It has taken just six races for the once civil rivalry between the Mercedes team mates of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to transform into an intense and personal duel.
Although there is two-thirds of the season still to run and surely more twists and turns in the championship battle yet to unfold, the events of Monaco may prove to have been a turning point in the narrative of the 2014 championship.
And while Mercedes management will have done everything in their power to soothe any tensions between their drivers behind closed doors, once the lights go out on Sunday expect the battle between Rosberg and Hamilton to pick up where it left off.
In an era of cookie-cutter circuits set in soulless, generic locations, it’s little surprise that the Canadian Grand Prix is one of the most popular races of the season among both fans and teams alike.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve data
|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
Set against the beautiful backdrop of downtown Montreal on the Ile Notre-Dame, the Circuit Gilles Villenueve is renowned for providing exciting races and incidents as well as for punishing driver mistakes.
With a combination of long straights, numerous chicanes and the close proximity of barriers to the track, the Montreal circuit places stress on engines and brakes as well as driver concentration. The famous ‘Wall of Champions’ awaits the unwary at the exit of the final right-left chicane.
The track itself is bumpy and generally low grip, due to the fact that it is rarely used outside of the grand prix weekend. With the lack of long corners and emphasis on traction, tyre wear around Montreal is relatively low. For this season, Pirelli have opted to bring their two softest tyre types to Canada – the super-soft and soft compounds.
Thanks to the configuration of the Montreal track, overtaking tended to be easier on it than at most circuits. The addition of two DRS zones has made it easier still, and the positions of the two activation areas and single detection point remain unchanged from last year.
The limited run-off increases the risk of Safety Car appearances. Montreal has the highest rate of Safety Car deployments per race of any circuit bar Singapore.
Canadian Grand Prix team-by-team preview
Yet more frustration for Sebastian Vettel in Monaco saw the reigning champion fall to sixth place on the points table. After two successive weekends compromised by technical issues, Vettel will likely be hoping for a weekend free of such problems at a circuit where he has claimed pole position at F1’s last three visits.
Team mate Daniel Ricciardo continues to impress with two successive podium finishes helping him move up to fourth in the championship. Red Bull will be buoyed by Renault’s assurance that their engines will finally be performing at maximum capacity this weekend, as their straight-line speed has been an even greater weakness than usual this year, and is especially important at this track.
Having taken three wins, three poles and four podiums from six starts at Montreal, Hamilton will return to Canada confident of wresting back the championship lead from his team mate this weekend. Despite scoring a psychological blow against Hamilton in Monaco, Rosberg heads to one Hamilton’s best circuits knowing that he has never finished on the podium in Canada before.
The low-downforce, traction-heavy nature of the circuit is sure to play to Mercedes’s strengths – making it likely that the Silver Arrows will dominate proceedings yet again. With two DRS zones around the Montreal circuit, we could well see another hard-fought battle between the Mercedes pair for the victory on Sunday.
During their closest encounters so far it subsequently emerged that Rosberg (in Bahrain) and then Hamilton (in Spain) had used a high performance setting on their engine against the orders from the pit wall. Mercedes say they will prevent their drivers from doing the same again – but will the pair be able to resist the temptation to crank up the engine with a race win at stake?
After admitting that fourth place in Monaco was the ‘best the team could have hoped for’, Fernando Alonso may be able to set his sights higher this weekend as Ferrari seek to take a step forward with the team’s latest upgrade package – including revisions to their power unit.
“In Monaco, we continued to analyse the areas in which the F14 T can be improved and now, we are looking ahead to the next race in Canada, where the package we will use there is a good step faster than the car we raced last weekend,” said technical director James Allison.
Ferrari are calling this event Kimi Raikkonen’s 200th grand prix start. It will be his 201st participation in an F1 weekend, but only his 199th official start. He withdrew on the formation lap of the 2005 United States Grand Prix (along with all the other Michelin-shod drivers) and retired before the final start of the 2001 Belgian Grand Prix, which was stopped and restarted.
After a disappointing result around the Principality with Pastor Maldonado failing to start and Romain Grosjean managing only eighth, Lotus are not confident of achieving a better result this weekend on a track which they do not expect to suit their car.
Having stopped a three-race points drought in Monaco, McLaren’s main aim for Canada will be to try and claw back the gap to Force India in the constructors’ championship.
