With 6 races gone and just 4 different winners, Formula One 2013 might not be living up to the same unparalleled level of uncertainty as last year’s opening few races.
Yet this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix promises to be an antidote to the current woes and concern over tyres, testing and rule violations, all of which have become second nature to F1’s long suffering fanbase.
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, perched atop its precarious foothold in the St Lawrence River, has been somewhat of a McLaren bastion in recent years, with 5 of the last 7 victories going to the squad from Woking. Given current form (or lack of it), you’d be branded foolish or optimistic were you to back the British team to extend that run of success this weekend.
Instead, we must look toward the other established names such as Ferrari, Red Bull and Lotus if we are to confidently predict a likely winner. Then just to spice things up there’s the addition of new contenders on the block Mercedes to add to the mix following Nico Rosberg’s excellent Monaco victory a fortnight ago on the streets of the Mediterranean principality.
He may not be exerting a 2011-style degree of dominance this time round, but reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel is once again leading the points table. And by some margin; the German is currently 21 points (almost an entire race victory) ahead of nearest rival Kimi Raikkonen, while his Red Bull squad lead the Constructor’s Championship fight by almost double that margin.
It’s no guarantee of success however; Vettel and his team have yet to add the Canadian Grand Prix to their list of victories and memories of that 2011 victory which slipped from his grasp will be all too clear again this weekend.
“Obviously one of the craziest moments was in 2011.” smiled the triple World Champion in an interview earlier this week.
“There was so much rain; I haven’t seen that much rain carry on for so long since! During the race we had a big break and were in the lead. The race was difficult and with half a lap to go, I made my first mistake of the race which cost us the win. But that’s racing and it’s probably great for the fans to watch when they don’t know who is going to win until the last moment.”
Red Bull were among several teams to lodge a protest at the Monaco Grand Prix concerning Mercedes’ supposed ‘illegal’ tyre test in the wake of the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. Ferrari had added their voice to the arguments calling for a penalty to be applied against the Anglo-German team, but found themselves the centre of attention this week after the FIA decided the Scuderia’s own test that took place after the Bahrain Grand Prix warranted further investigation.
It wasn’t just Team Managers that were down in the dumps in recent weeks – the list of those pondering their immediate future included Frenchman Romain Grosjean who had plenty to contemplate following his crash-strewn weekend in Monte Carlo.
“I’d certainly like to finish this year’s race on the podium again[ as in 2012]; that would be a good record to maintain.” says a tempered Grosjean.
“I enjoy the sensation of being close to the walls; although as I learnt this year in Monaco… I don’t enjoy the sensation of being too close to the walls! Montréal is different from Monaco as there are some long straights and big braking moments. The track surface can also present challenges as we’ve seen in past seasons, so it will be interesting to see what the grip level is like this year.”
Team-mate Raikkonen, who narrowly kept his record-hopeful unbroken points run alive by snatching 10th in Monaco after his late-race collision with Sergio Perez, won the Canadian Grand Prix in 2005 for McLaren.
“What do you need for a good result in Canada?” asks the typically non-plussed Raikkonen.
“A good car. Like at every circuit you need to get the set-up exactly right. You need a well-balanced chassis in the medium downforce configuration and you don’t want to be too hard on brakes as there’s a lot of aggressive braking there. It’s something I quite enjoy, the stop and go style of the circuit. Qualifying is important at every circuit, but not as essential as it was in Monaco to get a good result. It’s not easy to get past, but there are one or two places to overtake.”
The Finn’s previous employers are less sure of a good weekend, as McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh explains.
“…while we’re not heading to Montreal next week with a realistic shot at victory, we well know that this is a race where an unexpected result is always possible. The Canadian Grand Prix is one of the highlights of the Formula 1 calendar, and a race that the whole paddock enjoys.”
“The circuit itself is one of my favourite tracks on the calendar and I love the challenge of driving there.” adds Monaco victor Nico Rosberg.
“It’s a very difficult layout to drive because of the low downforce levels required for the long straights and it will be tough on the tyres. Monaco was a fantastic weekend for the team and I’m so proud of the victory that we achieved there. We’ll be hoping to maintain that momentum in Canada this weekend and will be going all out for another strong performance.”
Pirelli have elected not to run their controversial new tyre during the Grand Prix this weekend, but it will make an appearance during Friday’s Free Practice sessions. Caterham have made a change to their driver line-up for FP1, with American Alexander Rossi getting behind the wheel of Formula One machinery for the first time since November’s Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi.