Nico Rosberg seized the Formula 1 championship lead from aggrieved Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton in Monaco but he may have to hand it straight back in Montreal this weekend.
With their rivalry sure to be as fierce as ever, despite both drivers playing down talk of feuding in recent days, Hamilton can be expected to hit back hard at one of his favourite circuits.
The 2008 world champion has won three times in Canada and took the first grand prix victory of his career at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, with McLaren, in 2007.
Until last year, when he started on the front row and ended up third behind Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, the 29-year-old Briton could boast of winning every Canadian Grand Prix which he had finished.
“Canada is a very good circuit for me,” Hamilton said after Rosberg ended his run of four wins in a row with victory in Monaco on May 25.
“We were both quite quick there last year but with this car it should be better. It is a late-braking circuit and I am better on the brakes, so it should be a good one for us.
“This one is really important. It’s where I won my first grand prix, so I want to make sure I keep doing that,” he added after driving the layout on a simulator this week.
Even if Rosberg rates Montreal as a favourite venue, with the city’s nightlife making it a great place to celebrate a good result, the German has never finished higher than fifth there.
That must surely change this time, with Mercedes chasing their sixth one-two finish in a row and seventh successive pole and victory, but Hamilton will have the bit between his teeth after falling four points behind his rival.
“I always remember with Lewis that when we had a tussle in a race, or there was an issue between us…the next race he would destroy me. He would come there and be stronger than ever,” recalled his former McLaren team mate Jenson Button.
“He’s very good at turning it around and coming back because he is a superb driver. He is very fast and he can wrestle a car around a circuit. He won’t have any issues going into the next race with Nico.”
Champions Red Bull are unlikely to repeat last year’s win even if engine partners Renault say Vettel will finally have full power at his fingertips after a difficult start to the season.
“In the last four races we’ve introduced several new upgrades and we will complete the process in Montreal, effectively giving us the first full opportunity to see where we are versus the competition,” said Remi Taffin, Renault F1’s head of track operations.
Taffin said that Renault have fixed the power-unit problem that forced Vettel to retire in Monaco, as well as the exhaust issues that hit both Toro Rosso drivers.
Canada, with long straights and cars hitting top speeds in excess of 330km/h will be the toughest challenge so far for the new V6 power units and energy-recovery systems, and should favour Mercedes.
“You go from one extreme to the other,” said Red Bull Principal Christian Horner, of the challenge of Montreal after Monaco. “The next event is straight-line performance so it’s going to be very interesting to see how we fare against Mercedes-powered teams.”
Ferrari hope to be more competitive, with Alonso – winner in Canada in 2006 with Renault – spending time at the factory in Maranello since Monaco.
“We have been improving the car on the aero side, while in the simulator we have done a lot of work on the set-up,” the Spaniard told the Ferrari website.
“We can’t make any predictions because our improvement has to be seen in relation to what our competitors come up with. We need to match them and then find a plus.”
McLaren, who have gone well in Montreal in the past, are also hoping to step up after a three-race run without points.
“It should suit our car and we should be in better shape than we were in Monaco,” said Racing Director Eric Boullier.
Canadian Grand Prix Facts & Stats
- Mercedes have won all six races so far this season. McLaren, in 1988, were the first team to start a season with six wins. They went on to chalk up 11 in a row.
- Red Bull’s quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel has 39 career wins, Alonso 32, Lewis Hamilton 26, Raikkonen 20 and Jenson Button 15. Rosberg has five.
- Ferrari have won 221 races, McLaren 182, Williams 114 and Red Bull 46.
- Rosberg’s Monaco win ended a run of four in a row for Hamilton. No driver has ever won four races in a row without taking the title the same year.
- Red Bull have now gone six races without a victory for the first time since they became a winning team in China in 2009.
- McLaren have not won for 25 races, a run that dates back to Brazil 2012.
- Ferrari’s last win was in Spain, May 2013.
- Mercedes – with Hamilton (Australia/Malaysia/China/Spain) and Rosberg (Bahrain/Monaco) – have started every race on pole.
- The team who most recently started the first seven races of a season on pole was Red Bull in 2011.
- Vettel took nine poles last year, and now has 45 for his F1 career.
- Hamilton now has 35 poles, more than any other British driver in the history of F1.
- Ferrari’s last pole position was in Germany with Fernando Alonso in 2012.
- Marussia scored their first F1 points with Bianchi’s ninth place in Monaco.
- That leaves Caterham, who came into the sport in 2010, as the only team on the grid who have yet to score.
- Ferrari have finished a record 73 successive races with at least one car in the points, a run that dates back to the 2010 German Grand Prix.
- Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat is F1’s youngest point scorer, aged 19 years and 324 days.
- Hamilton has won the Canadian Grand Prix three times (in 2012, 2010 and 2007).
- Alonso, Button, Raikkonen and Vettel are the other previous winners on the grid.
- Ferrari last won in Montreal, a circuit named after their late great Gilles Villeneuve, in 2004 with Michael Schumacher.
- McLaren have won four of the last six races in Canada. they have won 13 times in Canada to Ferrari’s 11.
- Since 2000, the race has been won from pole five times.
- The rain-hit Canadian Grand Prix of 2011 was F1’s longest, lasting four hours four minutes and 39.537 seconds. That same race also saw the Safety Car deployed six times, another record. (Reuters)