The drivers look ahead to Canada 11 Jun 2004
The men at the wheel on their Montreal prospects
The city of Montreal is a popular destination with the teams and drivers. Its Gilles Villeneuve Circuit, part permanent and part street, has hosted the Canadian Grand Prix since 1978. So what do those racing there this year expect from their weekend?
Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams:
Once again we are facing two back-to-back races, but this time they're not in Europe, which makes it even harder for everyone involved. We have been working really hard in preparation for the next two Grands Prix testing at Silverstone and in Monza. Both the Canadian and US tracks require a lot of power and minimal downforce but the BMW engine is still very good, even if some other teams have improved since last year, so we should do well there.
The BMW WilliamsF1 Team has always performed well at the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit as it seems to suit our package, also the track offers some good overtaking opportunities so I am really looking forward to that. Montreal is quite a technical circuit, you need to be very precise as to where you put your car on the track, while you also have to be very gentle with it to get the best result. Everyone in the team has been working flat out recently so we are hoping that these two races will help us turn the corner and get us back to the top of the grid again.
Ralf Schumacher, Williams:
Even though things haven't gone right for me recently, I am looking forward to the trip to Canada and the United States. I especially like Montreal as I like the city and the people but most of all I really like the circuit. In the past few years, we've managed to produce some good results there so I'm hoping the track should suit our car again this year. Following this week's tests at Silverstone and Monza, I'm convinced that we have made a step forward, but I don't know how big this will be until we get to Montreal. I am not going to let our difficult start to the season get in the way of future races because you always have to look forward, not back. I am now thinking on a race by race basis and I will always try to make the best out of the situation.
Mark Webber, Jaguar:
Montreal is one of the best races on the F1 calendar and for me personally one of the most enjoyable. The atmosphere at this race is fantastic and you can feel the excitement of the fans. The circuit itself provides the teams and drivers with a really unique challenge as the down force is quite low generally and you are combining what feels like a street-circuit with a race-track. There are some high-speed sections and then some slow 'street-like' corners. This is good fun for us but it is another story for the car. The brakes in particular have to be very good around here, sometimes you hear of people's brakes wearing out! We have been testing in Silverstone this week and we were working on brakes so I am confident that the team have pulled together a good package. We also spent time working on additional developments as these tests are really the best opportunity to see how everything works on the car for me as the driver. I also very much like doing my testing work as it allows me an opportunity to provide the team with feedback at an early stage in the development process. I now go to Montreal very motivated and with the goal of adding more points to our tally of three so far.
Christian Klien, Jaguar:
Another new track for me to race on and I can't wait. I have spoken to many people about the track and Montreal the city, and they have got me really excited about it. I was pleased to have finished my last race at the Nurburgring and I would like to finish again in Montreal. In order to prepare myself for the circuit I have been spending quite a lot of time on my play station. It definitely helps knowing the track in advance so that you know what to expect on your initial laps. I have been working a lot this last week with my engineers and I have spent three days testing at Silverstone with them. We have managed to cover a lot of laps and we have been working on all sorts of things from brakes and tyres to some new developments. The R5 is feeling very good for me and I enjoy driving it. Making sure the balance and set-up is correct is very important to the feel of the car and I know that on Friday I will be spending a lot of my time on familiarisation as well as set-up.
Bjorn Wirdheim, third driver, Jaguar:
I have never been to Canada so this is a first for me. My experience from F3000 stands me in good stead for the European circuits but for this one, it's all down to play station and information from previous years that my engineers have provided me with. From what I understand the circuit is flat and thus requires a lot of engine power. The down force required is relatively low and there are some overtaking opportunities. I will be using my first couple of laps for familiarisation and then it will be full speed ahead on my testing programme. I am probably going to be spending much of my time on brakes and tyres. The track is very tough on brakes but I know that we have been working alongside our partners Brembo Brakes and Carbon Industries and are going well prepared. Since Nurburgring I have been into the factory to see the team and also up at Silverstone watching the testing. I also managed to support a sponsor day with HSBC so it has been pretty busy. I am now excited about going to Canada and helping the team move up the grid.
Jenson Button, BAR:
"We were very strong in free practice at the Nurburgring, but it showed how important it is to qualify well. I didn't get a very good lap in qualy 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."
Takuma Sato, BAR:
"I like the city of Montreal; the contrast between the newer developed and historical older side is beautiful. Also the fans over here are so enthusiastic and I really enjoying racing in front of them. The performance of the team has been very strong over the past few races and I am really looking forward to Montreal and Indianapolis - and to achieving what I hope will be my first podium. Once again, this is a track that I have raced at only once before, but the circuit characteristics - the chicane with high kerbs and the hairpin in particular - are similar to Imola, where we were very competitive. They should suit the car and I am expecting us to perform well. Honda have been working very hard to introduce a good step with both power and reliability for here, so I'm feeling confident and eager to pick up where I left off at the Nurburgring two weeks ago."
