Formula One heads to Montreal next week for the Canadian Grand Prix. The city is a favourite for teams and drivers. As Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen says, “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.”
The track is characterised by long straights and slow corners, which means high top speed, good traction and low speed grip are crucial. Vitaly Petrov describes the ideal car setup: “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.”
With that in mind, Mercedes should be in strong contention for pole position. Rosberg and Schumacher have each topped the times in qualifying once this season, showing that the car is quick. The Mercedes engine is the most powerful on the grid, which provides high top speed on the long straights in Montreal. The unique DRS system on the W03 will even further increase acceleration and straight-line speed during qualifying. Stability in low-speed corners was evident in Monaco, where Schumacher was quickest in qualifying, and Rosberg finished second in the race. The Mercedes showed good traction out of the final chicane at the Spanish Grand Prix, and also demonstrated an ability to ride the kerbs well.
The weakness of the Mercedes is a slight lack of downforce in high-speed corners. In Canada, there aren’t any high-speed corners. All of the circuit characteristics suit the Silver Arrows.
Schumacher’s best result since returing to Formula One came at the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix, where he finished fourth after running as high as second in changing weather conditions. The German multiple world champion will be hoping to go at least one better than that this year, to achieve the first podium of his second career. But before that, he and his team-mate Nico Rosberg will be aiming for pole position. They have the car to do it.