There simply hasn’t been a race worthy of the name this year – can the circuit named after the ultimate racer’s racer Gilles Villeneuve serve up something other than a procession?
Or are the papers going to have to resort to making up stories as they did after Monaco?
The circuit Gilles Villeneuve is like a high-speed Monte-Carlo. There are several places where the cars run right up to the barriers at high speeds.
The majority of the corners are chicanes – and with no Imola on the calendar this year Montreal will be the first real test of how good the different cars are at kerb-hopping.
With long straights and frequent big braking zones exceptionally durable brakes and a high top speed are essential – which points towards a certain red team having a fair advantage this weekend.
It also makes for a car-breaking circuit. Reliability has been exceptional so far this year but for many drivers this is the second event with the same engine.
Last year Alonso won comfortably but the race was marked by a large amount of rubber marbles forming off the racing line. It cost Raikkonen second place to Michael Schumacher when he ran wide at the hairpin.
But with tyres no longer at the bleeding edge of performance as they were during last year’s tyre war, there’s little chance of that happening again.
The FIA’s swift dismissal of the investigation into alleged ‘team orders’ at McLaren may have eased the pressure on boss Ron Dennis. But he knows the chances of a safety car wrecking his race strategy is just as likely at Montreal as it was in Monte-Carlo – which could force him into exactly the same dilemma he faced two weekends ago.
Working against that is the likelihood that McLaren will not enjoy anything like the advantage they had in Monaco this weekend. McLaren had been easily fastest in pre-Monaco testing on the super-soft tyres, but Ferrari led the way when the teams switched to Montreal spec.
Montreal may therefore be a bit of a damage limitation exercise for McLaren – the fact that Lewis Hamilton has never raced there won’t help them either. This is a weekend to keep the pressure on Ferrari and capitalise on any mistakes.
The team does seem to have made a step forward however and running in low-downforce trim may play to the strengths of the Renault engine. Giancarlo Fisichella is not to be underestimated around one of his strongest tracks, while Heikki Kovalainen, like Hamilton, has some learning to do.
Ferrari are clear favourites heading to Canada. Their recent cars have been decently quick in a straight line and Kimi Raikkonen looked strong in testing. The cars will have new front and rear wins in Montreal.
Big question marks remain over the Finn this year, however. He won comfortably in Australia but it came largely thanks to his team mate’s bad luck – it is starting to look like Fisichella’s win at the same track two years ago.
Many are blaming the Finn’s lack of application. Whatever the problem is he must avoid a repeat of his qualifying mistake at Monte-Carlo and run with the leaders. Preferably in front of them, because he certainly can’t afford to lose many more points.
For a moment it looked as if Honda had finally achieved respectability when they got both cars into the final stage of qualifying and Monaco. Then they ruined it all with lamentably poor race strategy.
The RA107 has been unpredictable under braking which sounds like a recipe for disaster at Montreal. But the stop-start nature of the circuit might at least neutralise some of the cars other faults – such as its poor downforce.
The team are close to scoring points again and that must serve as a wake-up call to Jenson Button who has lagged slightly behind Rubens Barrichello this year. The first driver to bless the team with points this year will win a place in the teams’ affections.
Robert Kubica believes he has gotten to the root of his earlier problems with the Bridgestone tyres. This is not what Nick Heidfeld needs to hear after two difficult races following his bright start to the season.
Might this be the first race that the team get to grips with the leading duo? After all, many have suggested Heidfeld could have won at Monza last year, but for his bad start.
The car that began the season stronger than many expected appears to be slithering back down the field. In the opening laps at Monaco the second highest-paid driver, Ralf Schumacher, in the richest team, ran in last place.
Even a team that has become as inured to defeat as Toyota cannot fail to be moved by such a bad showing. But there’s little from the outside that suggests things will be any different in Canada.
Red Bull have had their wings clipped. Video replays at Catalunya strongly suggested that David Coulthard’s fifth place there owed more than a little to a flexing rear wing. The FIA have substantially increased the stiffness tests as a result.
Although it will have an effect it could be a red herring when it comes to assessing the team’s performance. Coulthard has been in strong form of late and it was the team’s error in qualifying at Monaco (failing to warn him about an approaching Kovalainen) that spoiled his weekend there.
Mark Webber has hit a poor patch in his form and in particular his qualifying pace seems to have deserted him.
More useful points came Williams’ way at Monte-Carlo, this time thanks to Alexander Wurz who was in excellent form.
Being the quickest Toyota-powered team appears to be the least of the team’s difficulties at the moment. The midfield pack is as tight as ever and scoring more points will continue to be tough.
Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
Toro Rosso come to Canada with a new front wing that has only been tested in the wind tunnel so far. But perhaps they would gain more by replacing their drivers instead of car parts, as neither seems capable of performing consistently race in, race out.
Last time it was Scott Speed’s turn to impress (and a very mature drive it was too) while Vitantonio Liuzzi binned it on lap two.
Ferrari power and Adrian Newey aerodyanmics has to be a potent combination at Montreal, however, so keep an eye on them.
If both Spykers are still intact at the end of lap one it will be a marked improvement over the team’s performance here last year (as Midland), when Tiago Monteiro hit Christijan Albers at Virage du Casino.
Albers is up against it this year, though, with a seriously impressive team mate. He must put Adrian Sutil in the shade at a track where Albers has F1 experience and Sutil is yet to race.
But it’s hard to image the Spyker duo racing anyone than themselves. And perhaps Ralf Schumacher.
Monaco brought the Super Aguri drivers back to earth with a bump after the high of scoring a point in Spain.
Particularly so Anthony Davidson, who was on the receiving end of some bad rule decisions. He has had a mix of bad luck and under-performance so far this year and needs to get in a decent result over Takuma Sato.
And if he too can get lucky with other drivers retiring on this tough circuit, and nab a point of his own, then so much the better.
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