Nick Heidfeld, Jordan:
"I'm looking forward to the Canadian Grand Prix, not only because of the race track but especially because I like the city of Montreal very much. I am flying out a few days early to spend some time there, getting used to the time zone and enjoying the city. The circuit is a bit of a stop-go circuit with long straights so it's important to have good top speed and good engine reliability. Our test at Silverstone was productive and although much of it was general work including British Grand Prix tyre testing, we did some specific preparations for Canada and that was positive."
Giorgio Pantano, Jordan:
"This will be my first trip to Canada and I'm really excited about it as I hear from everybody that Montreal is a very nice place with a good race circuit. For me it will be like Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain and I will have to learn the track quickly. At this point in the season I was hoping to have done a little bit more but we have had a few problems and that is just motor racing. It's a little bit frustrating but each race is a new chance for us. I have had two days of testing at Silverstone which has been really good, not only for the track time but also because it's given me the opportunity to visit the factory. I like that because this team is like a family, and we are all in it together. We all want to see our efforts improving on the track and we are working so hard to improve in every respect."
Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber:
"It was fantastic to score three points at the Nurburgring. Our target was to score points there, but I never believed I would finish sixth! The car is getting better from race to race and Montreal is another good circuit for me. I have been on the podium there four times, so I have decent memories of Canada. I have a sound feeling at the circuit, which I believe will be a good one for us. For me it's a nice track, satisfying to drive on. It has relatively poor grip so it can be difficult everywhere. The hairpin and the last corner are very tricky, and you need to be very clean in both to preserve your top speed for the following straights. As for the city of Montreal, it's fantastic. It's a great place to do some shopping."
Felipe Massa, Sauber:
"Montreal is similar to Imola: you accelerate, you brake, you go through a chicane. It is therefore quite a challenging circuit because it can be difficult to get a good rhythm there. You need to be very precise so that you do not waste any momentum, and that's where the challenge lies. What I also like about it is that you can overtake there. You need good top speed to help you do this on the straights, but there is also a great chance under braking for the hairpin if you get everything right.
"Montreal itself has a wonderful atmosphere, and it's great to have the race there. The city really gets involved in promoting the entire event, which makes it special."
Jarno Trulli, Renault:
(Q: The last two races have gone very well for you - what are your feelings about the past three weeks?) Well, I think as a team we have had a very good period. The win in Monaco was fantastic for everybody in the team, and for me too, but maybe the Nurburgring was a bit more realistic in terms of where we are now, even though I was unlucky with some incidents during the race. Everybody is still pushing very hard - we might be second in the championship, but there is no complacency. Indianapolis is only halfway through the season, and anything can still happen, so we need to push ahead with our development, keep our good reliability and try and make the most of every opportunity that comes our way.
(Q: In terms of the circuit at Montreal, what is it like to drive?) You need a low downforce set-up, and that makes things more difficult: the car feels lighter, and more critical to drive. It is as if you are always on the limit, when you are braking and turning in. But that is how the circuit is - our job is to get used to it. In the past, our car has always been quite competitive at this circuit, and the engine is much better now than last year - we should have another step for Canada. It will be a difficult race, but I am looking ahead with confidence.
(Q: What about the trip to North America, are you looking forward to it?) For sure. I enjoy the lifestyle in Canada and America - it is more relaxed, very friendly - and it is good to get out of Europe for a little while. The two tracks we race at are quite different to what we have in this part of the season so that will be another challenge, and then I will actually be working between the races, trying to develop my wine in America. So it will be a busy few weeks!
Fernando Alonso, Renault:
(Q: Canada needs good engine power and good aerodynamics. Last year, you finished fourth - can you do better this year?) Well, we know the car has improved in both of these areas, but predictions are difficult - each race has been different, and at the moment, our competitiveness depends a lot on how well we manage the weekend, and how good a set-up we can find. Overall, I think we can be strong, because this is a team with a lot of experience and motivation. Our car has good traction out of slow corners and is good under braking, which are two important areas in Montreal. I think we should be looking for podium finishes to maintain our championship position.
(Q: From a personal point of view, how happy are you with your season so far?) I have mixed feelings, because it could have been better, I think. We have been very reliable, and that has given us a strong position in the championship as we approach the halfway stage of the season, but it will be a big fight to stay where we are. The team is pushing hard to improve the car and the engine, but it then comes down to us as drivers to get the most out of our package. I have been disappointed with my results in the past few races, and I definitely want to improve things as we move into the summer.
