Red Bull may be vulnerable at Montreal (Canadian Grand Prix preview)

F1 returns to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve after a two-year absence

F1 returns to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve after a two-year absence

F1’s return to Montreal was cheered by fans when it was announced last November.

Following an exciting race in Istanbul, and with the championship battle finely poised between McLaren and Red Bull, the stage is set for one of Montreal’s typically unpredictable races.

Advantage McLaren?

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is brilliant in its simplicity: long straights, tight corners, and minimal run-off which ensures drivers can’t get away with mistakes. It’s a recipe for incident-packed races.

While Red Bull have largely held the upper hand on performance over the first seven races of the year, McLaren enjoyed a surge in form at Istanbul.

This weekend, as team principal Martin Whitmarsh admits, many will consider them the team to beat. This track should play to the MP4/25’s strengths and exaggerate the RB6’s weaknesses at the same time.

Good straight line speed is vital – and with an efficient F-duct and the powerful Mercedes engine McLaren’s car has frequently been among the fastest in a straight line this year. Red Bull are yet to use their version of the F-duct in a race and believe their Renault engine is 20-30hp down on the Mercedes.

The RB6’s strongest suit – the phenomenal speeds it can sustain through fast corners – is far less of an advantage at a circuit which has mainly slow chicanes and hairpins.

All of which leads you to wonder – could this be the first race the year where something other than an RB6 starts on pole position?

Lewis Hamilton has started from pole on both his previous visits to the Montreal circuit, scored his first ever win here in 2007 and looked set to claim another before his notorious pit gaffe two years ago. He goes into the weekend on the back of his first win of the season knowing another win would get him ahead of his team mate in the championship. Could he be the man to do it?

In the race, another of the RB6’s weaknesses will be severely tested – reliability. The is the hardest track of the year for brakes, even tougher than Bahrain and Singapore. We’ve already seen Red Bull suffer brake problems once this year, costing Sebastian Vettel points in Spain.

Read more: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal ?óÔéĽÔÇŁ circuit information

The question of team mates

Expect the situation between the team mates at McLaren and Red Bull to be closely scrutinised this weekend following the fall-out from the Turkish Grand Prix.

Whatever your interpretation of the Red Bull collision and swapping of positions between the McLaren drivers, it’s clear that there was more going on between the drivers and their teams over the radios than we knew about while watching the race.

And it’s possible we could see a rerun of events from Istanbul if the Red Bulls start the race in front of the McLarens, with the latter’s superior race pace allowing them to put their rivals under pressure.

Istanbul also exposed the question of fuel consumption – how far teams can under-fuel their cars so they can be quicker in the early stages of the race, then lean out their engines towards the end of the race to ensure they don’t run out of petrol.

According to Williams, cars use the same amount of fuel at Montreal (2.37kg per 5km) as at Istanbul, which costs them the same amount of time (0.06s per lap).

How much fuel to put in the car is therefore a question of compromise – one that could leave a team vulnerable at the beginning or end of a race, depending on how they call it.

Will the track hold up?

F1’s last two race at Montreal were affected by the tracking breaking up. The problem was worst in 2008 when the surface became badly damaged in several places during qualifying.

Will we see a repeat of those problems this year? The track has been resurfaced since then but the problems caused by Montreal’s fiercely cold winters remains.

F1 cars will give even greater punishment to the track this year than they did two years ago. Slick tyres mean they have more rubber in contact with the track, the minimum weight limit has been increased and the cars will be carrying full tanks of fuel from the start of the race. The cars are producing at least as much downforce as they were two years ago.

And there are four more cars in this year’s race than there were in 2008, putting yet more pressure on the track. This new surface better be up to it.

The extra cars may also give the leaders a headache when it comes to lapping traffic. At 4.3km, Montreal is the second-shortest track F1 has visited this year.

Read more: Montreal track re-surfaced after break-up

Drivers to watch

Four drivers to keep an eye on this weekend. Name your top picks in the comments.