“It was a positive for the whole team to put some points back on the board at Monaco after a difficult few races,” said Jenson Button. “We’re obviously still far away from where we want to be, but it’s important that we maintain our aim of continuous development throughout the whole season.”
Despite some lacklustre qualifying performances over the last two race weekends, Force India have continued to show impressive race pace. Nico Hulkenberg has scored in every race so far this season, usually inside the top six, which he called his best ever run of form.
Neither Adrian Sutil nor Esteban Gutierrez has looked close to scoring points since the Australian Grand Prix, but even with the team introducing a series of aero upgrades include a unique rear wing for this weekend, it may take a bit of good fortune to end their points drought in Canada.
Following a disappointing Monaco Grand Prix in which both cars were forced to retire with mechanical issues, Jean-Eric Vergne is hopeful that the team will bounce back with points around a circuit he impressed at last season.
Williams struggled for performance around the streets of Monte-Carlo but Felipe Massa drove well, gaining nine places to finish seventh.
After retiring with engine failure, Valtteri Bottas aims to keep the teams run of points alive in Montreal where he stunned the pit lane with an exceptional performance in a rain-hit qualifying session.
“I have some great memories from Canada last year as I qualified my career best position of third,” he said. “The track is such a contrast from the last race in Monaco, and I think it plays to the strengths of the car, such as good straight line speed.”
Fresh from recording their best-ever race result and securing their first world championship points, morale at Marussia is at a high. While the team are not expecting further points this weekend, they do expect to continue their recent run of form compared to their nearest rivals.
“Monaco was an important milestone for everyone in the team and provides an important affirmation, internally and externally, of the positive trajectory we are taking in pursuit of our longer term ambitions,” says team principal John Booth.
Amidst the chaos in Monaco and the focus on Marussia scoring their first ever championship points, it was easy to overlook that Marcus Ericsson secured both his and the team’s best-ever race result with 11th.
“That sort of finish, in a race where a lot of cars didn’t make it to the flag, is all part of my continuing development as an F1 driver, and I’m sure that experience will help me in Canada and for the rest of the season as we keep battling,” says Ericsson.
American reserve driver Alexander Rossi will be taking over practice duties for the team during first practice on Friday.
2014 driver form
|Driver||G avg||R avg||R best||R worst||Classified||Form guide|
|Sebastian Vettel||7.67||4.50||3||6||4/6||Form guide|
|Daniel Ricciardo||4.67||3.50||3||4||4/6||Form guide|
|Lewis Hamilton||1.33||1.20||1||2||5/6||Form guide|
|Nico Rosberg||2.33||1.67||1||2||6/6||Form guide|
|Fernando Alonso||5.83||5.00||3||9||6/6||Form guide|
|Kimi Raikkonen||7.50||9.33||7||12||6/6||Form guide|
|Romain Grosjean||13.33||9.75||8||12||4/6||Form guide|
|Pastor Maldonado||18.67||14.33||14||15||3/6||Form guide|
|Jenson Button||9.67||9.00||3||17||6/6||Form guide|
|Kevin Magnussen||9.50||9.20||2||13||5/6||Form guide|
|Nico Hulkenberg||9.00||6.17||5||10||6/6||Form guide|
|Sergio Perez||11.83||7.75||3||10||4/5||Form guide|
|Adrian Sutil||16.67||14.00||11||17||2/6||Form guide|
|Esteban Gutierrez||16.00||14.67||12||16||3/6||Form guide|
|Jean-Eric Vergne||11.17||10.00||8||12||2/6||Form guide|
|Daniil Kvyat||10.83||10.80||9||14||5/6||Form guide|
|Felipe Massa||10.00||9.80||7||15||5/6||Form guide|
|Valtteri Bottas||10.00||6.60||5||8||5/6||Form guide|
|Jules Bianchi||19.00||15.00||9||18||4/6||Form guide|
|Max Chilton||19.33||15.50||13||19||6/6||Form guide|
|Kamui Kobayashi||18.33||14.75||13||18||4/6||Form guide|
|Marcus Ericsson||20.33||16.25||11||20||4/6||Form guide|
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2014 Canadian Grand Prix
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- Stewards to investigate Massa-Perez crash again
- 2014 Canadian Grand Prix team radio transcript
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Images © Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Red Bull/Getty, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Sauber, Marussia