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Canada preview - can Ricciardo find redemption?

09 Jun 2016

Has any Grand Prix this year boasted as many undercurrents as Canada this weekend? From a huge momentum swing at Mercedes to a wounded Daniel Ricciardo seeking revenge, and from Ferrari's Saturday struggles to team mate friction at Sauber, there's no shortage of talking points for Montreal - and that's before even getting to anticipated rainfall, or the fact the polesitter has only gone on to triumph in six of the last 15 races...
Ricciardo returns to past hunting ground

Daniel Ricciardo made no attempts to hide his pain - or anger - after Monaco, when an errant pit stop effectively robbed him of victory. For once, and not without cause, the smiling assassin had lost his bounce. 

But while the Australian is still simmering, what better venue could there be to avenge what he perceives to be two squandered victories than Canada, scene of his breakthrough F1 triumph just two years ago?

"I love Canada, I love Montreal, the city's great and I really enjoy the circuit," the Australian declares. "It's a place where you can really muscle the car around the chicanes, which is fun.

"Unfortunately last year was probably my worst race of the year but I hope it will be a lot better this year. [But] I love the race - my first win in Canada will always be special so I'm keen to get back there."

Ricciardo isn't the only Red Bull driver on the hunt - team mate Max Verstappen, fresh from wowing a massive home crowd at Zandvoort, will also be looking to make up for his crash-strewn weekend in Monaco. The Dutchman of course will benefit from using the upgraded Renault power unit this weekend - but he won't be the only man getting a surge in horsepower...

Ferrari bring new modifications to Montreal

Ferrari have confirmed they have taken their development token spend from 26 to 28 by bringing a revised powertrain with alterations to the turbocharger this weekend.

Whether that can propel them back to the front of the field remains to be seen - although Sebastian Vettel remains adamant that victory is closer than it appears.

"It's not fair to compare our position this year to last," the German explains. "Last year we were in no man's land. The gap was big to the cars ahead and big to the cars behind. 

"This year by nature the gap is smaller, we are closer, [but] we probably haven't had smooth races like we had in the beginning last year so things didn't yet come together, which is also our fault."

They key for Ferrari is doing better in qualifying, where the SF16-H continually comes up a touch short. 

"It's easy to explain,” Vettel said. “If we nail it on Saturday more, which we have to, we have a better race. 

"In Monaco, we had a better race than Barcelona - we are talking about for sure a podium but maybe a win. I don't think there is anything wrong with the pace of the car. It is there but we struggle here and there to extract it."

Rosberg not feeling the heat

After a flawless start to the season, Nico Rosberg's race unravelled in Monaco. Not only did he move aside for his team mate - who would go on to win - but he lost sixth on the line. The consequent points swing means he is now just 24 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton - less than one victory. The timing couldn't be worse either - Canada is Hamilton territory, with the Briton having won here four times (no other current driver has more than one win).

The German could be forgiven if he is feeling the pressure then - but he insists that's very far from the truth.

"I expected and prepared myself for some difficult races after the awesome start to the season," he says. "This is where experience helps me.

"In the last Grand Prix I hopefully got all of my bad luck out of the way in one race, so onwards and upwards again from now!"

Hamilton meanwhile isn't getting carried away, despite finally arresting his team mate's sensational start to 2016.

"There's a long way to go yet," he cautions. "We've seen from these opening six races that anything's possible and these swings inevitably go both ways.

"We are the greatest team - but we have more pressure from our rivals than ever before, so it's important we keep pulling together and refining any weak areas. I've proven that I'm just as strong as I've ever been and I will be for the rest of the year, so I'm looking forward to the next chapter."

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Honda introduces new turbo

Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button will be able to make use of an upgraded turbocharger this weekend, with Honda spending two of their tokens on the development - which could be crucial to the team's fortunes given the importance of the power unit at Montreal.

The new turbo represents Honda's first spent of their development tokens, and follows extensive bench testing.

Cool heads needed

There is a long list of drivers hoping to make amends after disappointing in Monaco - on top of the aforementioned Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen, Daniil Kvyat and Jolyon Palmer are prime examples.

Down at Sauber meanwhile there is a need to rebuild for an altogether different situation, after Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr's heated collision on the streets of Monte Carlo. That incident sprang from Ericsson's bungled attempts to overtake at Rascasse, but had its origins in Nasr declining a team order to let his team mate through.

Can the duo patch things up and work together this weekend - or is there more trouble ahead for the team?

Strategy, not pole, the key

Only six times since 2000 has the polesitter gone on to triumph at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve - just one of the reasons it is renowned for being a wildly unpredictable Grand Prix.

That dynamic will only be helped by Pirelli's tyre selections this year. The Italian tyre manufacturer has brought the yellow-marked softs, red-marked supersofts and purple-marked ultrasofts for the weekend. Given the latter tyre won't last long enough to make one-stopping possible, we could be set for another thrilling weekend of varying strategies.

"In Canada there’s the potential for some quite mixed weather conditions, as we also saw in Monaco, so this could make it a very complex race as has often been the case in the past," says Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery.

"The compounds that we have nominated mean that there is plenty of scope for strategy, on a circuit where it’s definitely possible to overtake on the track as well. 

"The ultrasoft made its mark when it first appeared in Monaco but Canada is a very different type of circuit with more demands on tyres. This could lead to a number of different tactics coming into play, as evidenced from the tyre choices made by each team prior to the race."

Will rain strike again?

Although forecasts are constantly changing, we could well be set for rain for the second consecutive Grand Prix. Showers are expected to fall on Saturday - when temperatures are also anticipated to fall - and there is a chance of further rainfall at around on Sunday, potentially at around the time the lights will go out.

The race starts at 1400 hours local time (1800 GMT), and runs over 70 laps or 305.270 kilometres (189.688 miles).