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Canada Preview - Groundhog Day for Red Bull? 10 Jun 2010

Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB6 and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/25 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Race, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Sunday, 30 May 2010 The cars head off on the parade lap. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 8 June 2008 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Race, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Sunday, 30 May 2010 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Race, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Sunday, 30 May 2010 Robert Kubica (POL) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Wednesday, 12 May 2010

There isn’t a team in the paddock that isn’t welcoming the return to North America, and everyone is excited about the prospect of racing once again on the 4.361-kilometre (2.709-mile) Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Montreal’s Ile Notre Dame.

Some, however, which includes Red Bull who hitherto have taken all seven 2010 pole positions, expect it to be a cakewalk for McLaren. That’s because the strategy is always to minimise downforce here because of the long straights, which will particularly favour their top speed as their F-duct which is working much better than Mercedes’, Red Bull’s, Ferrari’s or Force India’s.

It may also help BMW Sauber, who are quite pleased with theirs. The low downforce also makes mechanical grip extremely important, for drive out of the twisty corners out the back, out of the hairpin as it dictates pace on the back straight, and out of the last corner as it dictates pace on the pit straight. Braking performance, stability and durability are also critical, as Montreal is the hardest circuit of the season in that respect, and the engines take a beating too.

“It’s fantastic to be going back to Montreal after a year away,” world champion Jenson Button says. “I think everyone in Formula One loves the city, the people and the track, so it’s very fitting that we’re heading back - particularly during one of the best seasons we’ve had for years. Looking back at the pace of the Turkish Grand Prix, which was run pretty much flat-out from start to finish, it’s going to be interesting to see how Canada plays out.

“It’s an extremely fast circuit, but it isn’t a place that tolerates even the slightest mistake - because of the proximity of the concrete walls. The track configuration should suit the MP4-25; it’s got a couple of slowish corners that lead on to long straights, so we should be able to use the combination of the Mercedes-Benz engine and our aero package to be competitive in both qualifying and the race.”

Turkish Grand Prix winner - and fellow McLaren driver - Lewis Hamilton scored his maiden Formula One victory here in his debut season in 2007, and loves the place.

“2007 seems like such a long time ago, but I still have some absolutely fantastic memories of that weekend: the pole position, the crazy number of safety cars, the uncertainty in the final laps, and then, at last, crossing the line, which just a massive feeling of relief and amazement at the same time,” said Hamilton.

“It was fantastic. Returning for 2010 is great, because it’s such a fast, demanding and unforgiving circuit - I love racing here. It’s an incredibly tough track - even if you can avoid the walls, which are really close and exciting at some places, the surface is very treacherous offline because of all the marbles. It’s a place where you don’t want to make even a tiny mistake.”

Especially when you are exiting the pits and don’t see a red light and crash into the back of Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari, as Hamilton did here last time out…

Ferrari are hopeful that the low-downforce nature of the track will give them a better chance than they had in Turkey, where they were really struggling, while Mercedes GP’s team principal Ross Brawn sounded a cautious note when he said: "Looking back at our last race in Turkey, the team and drivers performed well throughout the weekend to achieve our highest points score of the season, however we are simply not yet quick enough. We know the solution, the continuation of our hard work and application, and we will keep pushing. The circuit is an interesting one from an engineering perspective and should be a track where our slow to medium-speed performance, good braking stability and strong engine performance will be an asset."

Nothing about top speed there… Brawn has admitted, however, that their F-duct is still not turning off enough drag on the straight.

Renault are also feeling bullish. Robert Kubica has good and bad memories of this place, having had the biggest crash of his career here in 2007, and then scoring the only Grand Prix victory of his career so far here in 2008.

“Right now we have to get everything perfect to jump ahead of Mercedes,” Kubica said, “but I think our race pace is quite similar, maybe even quicker, so it’s important we close the gap. We have some more updates coming along in the next few races, which I hope will give us a chance to do that.

“I’m glad that after a year’s break we are returning to Montreal. I enjoy driving there and I like the characteristics of the track. It’s kind of a mix between a high and low-speed track because there are big braking zones and some long straights where top speed is important. We haven’t been to a track with these characteristics yet, so we will have to wait and see how all the teams perform here.

“Also, because it’s not a permanent track, the grip level changes quite quickly during the weekend and you can push more with each lap, which always feels nice. I think the car should work well in Montreal so I’m quite confident we can go there and get a strong result. It would be great if we could repeat the performance we showed in Monaco and fight for the podium.”

The track has been resurfaced in various areas, especially the hairpin where there was evidence of degradation the last time the cars ran here in 2008. The run-off areas at Turns Six and Eight, the chicanes out the back, have been laid with asphalt, and some of the guardrails also have more posts for greater security.

As the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is little used for the rest of the year the surface tends to be very slippery until it cleans up with use, which means that Friday times will be slower until it ‘rubbers in’ fully and the level of grip increases significantly.

Bridgestone will have their medium and super-soft tyres this time out, just as they did in Monaco, but there is a possibility that the weather might play a role in tyre choice, with possible showers predicted in the region throughout the weekend.