Red Bull may be vulnerable at Montreal (Canadian Grand Prix preview)

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F1 returns to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve after a two-year absence
F1 returns to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve after a two-year absence

F1’s return to Montreal was cheered by fans when it was announced last November.

Following an exciting race in Istanbul, and with the championship battle finely poised between McLaren and Red Bull, the stage is set for one of Montreal’s typically unpredictable races.

Advantage McLaren?

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is brilliant in its simplicity: long straights, tight corners, and minimal run-off which ensures drivers can’t get away with mistakes. It’s a recipe for incident-packed races.

While Red Bull have largely held the upper hand on performance over the first seven races of the year, McLaren enjoyed a surge in form at Istanbul.

This weekend, as team principal Martin Whitmarsh admits, many will consider them the team to beat. This track should play to the MP4/25’s strengths and exaggerate the RB6’s weaknesses at the same time.

Good straight line speed is vital – and with an efficient F-duct and the powerful Mercedes engine McLaren’s car has frequently been among the fastest in a straight line this year. Red Bull are yet to use their version of the F-duct in a race and believe their Renault engine is 20-30hp down on the Mercedes.

The RB6’s strongest suit – the phenomenal speeds it can sustain through fast corners – is far less of an advantage at a circuit which has mainly slow chicanes and hairpins.

All of which leads you to wonder – could this be the first race the year where something other than an RB6 starts on pole position?

Lewis Hamilton has started from pole on both his previous visits to the Montreal circuit, scored his first ever win here in 2007 and looked set to claim another before his notorious pit gaffe two years ago. He goes into the weekend on the back of his first win of the season knowing another win would get him ahead of his team mate in the championship. Could he be the man to do it?

In the race, another of the RB6’s weaknesses will be severely tested – reliability. The is the hardest track of the year for brakes, even tougher than Bahrain and Singapore. We’ve already seen Red Bull suffer brake problems once this year, costing Sebastian Vettel points in Spain.

Read more: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal ?óÔéĽÔÇŁ circuit information

The question of team mates

Expect the situation between the team mates at McLaren and Red Bull to be closely scrutinised this weekend following the fall-out from the Turkish Grand Prix.

Whatever your interpretation of the Red Bull collision and swapping of positions between the McLaren drivers, it’s clear that there was more going on between the drivers and their teams over the radios than we knew about while watching the race.

And it’s possible we could see a rerun of events from Istanbul if the Red Bulls start the race in front of the McLarens, with the latter’s superior race pace allowing them to put their rivals under pressure.

Istanbul also exposed the question of fuel consumption – how far teams can under-fuel their cars so they can be quicker in the early stages of the race, then lean out their engines towards the end of the race to ensure they don’t run out of petrol.

According to Williams, cars use the same amount of fuel at Montreal (2.37kg per 5km) as at Istanbul, which costs them the same amount of time (0.06s per lap).

How much fuel to put in the car is therefore a question of compromise – one that could leave a team vulnerable at the beginning or end of a race, depending on how they call it.

Will the track hold up?

F1’s last two race at Montreal were affected by the tracking breaking up. The problem was worst in 2008 when the surface became badly damaged in several places during qualifying.

Will we see a repeat of those problems this year? The track has been resurfaced since then but the problems caused by Montreal’s fiercely cold winters remains.

F1 cars will give even greater punishment to the track this year than they did two years ago. Slick tyres mean they have more rubber in contact with the track, the minimum weight limit has been increased and the cars will be carrying full tanks of fuel from the start of the race. The cars are producing at least as much downforce as they were two years ago.

And there are four more cars in this year’s race than there were in 2008, putting yet more pressure on the track. This new surface better be up to it.

The extra cars may also give the leaders a headache when it comes to lapping traffic. At 4.3km, Montreal is the second-shortest track F1 has visited this year.

Read more: Montreal track re-surfaced after break-up

Drivers to watch

Four drivers to keep an eye on this weekend. Name your top picks in the comments.

Jenson Button – Since his last win in Shanghai, Button has faced a resurgent Hamilton in the other McLaren. There isn’t much to choose between them on raw pace but Hamilton has out-qualified him in the last three races and his uncompromising pass on Button at Istanbul cemented an impression that he holds the upper hand at McLaren right now.

Rubens Barrichello – How well will the Cosworths perform at this power track? Looks for Barrichello to provide a clue as the likely high water mark for the Cosworth-powered teams this weekend.

Vitantonio Liuzzi – The pressure on Liuzzi is telling as he’s switching back to an earlier chassis this weekend in a bid to solve his problems with the VJM03. Was a second slower than Adrian Sutil in qualifying at Istanbul – can he finally start to turn his season around this weekend?

