The Canadian Grand Prix Preview - hunting the hat trick 05 Jun 2008
Back in the lead of the world championship after his victory in Monaco, McLarens Lewis Hamilton is determined to become 2008s first three-time winner on the circuit at which he took his maiden Grand Prix triumph last season, as the Formula One circus moves to Canada.
Ferraris Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa are similarly searching for their third victory of the season and after the Italian teams disappointing Monte Carlo result, both will be out to make amends at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Winning at Monaco is the highlight of my career, it was a very emotional victory for me as it is something I have dreamed of since I was a kid, says Hamilton. I will never forget the moment, but now my only focus is Canada. We have good momentum right now and we are pushing to keep that going and to keep developing.
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is one of my favourite tracks and following last year it is a very special place for me. I hope that we will be quick there again this year. It is renowned for its difficult track surfaces, particularly with tyre graining, and the walls. Despite being very fast, it can feel like a street circuit with the barriers very close, but it is good fun to drive.
Twelve months on from his first pole position and victory, Hamilton reflected recently on how his career has developed.
Last year in Canada was one of the biggest accomplishments of my life, to take my maiden pole and victory in Formula One was incredible. Since then I think Ive matured a lot. I have grown stronger as a driver and have become closer to the team.
Similar things might be said of Massa, who is beginning to emerge as a real force at Ferrari. I think we have gone very well in the recent test at Paul Ricard, with the car set-up for Canada, the Brazilian says. I think we will be a lot better there than we were last year, and I think we can fight for the win.
Team mate Kimi Raikkonen, who won in Montreal for McLaren in 2005, needs a strong result after Monaco. He is convinced the F2008 will work better than last year around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, when Ferrari had a relatively poor Canadian Grand Prix, with the Finn taking fifth place and Massa being disqualified for a pit lane infringement.
Traditionally Canada is a good race for Ferrari, says Raikkonen, so let's hope that we can continue this tradition. It's possible to have strange races there, too, because it's very possible that the safety car will be employed, but we're ready for every kind of situation.
Meanwhile, the BMW Sauber pairing of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld (a podium finisher here in 2007), are also hungry, the German-Swiss team currently just a point shy of second-placed McLaren in the constructor standings.
"Last year's race was very special for me, Heidfeld says. We put in a very strong showing in 2007. I came third in qualifying and finished second in the race on my own merit. Initially that result was obviously overshadowed by Robert's accident. Only when we knew he was okay were we able to celebrate.
The Pole says that he has no qualms about the place despite the massive accident that befell him here in 2007.
I don't think there will be any emotions for me, he says. Like always at every Grand Prix I will try to do my best. And after the accident of last year there was no effect - there was no effect until now so I dont expect anything.
The teams always run low downforce here because of the long straights, so mechanical grip becomes even more important. Brake performance and durability is also critical, as this is the toughest circuit of the season in that respect.
"It is very heavy on the brakes and we have to pay special attention to make sure they last the race, says Heikki Kovalainen, who will be looking for his first victory with McLaren. It is also definitely key to a good lap at this track to be able to ride the kerbs well; basically you are trying to straight-line them so you can go faster through the corner. The most important thing is being able to take those bumps and the hits well and for it not to disrupt the car too much. So in general the car needs to be quite soft."
The track has been modified at the point on the back straight where Kubica crashed. The wall that he hit on the outside has been moved closer to the track to reduce the angle of impact if a car goes off there in a similar accident. Improved debris fencing has also been added to reduce the possibility of debris being thrown across the wall into the path of cars exiting the hairpin.
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve gets little use during the year so the surface tends to be very slippery until it cleans up with use and rubbers in. Thereafter, the grip level increases significantly.
Bridgestone will have their soft and super-soft tyres again, as in Monaco, but the indications from the weather forecasts are that they may well need their wet-weather rubber instead. A chance of thunderstorms is predicted for all three racing days.