Jenson Button – Since his last win in Shanghai, Button has faced a resurgent Hamilton in the other McLaren. There isn’t much to choose between them on raw pace but Hamilton has out-qualified him in the last three races and his uncompromising pass on Button at Istanbul cemented an impression that he holds the upper hand at McLaren right now.

Rubens Barrichello – How well will the Cosworths perform at this power track? Looks for Barrichello to provide a clue as the likely high water mark for the Cosworth-powered teams this weekend.

Vitantonio Liuzzi – The pressure on Liuzzi is telling as he’s switching back to an earlier chassis this weekend in a bid to solve his problems with the VJM03. Was a second slower than Adrian Sutil in qualifying at Istanbul – can he finally start to turn his season around this weekend?

Sebastien Buemi – Has developed a bad habit of getting involved in first lap scrapes which he needs to kick to avoid being eclipsed by his team mate.

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79 comments on Red Bull may be vulnerable at Montreal (Canadian Grand Prix preview)

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  1. bronek82 said on 9th June 2010, 19:22

    To watch
    Robert Kubica
    because he was last who won there
    and McLaren both drivers
    Button has more to show and try beat Lewis

    • Todfod said on 9th June 2010, 21:43

      Although people have already started writing off the Ferraris, I think the Ferrari of Alonso is going to be gunning for the podium as well.

      • Charles Carroll said on 9th June 2010, 22:34

        I don’t think it is ever wise to count out Alonso. Even when he fails to qualify well, he still puts on quite a show.

        And yes, I said “show”. I’m here for the show, otherwise I wouldn’t watch it.

  2. sato113 (@sato113) said on 9th June 2010, 19:27

    ‘And there are four more cars in this year’s race than there were in 2009′
    2008 of course!

  3. elzz said on 9th June 2010, 19:37

    “…and minimal run-off which ensures drivers can’t get away with mistakes.”
    They are doing everything to make it easier:
    http://f1.gpupdate.net/en/formula-1-news/236588/parts-of-canadian-track-resurfaced/
    Hate this.

    • matt90 said on 9th June 2010, 19:43

      Me too. Since when have the gravel traps presented a problem necessitating a change? I guess we’re likely to see more hopeful but unskilled dives as there’s less of penalty for getting it wrong.

      • James_mc said on 9th June 2010, 20:16

        I remember there being concerns after Schumi broke his leg that cars could “toboggan” over the gravel, but I’d thought that that was more down to the lay/looseness of the gravel rather than the fact that it was a gravel trap as such. Or am I rambling rubbish? :-D

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 9th June 2010, 20:54

        I think Sebastien Buemi’s crash in practice at Shanghai showed one of the advantages of tarmac run-offs over gravel. His car could have dug in, flipped, and had a much worse crash.

        • matt90 said on 9th June 2010, 21:05

          I was talking specifically about gravel traps in Montreal, but that is a good point. Still find it a little disappointing seeing steadily more and more grass and gravel being replaced by tarmac, making the tracks look more boring. I guess astroturf is a nice idea, except I doubt it slows the cars down as much as gravel and makes it harder to maintain control unlike tarmac.

          • Ledzep4pm said on 10th June 2010, 8:40

            Keep the tarmac run off areas, as they are much safer, but put a stinger across it to punish them like gravel traps do. LOL

          • David A said on 10th June 2010, 23:07

            A stinger? This isn’t World’s Wildest Police Chases! :P

        • Joey-Poey said on 9th June 2010, 21:24

          Even still, I feel like there should be SOMETHING to deter mistakes more. Perhaps a large slice of grass between the track and the tarmac runoff? Otherwise, the tracks start to feel more like they’re driving through a cone-course in a parking lot than an actual track weaving across the terrain of the land.

        • Ads21 (@ads21) said on 9th June 2010, 22:08

          Well the car could have dug in and flipped, but like James said often flipping is down to the composition of the gravel trap, rather than gravel traps in principle.

