Monaco was a timely reminder that a little unpredictability goes a long way when it comes to making memorable motor races.
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve – scene of the seventh round of the championship this weekend – is a venue which has often proved that point. Last year its unusual, brake-punishing configuration caught out Mercedes, opened the door for their rivals to take advantage – and Daniel Ricciardo was the first one through.
Ricciardo is a huge fan of the Montreal track. “Possibly winning has made me love it a little bit more,” he said, “but really I’ve loved it since my first lap, back when I was driving for Toro Rosso.”
“I remember coming back into the pits and saying ‘what a circuit,’ I was amazed at how good it was – and I’d only done an install.”
Track data: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
|Lap length||4.361km (2.71 miles)|
|Grand prix distance||305.27km (189.686 miles)|
|Lap record (in a race)||1’13.622 (Rubens Barrichello, 2004)|
|Fastest lap (any session)||1’12.275 (Ralf Schumacher, 2004, qualifying two)|
|Tyre compounds||Soft and Super-soft|
|2014 Rate the Race||9.19/10|
|2014 Driver of the Weekend||Daniel Ricciardo|
The challenge of squeezing a grand prix-standard circuit into the confines of the man-made Isle Notre Dame has crated a layout which is fast, hemmed in by barriers, and largely immune to the trend for bordering every corner with vast run-offs.
As well as being a formula for great racing – no other track on the calendar gets consistently higher Rate the Race scores than this one – it’s an experience many of the drivers find exhilarating.
“You can jump across the kerbs and really get the car bouncing around,” said Ricciardo. “It’s like getting back to go-kart days, you really feel like you own it – and I love that. You can get aggressive with it, and aim to just brush the wall. There’s a lot of risk but that brings a lot of adrenaline with it.”
Ricciardo’s victory last year in his Renault-powered Red Bull went against the run of play as it came at a track where engine performance is critical. Power unit development will be a significant factor again this weekend as some engine manufacturers are taking advantage of the opportunity to spend some of their development ‘tokens’ and introduce performance upgrades.
Although this is a much faster circuit than Monaco, the temporary, low-grip surface means soft tyres are the way to go, and Pirelli is again bringing its grippiest rubber. Teams found the revised super-soft compound was harder than expected and more difficult to warm up in the cool temperatures at Monte-Carlo.
However Pirelli believes that in the event of similar conditions in Canada the new tyre should be more resistant to graining, a typical problem which occurs at this high-speed layout.
Ironically, it was this very phenomenon which helped make the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix a classic – and that thrilling race was held up as an example of the very kind of spectacle Pirelli should strive to produce with the tyres F1 has used since 2011. If there’s going to be a surprise in this year’s race it may well come from the engines rather than the tyres.
Canadian Grand Prix team-by-team preview
Mercedes are keeping their powder dry as far as engine upgrades are concerned. Besides, after the braking problems they encountered in Bahrain, they may be more preoccupied with avoiding a repeat at another track characterised by several big stopping zones.
The team is eager to move on from its Monaco strategy debacle, though Nico Rosberg heads into the weekend looking to sustain a surprise winning streak despite having been decisively out-classed by team mate Lewis Hamilton on sheer pace last time out.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so lucky,” he admitted. “However, that weekend also showed that I need to raise my game even further.”
Expect to see Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat struggling to hang onto a pair of RB11s trimmed out to the absolute limit as they chase the straight-line performance their Renault engine clearly doesn’t have.
The team which made the biggest gains to Mercedes over the winter with its power unit has a significant weekend ahead as they try to take another bite out of their rival’s advantage.
Ferrari hasn’t had a win at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve since 2004. But Monaco showed Mercedes are not immune to slip-ups, and their red rivals will be poised to exploit any more.
McLaren has tended to go well at this track – they won four of the five races from 2007 to 2013 (there was no Canadian Grand Prix in 2009). But if Monaco helped disguise the deficiencies of their Honda power unit – and produced their first points of the season – Montreal is likely to expose their lack of top-end grunt.
