekend.