Pastor Maldonado: “We have been working very hard to improve the performance of the car and I can feel it getting better all the time. I am therefore hoping for a strong finish in Canada, a circuit which I really enjoy. It has a nice combination of corners with very high speed straights followed by slow speed chicanes, and the feeling of speed is increased by the closeness of the walls. There is a big DRS effect on the straights as well so we should see some overtaking this week.”
Bruno Senna: ”Canada is one of the most challenging tracks of the season. It is a combination of a street circuit and a normal fixed circuit with a mixture of very fast, long straights and tight slow corners with heavy braking. It is also important to have as much track time as possible before the weekend to learn the track surface because it can evolve quickly. Our car is looking competitive at this stage of the season so hopefully we can show good pace here.”
Mark Gillan, Chief Operations Engineer: ”On the back of a mixed weekend in Monaco the whole team is looking to demonstrate further improvement in Montreal, with the aim of getting both cars home in the points. Montreal is a great race and usually full of drama with a very low pit lane loss which pushes the strategy towards having more stops. The high likelihood of a safety car deployment adds to this drama. The track layout is very hard on brakes and one must also ensure that the aerodynamic package has an appropriately high efficiency target. Pirelli bring to Montreal the same tyre compounds used in Monaco, namely the soft and super soft tyres. Weather wise we are expecting ambient temperatures into the high 20Cs with corresponding track temperatures in the high 30Cs, although there is a chance of rain throughout running.”
Rémi Taffin, Head of Renault Sport F1 Track Operations:” Canada is a completely different track to Monaco and also unique in itself. The long straights demand good top end power but the heavy braking zones of the hairpin and chicane need effective engine braking and good pick up on the exit, so it’s rightly called an ‘engine breaker’ because the engine doesn’t get any respite at all. The challenge is to find the right balance between delivering maximum performance and maintaining 100% reliability, just like at Spa and Monza where the risks have to justify the gains.”
Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director: ”Montreal is a great place and a fantastic race track, which has thrown up more than its fair share of unpredictability and excitement in the past. We have the same nomination as for Monaco – P Zero Red supersoft and P Zero Yellow soft – but they will be used in a very different way, as Montreal is much faster and gives greater tyre degradation. So there will definitely be scope for a lot of strategy, with teams having the possibility to be quite inventive in their approach. The rear tyres in particular have plenty of work to do in Montreal, due to the heavy traction demands, so looking after those will be crucial.”
Heikki Kovalainen: “Montreal is a very cool track. It’s a temporary street circuit with a couple of long straights and low downforce settings and that makes the cars pretty tricky in the faster corners and into the braking areas, but it’s a great track to race on. As with everywhere we race you have to find a good balance to get the best lap times, but you need a setup that means you can really attack the kerbs, particularly in the final corner as you head back to the start /finish line. You also need to make sure you have maximum speed down the back straight, so we’ll look closely at the gear ratios we use and balance seventh gear against the speeds we could be doing with DRS and KERS both engaged.
“Apart from being a great race Montreal is also a really good city as well. All the teams like going there as the fans are passionate, the stands are always full on track and the city itself turns into a party town while we’re there. The Canadian people are brilliant and there’s a special atmosphere all over Montreal, which we only get at a few races we go to so it’s one of the weekends everyone’s up for.”
Vitaly Petrov: “I have very good memories of Canada after finishing fifth there last year and I’m really looking forward to getting back to Montreal. Everyone loves racing there – it’s a great city with some really good restaurants, and enough bars to keep everyone who’s not driving happy!
“The track itself is a good challenge from inside the cockpit. It’s very slippery on Friday morning and while the grip does improve over the weekend it’s important to keep the rear tyres in good condition. There a few things to get right for a really quick lap – you need to manage the brake wear and cooling enough to be able to get on the brakes hard every time you need them, you have to have very good traction out of the slower corners and you need to be able to really hit the kerbs hard to save the tenths of a second that add to up to a good time.
“The other thing is the weather. Last year it obviously got so bad we had to stop the race and while that’s not good for the fans it’s much safer for the drivers. Hopefully we won’t have quite so much rain again this year, but if it does we’ll deal with it. I like racing in the wet, it gives us more of a chance to fight a few cars ahead and it’s an even better feeling in the car when you get it right in the wet. Whatever happens it’s always a pleasure to come back to Montreal.”
Mark Smith, Technical Director, Caterham F1 Team: “The Montreal circuit is another fascinating challenge from a technical perspective. As a temporary street-style circuit it is always very green when we start running on Friday but the evolution level is not as high as somewhere like Monaco. The asphalt on the track surface is also very smooth and has very low grip levels so the tyre degradation rate is high throughout the whole weekend. As we have already seen this year, managing tyre wear is the key to both qualifying and the races, so tyre strategy will play an even more crucial role in Montreal than it has all season.
“The other major factor in Canada concerns the brakes. The track has a couple of very long straights with heavy braking zones at the end that lead into tight corners so it is pretty severe in terms of brake wear. We need to make sure we keep optimise the brake cooling every lap and while we do not have a specific brake duct set for Canada, we will be using the larger ones in our range to give us the best chance of managing the brake cooling. “
Tony Fernandes, Team Principal, Caterham F1 Team: “I am still on a high after the race in Monaco. Moving back into tenth place is important but there are 14 more races to come this season and we are taking nothing for granted. However, Heikki’s 13th place and the battling performance he and the whole team put in is another sign that all the hard work we have put in over the last two and a half years is starting to pay off. Vitaly has not had the best luck in the last couple of races but his hunger, enthusiasm, humour and determination are all evident whenever he is with us so he has everything he needs in his locker to succeed with us long-term.