That’s not the only problem they have to worry about either. “We must target improved reliability and consistency,” noted racing director Eric Boullier in the wake of breakdowns for Fernando Alonso in qualifying and the race in Monaco.
Sergio Perez heads to Montreal on a high after a superb performance in Monte-Carlo. “I feel I’m driving at my best and getting the most from every race,” he said.
“Monaco was pretty much a perfect weekend in terms of maximising our potential. I don’t think I could have come away with more from that race.”
However his Canadian Grand Prix last year ended with a heavy crash which he copped the blame for.
Despite a violent crash after contact with Romain Grosjean, Max Verstappen shrugged off the impact and was back at the wheel of a kart the very next day.
Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jnr are new to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and the weakness of their Renault power unit could make scoring points a challenge this weekend.
Pastor Maldonado hasn’t been running at the finish of any of this year’s races so far, but he believes his Lotus is well-equipped to deliver points at tracks like Montreal if it can go the distance.
“We seem to have a car that is in the top ten on qualifying pace and quicker than some of its nearest rivals when it comes to the race pace,” he said. “At somewhere like Monaco it’s difficult to take advantage of superior race pace, but at more open circuits we’re well placed.”
The C34’s lack of downforce will count for less at Montreal and its Ferrari motor will count for more, so Marcus Ericsson and track newcomer Felipe Nasr will be eyeing the top ten.
Roberto Merhi remains for another race, and like team mate Will Stevens he is new to this track.
“I’m pleased with the way I acclimatise to new circuits,” said Stevens, “although this is certainly one to be respected as it’s pretty unique; a lot of fun but with more than its fair share of challenges.”
2015 driver form
|Driver||G avg||R avg||R best||R worst||Classified||Form guide|
|Lewis Hamilton||1.17||1.67||1||3||6/6||Form guide|
|Nico Rosberg||2.17||2.00||1||3||6/6||Form guide|
|Daniel Ricciardo||6.33||7.17||5||10||6/6||Form guide|
|Daniil Kvyat||9.83||8.00||4||10||4/5||Form guide|
|Felipe Massa||6.83||7.67||4||15||6/6||Form guide|
|Valtteri Bottas||7.33||6.60||4||14||5/6||Form guide|
|Sebastian Vettel||2.83||2.83||1||5||6/6||Form guide|
|Kimi Raikkonen||6.50||4.20||2||6||5/6||Form guide|
|Fernando Alonso||15.20||11.50||11||12||2/5||Form guide|
|Jenson Button||15.67||12.25||8||16||4/5||Form guide|
|Nico Hulkenberg||13.00||12.00||7||15||5/6||Form guide|
|Sergio Perez||13.17||10.33||7||13||6/6||Form guide|
|Max Verstappen||10.00||11.67||7||17||3/6||Form guide|
|Carlos Sainz Jnr||11.67||9.80||8||13||5/6||Form guide|
|Romain Grosjean||10.33||9.00||7||12||5/6||Form guide|
|Pastor Maldonado||11.33||15.00||15||15||1/6||Form guide|
|Marcus Ericsson||13.33||11.80||8||14||5/6||Form guide|
|Felipe Nasr||12.67||9.67||5||12||6/6||Form guide|
|Will Stevens||18.80||16.25||15||17||4/4||Form guide|
|Roberto Merhi||19.40||16.40||15||18||5/5||Form guide|
|Kevin Magnussen||17.00||0/0||Form guide|
Are you going to the Canadian Grand Prix?
If you’re heading to Canada for this weekend’s race, we want to hear from you.
We’ve got a dedicated group and forum for people going to the race.
You can embed your pictures from the race via Flickr and videos via YouTube and other major video-sharing accounts. Join in here:
Over to you
Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Canadian Grand Prix? Have your say below.
And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying: