Canadian Grand Prix: McLaren preview

Jun.1 (McLaren Press Release) The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has been the home of the Canadian Grand Prix since 1978. It’s located on Montreal’s Ile Notre Dame, a man-made island in the middle of the St Lawrence River that was built using rock excavated for the Montreal metro.

The track is a semi-permanent circuit. The area around the pits is reserved exclusively for racing, while the rest of the circuit is opened up to road traffic during the summer months. That makes the asphalt very smooth and, as was the case in Monaco last time out, Pirelli will supply their Soft and Supersoft tyre compounds to the teams.

The cars top 300km/h on four occasions around the lap, braking at the end of each straight for a tight corner. That makes car set-up a delicate balance between low downforce for maximum straightline speed, while maintaining enough aerodynamic grip to ensure braking stability.

Unlike last year, there will only be a single DRS zone in the race – located on the long straight before the final chicane. Throw in the addition of KERS Hybrid, however, and dicey, high-speed overtaking should once again be prevalent on Sunday afternoon.

Both Vodafone McLaren Mercedes drivers have won the Canadian Grand Prix, Jenson took an unforgettable last-to-first victory last year while Lewis dominated in both 2007 and ’10. The team is going for a hat-trick of wins next Sunday.

McLaren at the Canadian Grand Prix

Wins: 12 (1968, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1999, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2011)
Poles : 11 (1972, 1974, 1976, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1998, 2007, 2008, 2010)
Fastest Laps: 11 (1971, 1981, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1997, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2011)

Car 3: Jenson Button
“Obviously, returning to Montreal will be an extremely proud and happy moment for me. My win there last year was one of those rare occasions when everything just came right – it’s still hard to believe that I was running in last place past half-distance and yet still managed to come through and take victory on the final lap. The memories of that win will always be with me.

“Montreal is always a race I look forward to anyway. The city has such a great vibe to it, the people are friendly and extremely welcoming and the fans are incredibly passionate. It’s the perfect place to go racing and you can feel the excitement building literally as soon as you step off the plane.

“This weekend, though, it’s going to be important to get a handle on the car in qualifying. At the last two races, Q2 hasn’t gone my way, so, no matter what pace you have in the race, you’re still compromised on Sunday afternoon, particularly as the pack is so tightly bunched at the moment. My aim for the weekend will be to have a stronger qualifying performance and to be able to build on that in the race.”

Car 4: Lewis Hamilton
“This is turning into a unique season – one where every race provides new challenges and different outcomes. Even though everything hasn’t gone right for us, I’m confident that myself and the team are doing everything we can to ensure we’re in the best possible position to challenge for victory each and every weekend.

“I know that the results we all want will soon come to us: I am doing everything I can to extract every tenth from the car, and I know that the guys at the track and the men and women back at MTC are doing everything they can to give me a car that’s worthy of winning. We are still very much in the hunt for this world championship and I’m looking forward to bringing that fight to Montreal, which is one of my favourite races of the season.

“The contrasts between Monaco and Montreal couldn’t be greater. Although they’re both races that take place in the middle of a city, the circuits are very different and each has its own unique personality.

“The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a fantastic track – it’s super-fast in places, which means it requires finesse and precision, but you can also end up racing wheel-to-wheel with people at 200mph too, which is an incredible sensation.

“However, you still want a car with decent low-speed traction – all those long drags are usually preceded by tight hairpins, so it’s important that you can get the power down efficiently if you’re to pull a good laptime together. With KERS Hybrid and DRS in the mix, it should be an exciting grand prix – although, interestingly, we’re reverting to a shorter, single-DRS zone after the double-zone last year.

“On paper, I think our car will be well-suited to the combination: we showed in Spain that we’re very good in high-speed corners, but we were also quick in the final sector, which is slower and more technical. Of course, it’s still difficult to accurately predict the outcome, so I’ll be focusing on another clean weekend where I can score more consistent world championship points.”

Martin Whitmarsh, Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
“I think everybody in Formula 1 enjoys the Canadian Grand Prix – the city plays a wonderful host to the event, and the circuit is fast, challenging and unforgiving. Throw in the commonly unpredictable Quebecois weather and you have the perfect combination for an excitable and unpredictable weekend.

“Of course, we were the major benefactors of that very unpredictability last year, and nobody at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes can think of Montreal without remembering Jenson’s magnificent victory there last year.

