June 6th 2012 (F1plus / Chris Cameron-Dow).- Formula One heads to Montreal this week for the Canadian Grand Prix. It is 30 years since the death of Gilles Villeneuve, after whom the track is named, which carries special significance for Canada and the Formula One community.
The city is a favourite among the teams and drivers. Caterham's Heikki Kovalainen explains why: “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.”
The 2011 race was one of the most exciting in many years, with rain delaying the race for two hours before Jenson Button fought from the back of the field to pass Sebastian Vettel on the last lap and go on to win.
This year's race takes place against a backdrop of protests, as Quebec students continue to disagree with the local government over an increase in university fees. The student groups have announced their intention to disrupt the Grand Prix, focusing on denying the fans access to crucial public transport.
How many winners?
There have now been six winners from the first six races of 2012. That's a record for the start of a season. But the overall record for most consecutive different winners is as high as nine, which occurred in the mid-season of 1982.
There are some strong candidates for seventh winner in seven races. Lewis Hamilton is winless so far this season, which is unusual for him and even more so given the pace of the car. Kimi Raikkonen looks hungry for victory and has the pace to achieve it. Michael Schumacher is still chasing his first victory since returning to the sport in 2010.
Pirelli are bringing their soft and supersoft compounds to Canada, the same selection as used in Monaco. Degradation is expected to be much higher in Canada because the track is much faster than Monte Carlo, so pit strategy will become a significant factor in determining the result.
Last year saw the FIA experiment with a double DRS zone in Montreal. The first zone was on the long straight before the final chicane, and the second zone was on the start-finish straight. It was felt that overtaking was perhaps a bit too easy with the double zone, and so for this year the second DRS zone has been removed, and the first zone shortened by 50 metres.
The long straights, slow corners, hard braking and heavy traction nature of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve should suit Mercedes. Rosberg has already won a race this season, and he and Schumacher have each topped qualifying once. Mercedes should be in strong contention for pole position and victory. If Schumacher can keep his car running until the end, this is his best chance of victory since returning to Formula One.
Force India have traditionally been strong on high-speed circuits, particularly at Spa and Monza, due to the Mercedes engine that powers their car. Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg should have a strong weekend and can be expected to score points.
Circuit Length: 4.361 km
Race laps: 70
Race length: 305.270 km
Lap Record: 1:13.622 – Rubens Barrichello / Ferrari (2004)
Race winner: Jenson Button / McLaren
Pole position: Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull – 1:13.014
Fastest lap: Jenson Button / McLaren – 1:16.956
Michael Schumacher has won the race an astonishing seven times, including six wins for Ferrari.
The wall on the exit of the final chicane became known as the “Wall of Champions” after Schumacher, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve all crashed there in 1999
At 4 hours, 4 minutes and 39.537 seconds, the 2011 race was the longest in Formula One history, and included a two hour rain delay.
Jenson Button made 6 pitstops on the way to winning in 2011.
There is a chance of thunderstorms on Friday, which would make practice all but useless for the teams, as Saturday and Sunday are expected to be dry. Temperatures are expected to be fairly constant over the weekend, which will assist in setting up the cars for tyre management.