          In modern F1 run off areas mean a mistake even on what are supposedly F1s most difficult corners such as 130R, Turn 8 or Pouhon go completely unpunished. There needs to be a balance, tarmac run off may marginally improve safety over gravel traps but they have a hugely detrimental effect on the challenge of racing in what is supposed to be the pinnacle of motorsport.

          • Dipak T said on 10th June 2010, 0:51

            Lets not forget Spa last year, with Kimi just deciding to change the shape of La Source at the start so he could get a favourable run up to Eau Rouge.

          • graigchq said on 10th June 2010, 13:06

            yep – i still find it hard to believe that the stewards didn’t do ANYTHING to punish Kimi for that.. i seem to remember him doing the same thing round turn 1 at silverstone as well, even just more abrasive tarmac would be a massive deterrent now that tyre wear is so critical.

          • Ads21 (@ads21) said on 10th June 2010, 18:58

            Still it’s hard to blame Kimi for it the problem is that there’s loads of run-off not that there are drivers clever enough to exploit it.

          • David A said on 10th June 2010, 23:09

            Several other cars did the same thing as Kimi and lost positions.

  4. DaveW said on 9th June 2010, 19:38

    Keith, I don’t know what Williams said about fuel, but Pravda says that fuel consumption in Montreal is quite low (only 60% of time at full throttle) and that the performance penalty for (fuel) weight is quite low in relative terms. http://www.formula1.com/news/features/2008/6/7882.html.
    So I don’t really understand how consumption there can be similar to Turkey. Moreover, the lack of big arcing turns means that shaving a couple kilos will be of little moment in this race. Thus, I don’t see fuel being an issue here, either in terms of total consumption or in terms teams seeking to run leaner in favor of car mass.

    Nonetheless, Mercedes Pferdstark and F-Duct equal VMM domination. But, no, I have not checked with Hair.

    • djdaveyp said on 9th June 2010, 20:23

      Putting less fuel in the cars makes them faster everywhere not just through the turns!

      They accelerate faster, they can also brake later with less fuel in the car, so it will be just as important for them to put as little fuel in as possible.

      • Adrian said on 10th June 2010, 10:52

        Reminds me of a conversation I was having with my girlfriend while we were driving down to Bath last week.

        She suggested that it’s actually more fuel efficient not to fill your tank completely because the engine will return better fuel consumption on a lighter car and the extra weight of the fuel from filling the tank will take away from this. Of course she was talking theoretically, and in our little 1.4l VW Polo I really doubt there’s any noticeable effect, but perhaps in F1, with the slim margins they run, the smallest saving in fuel weight can have a knock on effect on overall fuel consumption…

    • Bleu said on 9th June 2010, 20:27

      I understand that tracks with most accelerating have the highest fuel consumption. And Montreal belongs to that category. Next round at Valencia (if you remember GP2 race at 2008) is quite similar while thinking that.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 9th June 2010, 20:49

      That’s what I thought too – I emailled Williams to check and they said the figures are definitely correct.

  5. matt90 said on 9th June 2010, 19:38

    The downforce levels aren’t really up to 2008 levels are they? I thought the reason they were so fast was a lot to do with slick tyres. Although I suppose the real issue with the track breaking up is the g’s generated by a car through a corner, the amount of contact area and the force the car exerts on the tarmac (including downforce plus weight), so it probably is right that this year will have effects at least as bad as before (assuming resurfacing hasn’t improved things).

    • djdaveyp said on 9th June 2010, 20:29

      I actually think the cars will be gentler on the tarmac in their current marque.

      The tyre now has a larger contact patch with the road which actually exerts less pressure on the track (as it is exerting the same force over a larger area).

      Its probably not a lot less as with this greater contact patch they get more mechanical grip, but most of the force on the ground comes from the downforce, which seems to be around the 2008 levels.

    • mateuss (@mateuss) said on 9th June 2010, 20:43

      But isn’t the wider surface area of the slick tyre easier for the track surface? Assuming they corner at the same speeds as 2008 the force exerted to the tarmac will be spread across larger peace of the tarmac, making it smaller for the particular area, atleast thats how I see it. But then again the extra weight will icrease the stress on the surface, and they probably can take slow corners (such as the hairpin where there were problems in 08) faster thanks to the extra contact surface provided by the slicks.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 9th June 2010, 20:51

      The downforce levels aren’t really up to 2008 levels are they?

      In April Paddy Lowe said downforce levels were “approaching” where they were in 2008:

      http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2010/04/13/fota-consider-new-2011-downforce-cuts/

  6. JUGNU said on 9th June 2010, 19:41

    I am predicating third consecutive pole for Lewis Hamilton. And my ‘Drivers to watch’ are Lewis Hamilton, Robert Kubica because Renault seems very strong in these kind of tracks and also Massa with that renewed contract and significantly changed(hopefully improved) Ferrari will be racing with much less pressure.

  7. matt90 said on 9th June 2010, 20:02

    I think both Vettel and Webber have something to prove, as will Button and particularly Hamilton. Kubica’s worth watching. I think Alonso more than Massa is likely to be trying extra hard. He dissapointed in Turkey and will want to re-establish his position as team leader. And I think it’s worth watching HRT against the other newcomers, especially if they keep their straight-line speed from Turkey.

  8. djdaveyp said on 9th June 2010, 20:20

    I think McLarens will run away with this race. I don’t know whether Jenson or Lewis will be faster until I see practice!

    I do reckon ferrari will be quick here and also mercedes and renault.

    Red Bull may be more off the pace than everybody expects here. I think they may even sink as far as the around the 7th and 8th mark!

    • Charles Carroll said on 9th June 2010, 22:38

      I’m not sure what to think of Mercedes. On the one hand, it seems like they have peaked already. They remind me of Toyota and Honda on a certain level…unlimited resources but not living up to the hype. On the other hand, with the drivers they have, with Ross Brawn, and the fact that hey, they ARE Mercedes, they should be just getting ready to dominate.

      I don’t know. Perhaps its just because they’ve been consistent and not spectacular. Maybe they’re just under my radar.

  9. Zazeems said on 9th June 2010, 20:37

    I second that james_mc!

  10. George said on 9th June 2010, 20:38

    0.06s per lap seems a very small amount considering how much they had to slow down at the end of the race in Turkey (I’m guessing they fueled at least 3-4 laps light?)

  11. McLaren will be the team to beat but it’s so hard to predicted the madness of Montreal!

  12. pablopete said on 9th June 2010, 21:02

    Am I right in thinking Renault were given permission to develop their horsepower so its equal to Mercedes? A few years back. If so why are they still moaning about being 30hp down. They had their chance ?

  13. Renzo said on 9th June 2010, 21:06

    McLaren will be untouchable.
    With the Mercedes engine and the f-duct fully optimized I think the only threat will be the weather for them

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 9th June 2010, 21:25

      But the weather is not a real threat to them. In changing weather Mclaren tends to be doing pretty good and Red Bull worse. So then their biggest threat would be Mercedes with Kubicas Renault and Alonso in his Ferrari. Maybe Sutil getting a chance at a lucky podium.

  14. pablopete said on 9th June 2010, 21:24

    With what engines!

    • velvet_demon said on 9th June 2010, 21:34

      Sitll not Renault. If Red Bull has a problem with Renault engines they can go and talk with Mercedes. Oh, wait…

  15. Chris Puddy said on 9th June 2010, 21:37

    I’ve just uploaded a picture of Fernando Alonso that I snapped earlier today while walking around the island. He was mountain biking with another Ferrari team member. He doesn’t look too happy that I took his photo, but he turned around when we shouted “Fernando!”, so he only has himself to blame :)

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