Canadian Grand Prix

Canadian Grand Prix: Weekend Preview

The Circuit De Gilles Villeneuve is a favorite among many sectors of the Formula One paddock. It has played host to many classic races down the years; Most notably, Jenson Button’s unlikely triumph in 2011, after the Brit traveled through the pits six times during the race. Coincidentally, it was the longest race in the history of the sport, following a lengthy red flag period during a characteristically wet day in Montreal. Rain is forecast for Friday and Saturday, so a few surprises may be on the cards.

Hamilton Fears High Degradation

Lewis Hamilton is somewhat of a Canadian specialist. With three victories at the circuit in his short career, this is a statement which is difficult to deny. On a two stop strategy last season, Hamilton managed to past both Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel in the final few laps as their tyres began to suffer. However, the significance of his new team’s tyre woes this season could spell trouble for Hamilton this season as oppose to his competitors. With Mercedes set for a tribunal hearing regarding the infamous ‘tyre-test gate’ the team now have to contend with high levels of degradation once again this weekend, which Hamilton predicts could dictate their weekend. 
Undoubtedly, Nico Rosberg’s victory in Monaco was a result of the circuit characteristics. However, Mercedes realize that Montreal will not allow them to mask their abnormally high degradation. Hamilton acknowledged, “Monaco is one of those tracks that doesn’t really hurt the tyres very often. With good management you can look after them, so I wouldn’t really say we have made a step forward. The problems we had in Barcelona, we’ll still have those going forward until we make some improvements.” While Hamilton may be a specialist around the picturesque circuit, he will be unable to show the full potential of the W04 on Sunday as he and Rosberg become tyre management engineers as oppose to racing drivers. Regardless, it would be brave to bet against Hamilton for Pole Position, as the Mercedes Saturday dominance looks set to continue. Especially since the circuit demands mechanical grip, which Mercedes have in abundance.

Maldonado: “Everything Is OK”

Following his hefty shunt in the Monaco Grand Prix, everyone (especially Max Chilton) were pleased to see Pastor Maldonado emerge from his battered FW35 in tact. The Venezuelan confirmed in today’s drivers press conference that he has fully recovered from the accident and is set for the Canadian Grand Prix weekend. Unquestionably, Williams will require their drivers to be at full strength if they are to challenge for a spot in Q3.
The extensive damage rendered the chassis useless. Consequently, Maldonado will be running a new chassis this weekend. He stated, “The chassis is more or less the same. It will have some new aero parts and hopefully we can solve, maybe not all the problems, but at least make a step forward which we have been expecting for some time.” When asked if he would be driving with discomfort following his accident, Pastor replied, “No, no, I am ok and everything is ok. It was just a case of reset.”
Regarding the team’s development over the past few races, Maldonado added, “It was quite difficult to understand the car at the beginning of the season, particularly at the first race and we have been fighting a lot to try and fix the problems. We have fixed the problems but they are not easy to sort. We have been working very hard, 24 hours a day in the factory, especially in the wind tunnel. The problems are coming from the aerodynamics and we have been trying to make some progress. I think we now understand the car a bit more and hopefully at this race it should be much better for us.” The issues which Williams have been battling to correct have stemmed from a fundamental design flaw in the chassis. Considering the scale of the dilemma, it is unlikely that they will return to form anytime soon.

Sam Micheal Defends Punchy Perez

Sergio Perez has suffered a barrage of criticism following his resurgence in Bahrain. The Mexican continued to demonstrate his aggression in Monaco, yet a collision with Kimi Raikkonen curtailed his race. In Kimi’s words, Perez required a “punch in the face” following a series of potentially dangerous maneuvers. Moreover, Sergio had ruffled the feathers of both his teammate Jenson Button and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, earlier in the race. However, Sam Micheal has suggested that Checo has been undeservedly criticized for what he deems to be “just racing”.
During a McLaren Mercedes Phone-In session, the Sporting Director was asked whether the team had discussed driving standards with Sergio following a controversial race in Monaco. Micheal replied, “It’s an interesting question but ultimately he’s a racing driver and he’s just racing. All of the moves that he did are all moves that have been done by all of those drivers at various points in their career – some recently and some long ago. The overtaking opportunities that are available at the chicane in Monaco are the ones that have been used for a long time before Checo Perez was even born. Ultimately he’s racing for his position. He’s establishing himself and the racing that’s he’s doing all those other drivers have done themselves and that’s Formula 1. It was obviously hard racing but that’s what F1’s meant to be able.”
Evidently, there appears to be some correlation regarding Martin Whitmarsh’s instructions to Perez to “get his elbows out”, prior to the Chinese Grand Prix, and Perez’s recent maneuvers. In which case, McLaren seem to have created the monster which they are now looking to tame. To views more regarding McLaren’s development progress and plans for the weekend, check out yesterday’s article, “Possible Progress For McLaren”.

Final Thoughts

The Canadian Grand Prix is always a classic race. It has historically been filled with drama, excitement and unpredictability. Look out for Mercedes this weekend. The circuit characteristics certainly play into their hands and with Lewis Hamilton behind the wheel anything is possible. However, Nico Rosberg will be looking to assert his position as team leader once and for all, on a circuit which could be described as Hamilton’s back yard. Red Bull will inevitably challenge once again and Ferrari will be looking to recover from a disappointing weekend in Monaco.              


