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Canada preview - who will be in seventh heaven? 07 Jun 2012

Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 12 June 2011 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/26. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, Friday, 10 June 2011 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Montreal, Canada, Saturday, 11 June 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Saturday, 26 May 2012 (L to R): Jessica Michibata (JPN), Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren celebrate.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 12 June 2011 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, Friday, 10 June 2011 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Saturday, 26 May 2012 Pirelli tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday, 22 April 2012 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari 150 Italia. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, Friday, 10 June 2011 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Montreal, Canada, Saturday, 11 June 2011 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 24 May 2012 Narain Karthikeyan (IND) Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT) F111.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, Friday, 10 June 2011 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Sauber C30.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, Friday, 10 June 2011

So, will we see a little bit more history made in Canada with a seventh winner in the seventh race? Or will McLaren’s Jenson Button, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, Williams’ Pastor Maldonado or Red Bull’s Mark Webber step up as 2012’s first repeat victor?

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, Lotus team mates Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean and Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher would all dearly love to stop them, and the truth is that all 10 drivers, plus perhaps Ferrari’s revitalised Felipe Massa, have a chance this weekend.

On paper this track should favour McLaren, who are still thought to have the best car aerodynamically, and they certainly need an upturn in form having failed through a variety of circumstances to make the podium since China.

But Mercedes and Lotus fancy their chances here, Red Bull don’t believe that having to close up holes/slots in their floor will hurt them too much (after the FIA’s post-Monaco rule clarification), and Ferrari say their form here will dictate their likely performance over the rest of the season.

“I know that the results we all want will soon come to us,” Hamilton says. “I’m looking forward to bringing the fight to Montreal, which is one of my favourite races of the season. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a fantastic track. It’s super-fast in places, which means it requires finesse and precision, but you can also end up racing wheel-to-wheel with people at 200 mph too, which is an incredible sensation.

“However, you still want a car with decent low-speed traction - all those long drags are usually preceded by tight hairpins, so it’s important that you can get the power down efficiently if you’re to pull a good lap time together. With KERS and DRS in the mix, it should be an exciting Grand Prix - although, interestingly, we’re reverting to a shorter, single-DRS zone after the double-zone last year.”

This will be after Turn 10, the hairpin, and will begin 600 metres before the braking zone for Turn 13, the entry to the final corner. It is 50 metres shorter than last year as the FIA considered overtaking was too easy then.

“On paper,” Hamilton concludes, “I think our car will be well-suited to the combination: we showed in Spain that we’re very good in high-speed corners, but we were also quick in the final sector, which is slower and more technical. Of course, it’s still difficult to predict the outcome accurately, so I’ll be focusing on another clean weekend where I can score more consistent world championship points.”

Meanwhile Button, last year’s winner, says: “This weekend it’s going to be important to get a handle on the car in qualifying. At the last two races, Q2 hasn’t gone my way, so, no matter what pace you have in the race, you’re still compromised on Sunday afternoon, particularly as the pack is so tightly bunched at the moment. My aim will be to have a stronger qualifying performance and to be able to build on that in the race.”

“With its low downforce and slow corners, the track’s a little bit like Monza and should suit our car,” Rosberg says. “We've made good progress over the past few weeks, and that was clear from the performance in Monaco. So I'm hopeful that we can make another step forward here.”

Lotus boss Eric Boullier is determined to get Raikkonen and Grosjean back on track after the bitter disappointment of Monaco, while Fernando Alonso says menacingly: “In Canada we want to confirm our improvement and be competitive in a more 'normal' circuit because Monaco is unique due to its characteristics and Barcelona has very quick corners. Canada and Valencia are going to be two very important tests for us to see if we can really put both Ferraris in Q3, like we did in Monaco, and opt to be in the top places.

“We're taking some upgrades to Canada, a race both on and off the track because all the big teams are going to bring new parts so let's see whose works best. We've tried to extract the most of what we had and our rivals have let their guards down. This year two or three tenths makes you lose or gain five or six places, because everything is very close."

Pirelli are bringing their two softest tyres again - the P Zero Red super-soft and P Zero Yellow soft - but face a very different challenge to Monaco two weeks ago. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve may be another temporary circuit, but it’s significantly faster and tyre wear is much greater. Thus there will be far more pit stops than we saw two weeks ago.

The circuit changes a lot during the course of the race weekend as more rubber goes down, which means that engineers and drivers are constantly honing their cars’ set-ups. The brakes also take a caning here, more than anywhere else, with heavy retardation into the first corner, the chicane out the back and again for the hairpin, and good traction is essential to exit the numerous slow- and medium-speed corners.

As the surface is relatively low grip, the cars also oversteer a fair bit, exacerbating tyre consumption. Finding the tyres’ sweet spot has exercised everyone all season; here it may be even harder.

Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport director says: “We go from Monaco to Canada: two of the most spectacular races of the year. Not only is Montreal a fantastic place to hold a race, but it’s also a great circuit. The soft and super-soft tyres should be able to demonstrate more of their natural characteristics than they were able to in Monaco, where drivers are constrained by very low average speeds and not much energy going through the tyre.

“This enabled them to complete very long runs even on the super-soft, which should not be the case in Montreal where the tyres have more work to do. Tyres have traditionally played a very important role in this race, especially if it rains.

“The practice sessions will be vital for teams to understand how exactly the tyres work on full tanks in particular. We think we will see several different strategies at work, with teams likely to split their strategies in order to cover every possibility.”

Weather-wise, it could be a mixed weekend again, with isolated thunderstorms forecast for Thursday, and partial cloud with the possibility of showers for the remainder of the meeting, with ambient temperature highs of around 23 degrees Celsius.

Minor changes to the track include the replacement of steel guardrails in Turn 10 with walls topped by safety fences.

Timings will be as normal on Friday, but on Saturday practice and qualifying will each start an hour sooner (1000 hours and 1300 hours respectively). The race will run over 70 laps or 305.270 kilometres (189.688 miles) and starts at 1400 hours local time, which is four hours behind GMT.

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