Canadian Grand Prix 2010: Preview


It has had a year away from the F1 calendar, but this weekend the Canadian Grand Prix returns for the eighth race of a fascinating season, where the spotlight is now firmly on driver relations.

All eyes will be on the Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, who collided in Turkey two weeks ago, and also Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button at McLaren, who indulged in a bit of in-house rivalry themselves while leading the field in Istanbul.

The two Red Bull drivers kissed and made-up in Milton Keynes earlier this week, and Webber has signed a new contract to stay with Red Bull alongside Vettel in 2011. The Aussie has had the performance advantage over Vettel in the last three races, and sits proudly at the top of the driver's standings, 15 points ahead of his teammate, who is in fifth.

Vettel will be looking to get back on equal terms in Canada this weekend, and there is the potential for more fireworks on Sunday.

Red Bull will also look to continue their run of consecutive pole positions, which stretches back to the final race of last season in Abu Dhabi. Pole looked far from a certainty in Istanbul though, and McLaren in particular will be hoping to break the team's qualifying monopoly.

On the surface everything is fine in McLaren – straight after claiming victory in Turkey, Hamilton described Button as his best-ever teammate. But over the last ten days it has emerged that there was a bit of a misunderstanding over whether the two drivers should have been racing in the closing stages at Istanbul Park.

Hamilton was told that Button would not attempt to pass him on track, and that both drivers were conserving fuel. Button of course did overtake, and if Hamilton hadn't regained the race lead at the beginning of the next lap, tensions would surely be running high now in the McLaren garage.

One of the intriguing things to come out of the intra-team issues in Turkey was that drivers for both McLaren and Red Bull were being asked to conserve fuel at different stages of the race. Teams are always after a competitive edge, and with this refuelling ban are attempting to get away with putting the minimum amount of fuel in the cars at the beginning of each race, to maximise lap times.

This was evident at Red Bull. Vettel conserved fuel in the early stages in Turkey, while Webber had a higher consumption as he tried to hold off the Lewis Hamilton, who was challenging for the race lead. This meant Webber had to conserve fuel later in the race, Vettel could catch him and, as they say, the rest is history.

So what will happen in Canada? The Montreal circuit has the highest fuel consumption of the season, and if teams are attempting to get away with putting less in at the start of the race, we may see some cars running out in the closing stages.

Alternatively, they may be able to conserve some fuel during a safety car period. Since 1998 there have been 20 safety cars, thanks mainly to some imposing track-side walls.

Robert Kubica knows all about these walls. He had a monumental accident back in 2007, which completely destroyed his car, and is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular and dangerous-looking incidents of recent seasons.

The Pole's BMW took to the air after hitting the back of a Toyota and crashed into the wall at the side of the track. His car then barrel-rolled back across the tarmac, as wheels and carbon fibre flew everywhere. This debris narrowly missed Tonio Liuzzi in the Toro Rosso, who was leading the pack of cars behind Kubica. The BMW then came to a stop on the opposite side of the track, with what was left of the chassis lying up against an Armco barrier.

Kubica's feet were visible out of the end of the monocoque, such was the damage sustained. He recovered though, and took his one and so far only win the next year in Canada, in F1's last visit to North America.

The race in which Kubica had his accident was also Lewis Hamilton's debut F1 win. The Brit led the race in 2007 from pole position and successfully negotiated four safety car periods. The maiden victory also gave him the championship lead, which increased the next weekend when F1 headed to Indianapolis as Hamilton claimed victory number two.

Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella were black-flagged from the 2007 race after exiting the pit lane under a red light while the safety car was going through turns one and two. Hamilton missed that red light the following year, ramming his McLaren into the back of Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari, while the Finn sat patiently observing the signal. Both drivers had to then retire from the race. In that accident, Hamilton narrowly missed eventual race winner Robert Kubica, who was also parked at the end of the pitlane, alongside Raikkonen.

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has a reputation as something of a car-breaker. Brakes can take a hammering around the 2.71 mile lap, and brake wear could be an issue with some teams, especially with this year's ban on refuelling and the heavy cars that result. A car that handles well over bumps is also crucial, as the cold Canadian winter wreaks havoc on the tarmac.

A car with bullet-proof reliability will help in Sunday's race then. Does that rule out Red Bull from another victory? Will the team that seems unable to resist shooting itself in the foot once again throw away an easy race win?

McLaren will be hoping that they can take the victory from Red Bull on merit this weekend. They were definitely much closer to the front-running team in Turkey, and with their phenomenal rate of development, should be challenging on raw pace around Montreal.

Mercedes have been getting stronger in recent races, but Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg were still a distant fourth and fifth in Turkey. Even with Webber's accident and subsequent pit stop for a new nose, the Red Bull driver still managed to stay ahead of Schumacher in the closing stages of the race. However, the seven-time world champion has won this race seven victories, and could be a useful outside bet for a podium finish this weekend – especially if reliability woes afflict either Red Bull or McLaren.

Ferrari had a disappointing race in Turkey, and since Fernando Alonso's win in Bahrain, have been sliding back down the order; the Italian team seemed to have been overtaken by Mercedes in Turkey.

Felipe Massa has failed to impress all season. However, Ferrari announced today that the Brazilian will be driving for them for the next two seasons however, so maybe with this added job security, Massa will regain some form.

Canada always throws up an exciting race, and the country's convenient location west of the Greenwich meridian means that it provides some excellent prime time viewing. Qualifying on Saturday starts at 6pm BST (the BBC programme begins at 5pm), and once it is over, you can switch channels to watch England start their World Cup campaign against the USA. The race on Sunday begins at 5pm BST. Reactions and reports will be available from this website throughout the weekend.

Also check back here for news from Le Mans, where several ex-F1 drivers, who had varying degrees of success in the sport, should feature this weekend. Watch out for the following:

Christjian Albers (46 F1 starts), Jean Alesi (201 starts, 1 win), Sebastian Bourdais (27 starts), David Brabham (son of Sir Jack, 24 starts), Anthony Davidson (24 starts), Romain Grosjean (7 starts), Tomas Enge (3 races for Prost in 2001), Giancarlo Fisichella (229 starts, 3 wins), Marc Gene (36 starts), Pedro Lamy (32 starts, raced for Lotus and Minardi), Jan Magnussen (25 races), Nigel Mansell (187 starts, 31 wins, and the 1992 world champion), Franck Montagny (7 starts), Allan McNish (17 starts), Olivier Panis (157 starts, 1 win), Mika Salo (109 starts, 2 podiums), Alexander Wurz (69 races, 3 podiums).