2012 Canadian Grand Prix preview
On paper it’s entirely possible. Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher both have excellent records in Canada and both are yet to win this year.
And then there’s the Lotuses, which have looked very strong and are yet to win a race.
On top of that, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is one of those tracks which often sees chaotic, unpredictable races and multiple safety car interventions. The high speeds and limited run-off in places means it would not be a surprise to see the field headed by the Mercedes SLS AMG make at least one appearance.
Montreal circuit information
|Lap length||4.361km (2.71 miles)|
|Distance||70 laps (305.3km/189.7 miles)|
|Lap record*||1’13.622 (Rubens Barrichello, 2004)|
|Fastest lap||1’12.275 (Ralf Schumacher, 2004)|
|Tyres||Soft and Super-soft|
*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix
In some ways it’s rather appropriate that the safety car was used for the first time in F1 at the Canadian Grand Prix, in 1973 – even if it was a bit of a shambles.
Set-up wise, Montreal is all about low drag, good low-speed traction, and consistent performance from the brakes. The latter take a pounding as the cars tackle five major braking zones per lap.
As in Monaco, teams will have the soft and super-soft tyres to use. This is assuming the race remains dry – which, as last year’s race showed, is not a given.
Although Red Bull have been the focus of considerable attention as the FIA has ruled the holes in the floor of its RB8 illegal, it is doubtful the deletion of such a minor tweak will have a major effect on their car’s performance.
At worst, it may serve to hinder their understanding of a car which had proved tricky at the start of the season but had seemingly come good with two wins in the last three races.
A win for them here would be the perfect response to the doubtful suggestions that they enjoyed a major performance benefit with they now-forbidden configuration. Double so for Sebastian Vettel, who saw victory slip through his fingers here on the final lap last year.
As for Mark Webber, his Monaco win not only underlined his return to form after a poor 2011, it also propelled him into the thick of the championship battle.
McLaren’s fears about their failure to capitalise on their early-season performance seemed to be borne out in Monaco. Lewis Hamilton was outside the top two for the first time in qualifying, and slipped backwards in the race, never really looking comfortable.
But this is a circuit where he has excelled in the past, with three pole positions and two wins in four visits to his name. He will surely be in contention to break his 2012 duck here.
Last year’s winner Jenson Button has been perplexed by tyre performance in recent races, failing to reach Q3 in Spain and Monaco. Overtaking is far less difficult in Canada than at the last two venues, but even so he needs to reduce his race day handicap with a better performance on Saturday.
The Ferrari resurgence is on – and not just for Fernando Alonso.
In Monaco Felipe Massa looked much more comfortable in the F2012 and needs to carry that momentum into this race if he’s to stand any chance of retaining his seat for next year – a task which many already expect is a lost cause.
Low-speed grip and high-speed performance were notable early weaknesses of the F2012. This track will reveal how well Ferrari have addressed those shortcomings.
It’s not hard to see why many are tipping Mercedes as the team to watch this weekend. Their extra-efficient double DRS gives them a straight-line speed boost which should be especially useful here.
Out of the six tracks visited so far, China had the highest proportion of DRS-suitable straights: 53%. And, of course, that’s where Mercedes scored their single win so far, courtesy of Nico Rosberg.
But at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve drivers can use DRS over 63% of a lap in qualifying, which may enhance Mercedes’ advantage even further.
Rosberg may have their only win so far but Michael Schumacher’s form here is excellent. He’s won the race seven times before and had his best post-comeback result here last year (fourth).
After a poor weekend in Monaco, Kimi Raikkonen’s progress will be watched keenly to see if he remains unhappy with his steering set-up.
Lotus suspect the low-grip surface in Monaco was at the root of his tyre trouble during the race. If so, they’ll have to work out a solution in practice at another temporary track which is often slippery.
Romain Grosjean, meanwhile, has a new circuit to familiarise himself with this weekend.
After six races, Force India have almost three times as many points as they did at this stage last year.
“I think we’ve demonstrated that we can carry on where we left off last year and fight for points everywhere,” said Paul di Resta.
“The teams around us are all strong, but we’ve shown that we are consistent and can take on teams like Lotus, Williams and Sauber, who are all looking competitive. In terms of points scored we are well ahead of where we were this time last year we take a lot of positives from that.”
A disappointing Monaco for Sauber yielded no points. Sergio Perez is yet to add to his tally since his superb second place at Sepang.
He missed last year’s race as he withdrew following the first practice session, still suffering ill effects from his Monaco shunt.
“I think at times in recent races we have been very unlucky, but the pace is there as my lap times during the Monaco race clearly proved,” he said. “I’m looking forward to doing a good job in Canada and scoring as many points as possible.”
Jean-Eric Vergne briefly starred in Monaco before dropping back after an ill-chosen switch to intermediate tyres.
He’s had the beating of team mate Daniel Ricciardo in races so far this year. Will a move to a circuit neither has raced on before change that?
While Bruno Senna lacked his team mate’s speed, Pastor Maldonado effectively destroyed his weekend with a needless collision in practice. The team made it plain after the race the car was capable of better.
The short, slow Monaco track always has the effect of narrowing the gaps between the teams. Even so Caterham will have been encouraged to see their deficit to the next slowest car dip under 1% for the first time this year last weekend.
Not having KERS will hurt the HRTs on a track where straight-line speed is important. However they do at least have some special aero parts for this track which demands a low-drag configuration, a luxury they have not always enjoyed previously.
Marussia are also without KERS and Timo Glock and Charles Pic are likely to face another weekend in limbo between Caterham and HRT.
2012 driver form
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2012 Canadian Grand Prix
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