“But, let’s not forget that Lewis, too, has many happy memories of this circuit – he won his first grand prix there in 2007, has had pole position three times and dominated the event in 2010. Canada has been a happy hunting ground for the team in recent years and we’re fired up to make it a hat-trick next weekend.

“Finally, the Canadian Grand Prix will mark the 300th grand prix with our partners Mobil 1, Mercedes-Benz and Enkei. Mobil 1 kicked off their relationship with McLaren at the 1995 Brazilian Grand Prix – and, since then, we’ve never looked back. It’s been an incredibly productive partnership – on both a technical and personal level. During that time together, we’ve achieved quite a lot: three drivers’ championships, one constructors’ championship, 72 grand prix victories, 70 pole positions, 81 fastest laps and 2525 points.

“Let’s hope we can add to those figures in Montreal next weekend.”

McLaren has won the Canadian Grand Prix in each of the last four decades. Here’s how the team defined 12 days in the history of the race:

1. September 22 1968
Denny Hulme leads home Bruce McLaren to give McLaren an historic one-two finish at Mont Tremblant. Hulme inherits the lead when Ferrari driver Chris Amon, who leads for 72 of the 90 laps, retires with gearbox failure.

2. September 23 1973
Peter Revson’s second and final victory in Formula 1. He qualifies second at Mosport in his M23, but drops to seventh in the early laps. A lucky break with the Safety Car catapults him into the lead, ahead of Emerson Fittipaldi’s Lotus.

3. September 22 1974
Emerson Fittipaldi qualifies on pole position at Mosport, but Niki Lauda jumps ahead at the start. The Ferrari driver leads until he crashes out on lap 70 after driving over debris, handing the lead back to Emmo. As a result, the world championship fight goes down to the last race at Watkins Glen – where it’s settled in Emerson’s favour.

4. October 3 1976
James Hunt takes pole position at Mosport in dominant style, but Ronnie Peterson beats him into Turn One at the start. On lap nine, James pulls off a robust overtaking manoeuvre to take a lead he never loses. With championship rival Niki Lauda finishing only eighth, James closes the gap in the drivers’ standings to eight points.

5. June 12 1988
McLaren’s fifth win from the opening five races of ’88. Ayrton Senna takes pole position at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, but he’s beaten off the line by team-mate Alain Prost. Ayrton passes Alain for the lead on lap 19 and the pair proceeds to lap everyone up to Thierry Boutsen in third place.

6. June 10 1990
Ayrton Senna’s second victory in Montreal. He dominates from lights to flag, beating compatriot Nelson Piquet by 10s. Any chance of a McLaren one-two is ruined at the start when team-mate Gerhard Berger, starting second, jumps the start and is given a one-minute penalty.

7. June 14 1992
In a season dominated by Williams, Ayrton Senna takes an unexpected pole position and leads the race until he’s forced to retire with a gearbox problem. Gerhard Berger inherits the lead, coming home 12s ahead of Michael Schumacher.

8. June 13 1999
Michael Schumacher grabs pole from Mika Hakkinen by less than 0.1s and the pair race into the distance at the start. Mika pressures Michael into a mistake, which see the Ferrari star hit the “Wall of Champions” on the outside of the final turn. Mika takes the win from Giancarlo Fisichella’s Benetton.

9. June 12 2005
Juan Pablo Montoya leads the race until Jenson Button crashes into the Wall of Champions, bringing out the Safety Car. Montoya loses out in the subsequent pitstops, leaving team-mate Kimi Raikkonen to pick up the baton and take the fight to Michael Schumacher. Kimi beats Michael by 1.1s.

10. June 10 2007
The race is remembered for two things: Lewis Hamilton’s first victory in Formula One and Robert Kubica’s terrifying accident on the approach to the Hairpin. Lewis dominates the race from pole position; Robert emerges unscathed from the wreck of his car.

11. June 13 2010
McLaren’s second one-two in Canada, Lewis Hamilton leading home team-mate Jenson Button. They are separated by 2.2s at the flag, ahead of Fernando Alonso in third place.

12. June 12 2011
The longest race in F1 history, and one of the most eventful. Jenson Button wins in 4hrs4mins, after the race is suspended for two hours due to heavy rain. Jenson makes 34 on-track passes and eventually seals victory with a last lap pass Sebastian Vettel. “This has to be one of my greatest victories,” he said.