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Pre-Montreal analysis - higher hopes for Renault, Ferrari power

06 Jun 2014

So, can the Renault and Ferrari teams close the gap to Mercedes on a power circuit this weekend? That’s one of the burning questions going into the Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada 2014, and it’s a hope that the German marque’s rivals harbour after further development of their own powertrains.

Referring to the changes Renault have made, the French manufacturer’s head of track operations, Remi Taffin, explained: “At the start of the season we said that we would be out of recovery mode and back on track from the Canadian Grand Prix onwards. In the last four races we’ve introduced several new upgrades and we will complete the process in Montreal, effectively giving us the first full opportunity to see where we are versus the competition.

“We have several new parts to debut here, primarily designed to give us greater reliability. As in previous races we have more upgrades to software to further enhance driveability and energy management. Additionally we have investigated the reasons for the failures in Monaco and have taken measures to ensure they do not reoccur. In particular we have looked at [Sebastian] Vettel’s issue, which was traced back to a mechanical problem with the MGU-H. The part in question has been revisited and further end of line checks have made it more robust now. The exhaust issues on the Toro Rossos have also been investigated with the team and together we have seen how we can avoid further issues in future thanks to improvements to our diagnosis and understanding of the full exhaust system behaviour in the car.

“These developments will all be of benefit in Montreal, which represents the toughest challenge of the year so far for the power units. The long straights demand maximum power for a high percentage of the lap, therefore stressing the ICE hugely. I expect we’ll see speeds in excess of 330 km/h as we did in Barcelona so we will rely on the MGU-K and MGU-H to boost both top speed and acceleration.”

All of that sounds like music to the ears of Vettel and Red Bull Racing team mate Daniel Ricciardo, and Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado at Lotus, who need everything they can get right now, while Ferrari have some significant upgrades here too.

Technical director James Allison said that while major changes are not permitted owing to the development freeze on the new engines which came into effect before the racing began, it is possible to be more aggressive with settings arrived at during dynamometer testing, and Montreal marks the first time that Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen will be able to exploit these.

"There is a lot of opportunity to get more horsepower out of the same hardware as you increase your confidence in how hard you can push it,” Allison said.

Felipe Massa, however, believes that Mercedes’ power units will be as strong as ever here. “Definitely it can be a good track for most of the cars that are using Mercedes engines,” says the Brazilian, who comes here looking for a really decent result after the disappointments that have thus far blighted his and the Williams FW36’s potential. “So I think maybe we will see even maybe a big difference compared to Mercedes and the other teams, because the engine is amazing. It’s been a very good job done by Mercedes, so for sure maybe we can see maybe even this.”

Lewis Hamilton agrees with him about the job Mercedes have done thus far.

“I’d be guessing,” he said yesterday in response to a suggestion that the gap could be reduced, “but I don’t feel that will be the case. We’re particularly strong on the straights, but I don’t know, maybe we will be surprised this weekend. But long straights do suit us very well. We have a very good power curve on our engine, and Mercedes have done the best job with the engines. Renault and Ferrari would have to have done an exceptional job coming into this weekend, in terms of that area, to be able to keep up with us on the straights.”

While Hamilton has been saying that his troubled relationship with Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg is back on track after their angry feud in Monaco, Rosberg expressed his view in a slightly different way yesterday.

"We've always had periods where it was more difficult," the Monaco winner said. "But we have that base respect which goes back 15 years and that is the important thing. As a result we always discuss things and move on, and that is how it’s been this time too.

“Our relationship hasn’t changed in any way. It’s still the same as it used to be. But of course it is more difficult, that’s clear. We are fighting every single race weekend. It’s me against him and there’s nobody else, so it definitely makes it more difficult. And there’s more at stake."