Monaco may have the history, the glitz, and the glamour, and hold a special place in the heart of Formula 1 drivers past and present but, as we saw in the last race, modern Formula 1 cars have difficulty overtaking around the tight street circuit, and so races can quickly descend into a rather processional game of strategy.
This may be intriguing for some, but others will prefer a grand prix where mistakes are made, positions change frequently, and chaos reigns. If you are after such a race, then your best bet is the Canadian Grand Prix. And, as luck would have it, that is where F1 heads this weekend for Round Seven of this unpredictable 2012 season.
The Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal seems to always produce great racing, even when you think back to only the last five years. Lewis Hamilton, in just his sixth F1 race, took his first victory there in 2007. He started from pole position, but it was no simple lights-to-flag victory for the Brit – he had to skilfully control the race from the front while others were making mistakes left, right and centre. There were four safety cars, a huge accident for Robert Kubica, two disqualifications, ten cars that failed to finish, and a groundhog that broke the front wing of Anthony Davidson's Super Aguri.
A year later, Hamilton was on pole position again. He was in with a good chance of winning too, until he missed the red light at the end of the pit lane while the safety car was out, and ran straight into the back of Kimi Raikkonen, who was obediently stopped at the signal. Hamilton narrowly missed Kubica, who was parked alongside Raikkonen at the end of the pit lane, and the Pole went on to claim is one and only F1 victory, and the first for the BMW Sauber team. This race had a slightly lower attrition rate than the previous year, but still seven cars failed to finish.
Unfortunately, there was no race in 2009 due to some sort of contractual problem, but F1 returned to Montreal in 2010, and Lewis Hamilton returned to pole position for the third time.
Incidentally, it was here where McLaren instructed Hamilton to stop on his way back to the pits after setting his pole position lap when they realised that he would not have enough fuel left in his tank for the obligatory FIA sample. Hamilton was later given a reprimand for not completing the in-lap, and McLaren were fined $10,000, but he kept pole position. The FIA then stipulated that all cars should be able to make it back to the pits after qualifying, a rule that Hamilton fell foul of last month in Spain.
That year, Hamilton took his second victory in Canada, but there was still drama up and down the field. A lot of the on-track altercations seemed to involve Michael Schumacher who, in his first year back from retirement, had an absolutely terrible race. He tangled with Kubica, Adrian Sutil, Felipe Massa, and finished in a measly eleventh place.
And then, of course, there was the Canadian Grand Prix of 2011, which was the best race of last season! Recalling even the most dramatic events would double the length of this preview, but Jenson Button described it as the 'best victory of his career' and many fans will surely agree that the race ranks as one of the best in recent years.
Sebastian Vettel was on course to win that race before running wide on the final lap, and allowing Button to take the lead. Interestingly, it is the only race on the calendar (bar Austin, obviously), that Red Bull are yet to win.
There has been much made about the fact that this season is now a 'record-breaking' season, in that there have been six different drivers winning the first six races. It could well be seven out of seven after Canada because, as discussed above, Montreal is a very special place for Lewis Hamilton.
The Brit has raced there four times – he has been on pole three times, the only time he failed was last year, a season in which Red Bull dominated qualifying, and he has won the race twice. The other two times, he may well have also gone on to win the race, but crashed out. Last season, it was an early accident with team-mate Button that ended his race, something both he and McLaren will be very keen to avoid in 2012.
Another outside bet to continue the record-breaking run of different victors would be Michael Schumacher. In Spain he was being wildly condemned (again) after running into the back of Bruno Senna, but he made those critics eat their words in Monaco after he was the fastest man in qualifying. He was unlucky on race day, first with Romain Grosjean running into him and ruining his start, and then with a fuel pressure problem that ended his race.
Schumacher, who has won the Canadian Grand Prix seven times already, almost finished on the podium last year, and arguably would have done if DRS had not allowed Button and Mark Webber to pass him so easily towards the end of the race. Furthermore, the double DRS system on the Mercedes will give both Schumacher and Nico Rosberg and significant advantage during qualifying in Montreal, thanks to the long straights. Could this be the weekend that everything comes together for Schumacher, and he gets victory 92?
The Canadian Grand Prix may not quite have the history, glitz or glamour to compete with Monaco but, for my money, it is the best race of the season, and the real jewel in F1's crown. There are very few other venues that can boast the unpredictable racing that comes with 14 safety cars in the last ten years, five different leaders in two of the last three races, or only three wins from pole in the last decade.
Unfortunately, this Sunday it will have to compete with Ireland vs. Croatia at Euro 2012, and the race is only available live on Sky, and not the BBC. However, if you are able to watch it, do! It could well be the best of the year again.
- Qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix begins at 18:00 BST on Saturday, with the race starting at 19:00 BST on Sunday.
- In the UK, live coverage is available on Sky Sports F1 HD, and BBC Radio 5 Live. An hour of highlights will be shown on BBC One (HD) at 22:30 BST on Sunday evening.
- There will be reports and reaction throughout the weekend here on thecheckeredflag.co.uk