(Q: What are the challenges from the driver's perspective in Montreal?) The car is always nervous because of the low downforce levels, which makes things more difficult - you have to push as much as possible like in every other race, but it is harder to drive the car on the limit. The chicanes at Montreal are not like other circuits - in Imola you can really attack them and be aggressive, whereas you have to be smoother in Canada. It is quite a difficult balance between attacking enough to be fast and not pushing too far, because it is quite easy to step over the limit. The barriers are very close if you do, so you cannot afford any mistakes at all.
Cristiano da Matta, Toyota:
"The Canadian Grand Prix is one of my favourites of the year. Everybody in Montreal really gets behind us and the enthusiasm of the fans is exactly what Formula 1 needs. The circuit is also fun to drive and technically demanding, offering drivers and engineers a nice challenge. Engine power and stability under braking are two important areas of performance, but the car also has to ride the kerbs well in order to set a good lap time. Our TF104 should be reasonably well suited to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve; our engine has proven itself to be one of the strongest and most reliable on the grid, but we need to find the car balance to match. I doubt we can finish in the points without benefiting from misfortune ahead of us, but we will continue to do our best and see what we can achieve at the end of the weekend."
Olivier Panis, Toyota:
"I really love Montreal. It's one of my favourite grand prix weekends because of its atmosphere. The people are so nice and because everyone stays in the city you can enjoy yourself. It's also one of the rare occasions during the year that I have time to relax for three or four days before the grand prix, and I enjoy that because it gives me valuable time to train. I like Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and I have also had some good results there. Last year, we prepared well for Montreal and the whole team performed quite strongly, which resulted in me scoring my first point of 2003. At last week's Monza test, we worked expressly on Canada and US preparations and we looked reasonably good running Canada downforce levels so we'll be trying to get on the scoreboard this weekend."
Ricardo Zonta, third driver, Toyota:
"I really like the Canadian Grand Prix weekend. It's a fun city and the track is very enjoyable to drive. There is a very long straight and the midfield is very tight and slow, with a lot of narrow second and third gear corners and high kerbs. That variety makes it quite demanding to set up the car to have a good performance over the whole track. The track is usually dirty on Friday, and quite slow and slippery. It improves a lot as the weekend goes on, meaning you can run with a different balance and less downforce. That makes finding the base set-up even more difficult on Friday, but at least you can still work on tyre characteristics, which are always important."
Michael Schumacher, Ferrari:
There are many reasons to look forward to the race in Montreal. It is a beautiful city and Canada is a great place to visit because there is so much to discover. So, for me and the other drivers, the Grand Prix weekend is always pleasant. From a technical point of view, there are probably more demanding circuits in the calendar, but, even so, I would always choose to race in Montreal. To race here you need to have an interesting set up for the car: on the one hand you need to have a quick car, and so a low aerodynamic load; on the other, the chicanes mean you need to have more downforce and good mechanics to be able to ride the kerbs. There is all this and then, as I have often stated, Montreal is a track where you brake and accelerate in continuation and so the brakes have to be in good shape.
Last year we had to overcome a few problems but we did what we had to. I think that this year it will go even better. BAR could also do well here as Montreal is similar to Imola, where they showed their potential. So, I think it will be enjoyable. It will be a tight race.
Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari:
So far (this year), we have done a fantastic job with the car, the engine and the tyres, so that means it is now up to me to do a bit more. Even though I had not done much testing with the new car before the season, I was able to put Michael under pressure at the first race. But I need to find something more in terms of some elements such as strategy and that work will be ongoing this weekend in Canada.
On this track, tyre choice is very important, especially as the fast sections mean we run with low aerodynamic downforce. Therefore Friday practice will be very important in order to help us make the right choice for the rest of the weekend.
David Coulthard, McLaren:
It was a disappointing weekend for us last time out at the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, but as I said at the time everyone throughout the team is fully committed to turning the situation around. The race at Montreal has a fantastic atmosphere and is definitely one of my favourite events. It is an interesting track to drive and although it is primarily a race circuit, some sections are road circuit and the Armco are therefore fairly close, giving some sections a tight feel in nature. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is not, however, a slow venue, we hit some of the highest speeds of the season, including 320km/h along the back straight. Other characteristics include the dirty surface as the circuit is not regularly used. This leads to low grip for running on Friday, but you see an improvement during the course of the weekend
Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren:
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is largely made up of fast sections, either long straights or sweeping curves, broken up by slow corners and chicanes. Because of the extremes of speed and slow corners, we have to run with a medium downforce set-up in Canada. I am hoping that we can do well in qualifying again, following Nurburgring, and set us up for the race. Since the European Grand Prix I have completed some 1,000 km with the team at Silverstone with the MP4-19B, it was a positive session and we are looking forward to continuing the cars development after Indy.