Progress Possible For McLaren

Following a turbulent start to the season, McLaren have steadily been developing the MP4-28. Ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix the team are looking to make further progress, yet Jenson Button has downplayed his teams chances of a podium this weekend, despite the circuit being a happy hunting ground for McLaren in past seasons.

The MP4-28 has struggled with a fundamental balance flaw ever since Perez and Button first unveiled it back in February. Major update packages have since then corrected some of the aero issues, including a new front wing in Monaco. The wing featured a steeper third element, which they hoped would channel a greater amount of air towards the guide veins on the sidepod as oppose to the reference plane on the floor of the car, which had been causing instability under braking.These updates and tweaks have seen McLaren stealthily climb up the pecking order. A sign of the progress is the current headlines. It is the McLaren drivers which are filling the back pages as oppose to the car they are driving. The Canadian Grand Prix is likely to showcase the strengths of the MP4-28 due to the circuits emphasis on mechanical grip. However, Jenson Button has downplayed the teams chances this weekend – Perhaps a deliberate ploy to detract anticipation for success which is building faster than the development of the car.
“Last year I had a terrible race,” said Button. “We know the reasons for it, which is good because we have learned from that and we won’t make the same mistakes again. Overall, Canada has been a pretty good circuit for McLaren. We’ve won there the last three races, but this time around we’re not going to set the world alight simply because we are going to Canada. But I really do feel the changes we made in Monaco helped us, and I really do hope that carries over to Canada, and I think it will. That’s good because we’ve some good improvements. We’re still not great, but we’re getting there.”
Undoubtedly, McLaren are prevailing in terms of the development race. The team are taking small steps, yet are evidently gaining ground on their rivals. This is hardly surprising, as in season development is a part of McLaren DNA. 2009 is a prime example of how the team managed to take a disappointing package and convert it into a race winning formula. Lewis Hamilton’s win in Abu Dhabi was far from predictable considering McLaren’s uncharacteristically slow start to the season.
Sporting Director Sam Micheal, highlighted the progression which has been a result of the engineers discovering the fundamental issues and finding ways to eradicate them. He evaluated, “Montreal is a track that’s been quite good for McLaren over the years and we’ve got some more things to investigate and try. We’re developing the car, the car is getting better – not as fast as what we’d hope and not returning to form as quickly as we’d like – but the performance is still going in the right direction.”
Although McLaren fans have experienced enough disappointment so far this season, the teams supposed ‘pace’ in Monaco is not a fair representation of their current standing. The race was run at a pace which allowed them to maintain a respectable distance to the leaders. However, it cannot be denied that the team are making substantial progress. Unfortunately for Button, his hunt for a second World Championship will now almost certainly roll into 2014. Regardless, the team will be devastated if podiums and victories do not come their way towards the end of the season.

Pirelli Delay Amended Compound

Crisis has befallen tyre manufacturers Pirelli, over the past few weeks. After an 82 pit-stop race in Barcelona, they had been strongly criticized for their high degradation compound. Consequently, Pirelli announced that they would be restructuring all dry weather compounds, to make the tyres more durable. While the initial plan was to have the tyres ready for the Canadian Grand Prix, Pirelli have altered the forecast, stating that the new compounds will only be available in practice as they look to further amend them ahead of the British Grand Prix.

The tyre controversy reached fever pitch last weekend, as it emerged that Mercedes has completed secret tyre tests following the Spanish Grand Prix. This was supposedly a breech of article 22 of the sporting regulations, as other teams had not been granted the opportunity to receive the additional mileage. However, certain details regarding the testing are unclear. For example, it has neither been confirmed nor denied that Mercedes completed the latest prototype compounds.Nevertheless, Pirelli have been at the eye of the storm. First they spend the winter constructing tyres which are ridden with unfeasible levels of degradation. Then they are forced to amend their compounds which is essentially a breech of the regulations in itself. After-which, they conduct a tyre test which lacks transparency and appears to disobey what the FIA previously specified. 
At least an improved tyre compound would be beneficial future race weekends. However, Pirelli have once again changed their plans by announcing that they have delayed the full introduction of the new compound. While they will be appearing in Canada, they will only be available to teams during practice. The Italian Manufacturer have denied that the delay is in conjunction with “tyre test gate”, yet undoubtedly, many people will have their doubts. A Pirelli spokesperson told Autosport, “We’ll be bringing two sets per team for Friday practice with a view to implementing the new rear tyres in Silverstone. As the regulations allow for this and for reasons of sporting equity, we think that this is the best way forward.” 
The delay will at least diffuse the ongoing argument as to whether the secret tyre test significantly benefited Mercedes, yet the argument will surly now return at Silvertsone. However, time heals and the secret tyre test may all be forgotten by the time Formula One arrives in Britain, (or at least we hope).
Sky Sports News journalist, Craig Slater expanded on this point, stating, “It is a significant development because the fact that the new tyres are not going to be used in Canada might avoid that race being run under protest. But I’ve been in touch with Pirelli and they say the decision not to run the new tyres in the race has nothing to do with the protest in Monaco – they say it is only because they couldn’t the unanimous support from all the teams to run the tyre over the full course of the weekend.” While Pirelli have likely used a baseline of the 2012 compound to construct the amended tyre, it is unlikely that the compounds will have experienced a stringent development process. Consequently, Pirelli have to be cautious in their approach. Especially considering that they could now be the main protagonists who will decide where the title of 2013 World Champion will head.