“I am very realistic about what we have achieved so far, and I know that Monaco is a unique circuit that gave us the sort of opportunity we grabbed last Sunday, but I also know that as we continue through this season we keep making small but significant steps forward. During the Monaco race I had some very good news from the factory about a new update we have planned for Silverstone and to see that come in while we were having our best race of the season was another sign that we are doing this in the right way.
“Next it is Canada, a race the whole team looks forward to and possibly another one where we can spring a surprise. Unfortunately I will not be in Montreal but I will be watching every session and I know everyone wants to build on what we achieved at the last race.”
Robert Kubica is widely regarded as one of the most talented Formula 1 drivers around. Unfortunately, he also seems to attract trouble – in the form of horrific crashes.
In 2007, Kubica crashed at well over 200km/h at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. His car hit a concrete wall head-on and then bumped and rolled down the track for a few hundred metres before coming to a stop on its side. Remarkably, he was not seriously injured.
Before the start of the 2011 season, Kubica was seriously injured in a rally crash in which his car was impaled on a guardrail. He had serious injuries to his right arm and hand, and right leg, and was fortunate to survive. He is still recovering from the crash and has not driven a racing car since.
More recently, it was reported yesterday that Kubica slipped and fell on an icy road in Italy, re-opening the fracture in his right leg sustained in his 2011 rally accident.
While this latest incident is a setback for him, the racing world still watches in the hope that Robert Kubica will make a complete recovery and return to racing soon.
The German dream team was created for the 2010 season. Mercedes returned to Formula 1, Michael Schumacher returned to Formula 1, and up-and-coming star Nico Rosberg joined the team. Mercedes had bought Brawn, the team that won both championships in 2009. Who could compete with them?
As it turned out, everyone could compete with Mercedes. They finished only 4th in the 2010 Constructors’ Championship and didn’t ever look like challenging for a win. Rosberg stood on the podium 3 times and qualified on the front row of the grid once, but never really challenged for a race win. Schumacher looked a shadow of his former dominant self, and didn’t trouble the podium all season.
The 2010 season was a big let-down, but perhaps that was understandable. Any Formula 1 team needs time to develop, and Mercedes had not yet had that time. In addition, Schumacher had been out of Formula 1 for 3 years. He was visibly rusty, and only more track time could solve that problem. The positive that came out of 2010 was that Nico Rosberg looked every bit a future race winner. He easily outperformed Schumacher and raced hard on the track for his 3 podiums and 7th place in the championship.
Pre-season testing for 2011 looked promising. The new Mercedes seemed fast, although it’s always difficult to compare testing times. There was hope that 2011 could be a year of podiums and perhaps a win or two. Sadly, it was not to be. The expected competitiveness did not materialise. Once again, Mercedes were the 4th fastest team, and once again they were nowhere near winning a race.
In 2011, Mercedes did not win a race, did not appear on the podium and did not qualify on the front row of the grid. If anything, the team has fallen even further behind Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari than it was in 2010. What is particularly concerning is that Mercedes seem to be operating conservatively. No big technical developments have come from Mercedes this season. Red Bull pioneered the blown diffuser, McLaren started the season with very interesting looking side-pods. What are Mercedes doing differently? They have no shortage of resources, so where is the innovation? If it is happening, it’s not visible.
On the positive side, 2011 saw a resurgent Schumacher. He still lacks a bit of qualifying performance, but his race-pace is no longer questionable. His race starts have been impressive, and as a result he has frequently been fighting with the top teams early on in the races. The car has let him down, however, and he has not been able to translate those good starts into big points. Schumacher put in a fantastic performance in Canada in changing conditions to finish 4th, after running second close to the end. Jenson Button and Mark Webber managed to pass him only with the benefit of DRS. If he can carry this form into 2012 and Mercedes can give him a front-running car, Schumacher should have a strong 2012. His contract finishes at the end of 2012, and while he can extend his contract (the team have already stated that they are open to an extension), Mercedes will have to give him a reason to stay.
Nico Rosberg had a quiet but strong season. He finished 7th in the championship again, ahead of Schumacher, and outqualified his team-mate 16 times out of 19 races. Among his performances, Rosberg led in the opening laps of the Belgian Grand Prix after storming to the front on lap 1 from 5th on the grid. Alas, it was not to last as Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull eventually proved simply too quick for the Mercedes. Rosberg has shown his pace. He has already proven that all he needs is a competitive car to be able to fight for race wins. But there is an impression of frustration developing. 2 years in to his contract with Mercedes, he is not at the front, and it is obviously the car that is lacking. If the 2012 car is not capable of winning, Rosberg’s patience will be severely tested.
Mercedes have now been back in Formula 1 for 2 difficult years. 2012 must surely be a significant year for them. Either they will return to the front of the grid, or the dream will begin to fade. Pre-season testing will give some indication of what is to come, but ultimately, Mercedes have to deliver in the races. Thus far, they have not done so.