This weekend Formula One rolls into Montreal at the famous Gilles Villeneuve circuit, scene of F1’s longest ever race in 2011.
That weekend Jenson Button weathered the storm to claim his first victory of the season despite enduring a record number of safety car periods, 6 visits to the pitlane and crashing into both Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. To cap it all, he led for just a mile of the 70 lap race.
Formula One in 2012 has proved every bit as exciting as that one race in 2011. Chances are, Montreal could well give us the 7th different winner of what has already been a record-breaking year. Last time out in Monaco, Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel showed that World Champions Red Bull are not standing still in terms of development and strategy. But then neither are their closest rivals. With Mclaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus also in the mix, it is still virtually impossible to confidently predict who will pick up the laurels this weekend.
Red Bull emerge fresh from their second victory of the season courtesy of Mark Webber in Monaco, and a calculating tactical drive by Sebastian Vettel from 9th on the grid to 4th at the chequered flag bodes well for the Austrian team. However bitter memories of the 2011 event still hang over Red Bull and Montreal is not a circuit that traditionally suits their Adrian Newey-designed mounts. Despite this, the reigning World Champion is eager to get on to the track. ‘Like the track in Albert Park in Australia, the roads are public, so tyre wear can be high’ he said in a pre-race interview with the F1 website. ‘There’s also a lot of wear on brakes, which can cause us a headache. Last year the race dragged on due to the heavy rain – but it’s a good place to go racing.’
Fernando Alonso grabbed the championship lead in Monaco with a studious performance to take 3rd, his Ferrari F2012 performing far better than in opening races thanks to an ambitious upgrade package designed to re-ignite the Spaniards championship hopes. Many believe Alonso to be the best driver in the sport, and he will be eager to consolidate his hold over his rivals with victory at the Canadian Grand Prix. Similarly team-mate Felipe Massa will be looking for another strong result after his 6th place in Monaco boosted his somewhat flagging reputation with the Scuderia.
Mclaren have slumped to new lows during the past few events, with neither driver appearing on the podium since the Chinese Grand Prix in April. Lewis Hamilton could be moderately pleased with 5th in Monaco in contrast to Jenson Button who recorded his third retirement of the season. A significant result is urgently needed by the Woking-based team as they seek to stake their claim on the title. Button’s season-opening win in Melbourne must seem like a very long time ago now.
Mercedes on the other hand look poised on the brink of new performance after the Monaco race slipped through theirfingers, Michael Schumacher’s pole being negated by his penalty and the impressive Nico Rosberg unable to find a way past the Red Bull of Webber. Team Principal Ross Brawn expressed his view prior to the race ‘The circuit itself is an exciting challenge, and the first real high-speed test of the season where brakes, engine power and tyre management are crucial. Races at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve have the tendency to be eventful! We’re looking forward to putting on a good show and hope to have another strong weekend.’ The key words in his statement are ‘high-speed’, something his Mercedes team has been particularly good at over the past two seasons. Montreal could then provide them with their second victory of the season, and it could well fall to 7-time World Champion Schumacher in this case after the Germans dominant qualifying form in Monaco.
Lotus too are eager to get off the mark after near-misses in Bahrain and Spain cost them victory. Monaco proved a low point in the resurgent teams 2012 campaign, but rest assured they will not slip up again; these are the same boys and girls who carried Fernando Alonso to his 2005/2006 title success in the former guise of Renault. Eric Boullier confirmed this when he spoke to the F1 website last week. ‘We have a car which has shown good pace all season and two drivers who have both shown they can deliver podium performances in this highly competitive season. Yes, we are coming off the back of a disappointing weekend in Monaco, but we’ve shrugged off worse setbacks than that. We’re looking forward to Montreal. It’s the first low-downforce track of the season, where the E20 should be strong.’
Of the ‘others’, Sauber and Williams have been joined in their midfield battle by the Force India team who scored an
impressive double points haul in Monaco, Brit Paul Di Resta strengthening his image as the natural successor to Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. Sergio Perez experiences his first Canadian Grand Prix after missing the 2011 event due to illness caused by his Monaco Grand Prix qualifying shunt. ‘I’m looking forward to doing a good job in Canada and scoring as many points as possible.’ the cheery young Mexican claimed. ‘It is a fast and fluid circuit on which you are often close to the wall – challenging and exciting.’ Williams are desperate to pull clear of the midfield struggle themselves after a lacklustre weekend in Monaco yielded just one point for their championship hopes.
Whoever triumphs in Canada this weekend, it is sure to be another exciting clash of talent and teams as the drivers go head-to-head to stamp their authority on the 2012 Formula One season – after all, it’s about time someone did isn’t it?
Live coverage is available of all practice sessions, qualifying and the race on Sunday via Sky F1 HD. Alternatively, highlights of qualifying and the race are shown on BBC One later on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
BBC Radio 5 Live provides full Live coverage all weekend.
Race start is at 19:00 GMT on Sunday.