Sebastien Buemi – Has developed a bad habit of getting involved in first lap scrapes which he needs to kick to avoid being eclipsed by his team mate.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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79 comments on “Red Bull may be vulnerable at Montreal (Canadian Grand Prix preview)”

  1. To watch
    Robert Kubica
    because he was last who won there
    and McLaren both drivers
    Button has more to show and try beat Lewis

    1. Although people have already started writing off the Ferraris, I think the Ferrari of Alonso is going to be gunning for the podium as well.

      1. Charles Carroll
        9th June 2010, 22:34

        I don’t think it is ever wise to count out Alonso. Even when he fails to qualify well, he still puts on quite a show.

        And yes, I said “show”. I’m here for the show, otherwise I wouldn’t watch it.

  2. ‘And there are four more cars in this year’s race than there were in 2009’
    2008 of course!

    1. Fixed, thanks.

      10th June 2010, 7:07

      Speaking of Sato,

      Who could forget Sato’s Banzai move on Fernando Alonso some 3 years ago (07),

      1. Not sure where Sato was mentioned in the posts above…

  3. “…and minimal run-off which ensures drivers can’t get away with mistakes.”
    They are doing everything to make it easier:
    Hate this.

    1. Me too. Since when have the gravel traps presented a problem necessitating a change? I guess we’re likely to see more hopeful but unskilled dives as there’s less of penalty for getting it wrong.

      1. I remember there being concerns after Schumi broke his leg that cars could “toboggan” over the gravel, but I’d thought that that was more down to the lay/looseness of the gravel rather than the fact that it was a gravel trap as such. Or am I rambling rubbish? :-D

      2. I think Sebastien Buemi’s crash in practice at Shanghai showed one of the advantages of tarmac run-offs over gravel. His car could have dug in, flipped, and had a much worse crash.

        1. I was talking specifically about gravel traps in Montreal, but that is a good point. Still find it a little disappointing seeing steadily more and more grass and gravel being replaced by tarmac, making the tracks look more boring. I guess astroturf is a nice idea, except I doubt it slows the cars down as much as gravel and makes it harder to maintain control unlike tarmac.

          1. Keep the tarmac run off areas, as they are much safer, but put a stinger across it to punish them like gravel traps do. LOL

          2. A stinger? This isn’t World’s Wildest Police Chases! :P

        2. Even still, I feel like there should be SOMETHING to deter mistakes more. Perhaps a large slice of grass between the track and the tarmac runoff? Otherwise, the tracks start to feel more like they’re driving through a cone-course in a parking lot than an actual track weaving across the terrain of the land.

        3. Well the car could have dug in and flipped, but like James said often flipping is down to the composition of the gravel trap, rather than gravel traps in principle.

          In modern F1 run off areas mean a mistake even on what are supposedly F1s most difficult corners such as 130R, Turn 8 or Pouhon go completely unpunished. There needs to be a balance, tarmac run off may marginally improve safety over gravel traps but they have a hugely detrimental effect on the challenge of racing in what is supposed to be the pinnacle of motorsport.

          1. Lets not forget Spa last year, with Kimi just deciding to change the shape of La Source at the start so he could get a favourable run up to Eau Rouge.

          2. yep – i still find it hard to believe that the stewards didn’t do ANYTHING to punish Kimi for that.. i seem to remember him doing the same thing round turn 1 at silverstone as well, even just more abrasive tarmac would be a massive deterrent now that tyre wear is so critical.

          3. Still it’s hard to blame Kimi for it the problem is that there’s loads of run-off not that there are drivers clever enough to exploit it.

          4. Several other cars did the same thing as Kimi and lost positions.

  4. Keith, I don’t know what Williams said about fuel, but Pravda says that fuel consumption in Montreal is quite low (only 60% of time at full throttle) and that the performance penalty for (fuel) weight is quite low in relative terms.
    So I don’t really understand how consumption there can be similar to Turkey. Moreover, the lack of big arcing turns means that shaving a couple kilos will be of little moment in this race. Thus, I don’t see fuel being an issue here, either in terms of total consumption or in terms teams seeking to run leaner in favor of car mass.

    Nonetheless, Mercedes Pferdstark and F-Duct equal VMM domination. But, no, I have not checked with Hair.

    1. Putting less fuel in the cars makes them faster everywhere not just through the turns!

      They accelerate faster, they can also brake later with less fuel in the car, so it will be just as important for them to put as little fuel in as possible.

      1. Reminds me of a conversation I was having with my girlfriend while we were driving down to Bath last week.

        She suggested that it’s actually more fuel efficient not to fill your tank completely because the engine will return better fuel consumption on a lighter car and the extra weight of the fuel from filling the tank will take away from this. Of course she was talking theoretically, and in our little 1.4l VW Polo I really doubt there’s any noticeable effect, but perhaps in F1, with the slim margins they run, the smallest saving in fuel weight can have a knock on effect on overall fuel consumption…

    2. I understand that tracks with most accelerating have the highest fuel consumption. And Montreal belongs to that category. Next round at Valencia (if you remember GP2 race at 2008) is quite similar while thinking that.

    3. That’s what I thought too – I emailled Williams to check and they said the figures are definitely correct.

  5. The downforce levels aren’t really up to 2008 levels are they? I thought the reason they were so fast was a lot to do with slick tyres. Although I suppose the real issue with the track breaking up is the g’s generated by a car through a corner, the amount of contact area and the force the car exerts on the tarmac (including downforce plus weight), so it probably is right that this year will have effects at least as bad as before (assuming resurfacing hasn’t improved things).

    1. I actually think the cars will be gentler on the tarmac in their current marque.

      The tyre now has a larger contact patch with the road which actually exerts less pressure on the track (as it is exerting the same force over a larger area).

      Its probably not a lot less as with this greater contact patch they get more mechanical grip, but most of the force on the ground comes from the downforce, which seems to be around the 2008 levels.

    2. But isn’t the wider surface area of the slick tyre easier for the track surface? Assuming they corner at the same speeds as 2008 the force exerted to the tarmac will be spread across larger peace of the tarmac, making it smaller for the particular area, atleast thats how I see it. But then again the extra weight will icrease the stress on the surface, and they probably can take slow corners (such as the hairpin where there were problems in 08) faster thanks to the extra contact surface provided by the slicks.

    3. The downforce levels aren’t really up to 2008 levels are they?

      In April Paddy Lowe said downforce levels were “approaching” where they were in 2008:

  6. I am predicating third consecutive pole for Lewis Hamilton. And my ‘Drivers to watch’ are Lewis Hamilton, Robert Kubica because Renault seems very strong in these kind of tracks and also Massa with that renewed contract and significantly changed(hopefully improved) Ferrari will be racing with much less pressure.

  7. I think both Vettel and Webber have something to prove, as will Button and particularly Hamilton. Kubica’s worth watching. I think Alonso more than Massa is likely to be trying extra hard. He dissapointed in Turkey and will want to re-establish his position as team leader. And I think it’s worth watching HRT against the other newcomers, especially if they keep their straight-line speed from Turkey.

  8. I think McLarens will run away with this race. I don’t know whether Jenson or Lewis will be faster until I see practice!

    I do reckon ferrari will be quick here and also mercedes and renault.

    Red Bull may be more off the pace than everybody expects here. I think they may even sink as far as the around the 7th and 8th mark!

    1. Charles Carroll
      9th June 2010, 22:38

      I’m not sure what to think of Mercedes. On the one hand, it seems like they have peaked already. They remind me of Toyota and Honda on a certain level…unlimited resources but not living up to the hype. On the other hand, with the drivers they have, with Ross Brawn, and the fact that hey, they ARE Mercedes, they should be just getting ready to dominate.

      I don’t know. Perhaps its just because they’ve been consistent and not spectacular. Maybe they’re just under my radar.

  9. I second that james_mc!

  10. 0.06s per lap seems a very small amount considering how much they had to slow down at the end of the race in Turkey (I’m guessing they fueled at least 3-4 laps light?)

  11. McLaren will be the team to beat but it’s so hard to predicted the madness of Montreal!

  12. Am I right in thinking Renault were given permission to develop their horsepower so its equal to Mercedes? A few years back. If so why are they still moaning about being 30hp down. They had their chance ?

    1. velvet_demon
      9th June 2010, 21:06

      It’s not Renault moaning about engine, it’s Red Bull.

  13. McLaren will be untouchable.
    With the Mercedes engine and the f-duct fully optimized I think the only threat will be the weather for them

    1. But the weather is not a real threat to them. In changing weather Mclaren tends to be doing pretty good and Red Bull worse. So then their biggest threat would be Mercedes with Kubicas Renault and Alonso in his Ferrari. Maybe Sutil getting a chance at a lucky podium.

  14. With what engines!

    1. velvet_demon
      9th June 2010, 21:34

      Sitll not Renault. If Red Bull has a problem with Renault engines they can go and talk with Mercedes. Oh, wait…

  15. I’ve just uploaded a picture of Fernando Alonso that I snapped earlier today while walking around the island. He was mountain biking with another Ferrari team member. He doesn’t look too happy that I took his photo, but he turned around when we shouted “Fernando!”, so he only has himself to blame :)

  16. I enjoyed reading that, it was a well written piece :). I agree with the higher chance of a wrecked track because of all the reasons you stated, and if CAnada had a winter like the UKs it might have caused some problem too!

    As for ‘MB pferdsfark’ I presume that means horse power, cause pferd means horse doesn’t it?

  17. Hamilton win, nailed on I reckon; all the time he makes up on Button will be in the big stops. Well, assuming he can make his brakes last the distance…

  18. Not exactly going out on a limb here, but judging from their performance in Turkey, and given the nature of this track, my money is firmly on a McLaren 1-2. Of course there is that pesky safety car wild card, which will almost certainly be dealt. Should be fun!

  19. Scott Joslin
    9th June 2010, 22:46

    I would add Ferrari the the mix as a team to watch. They have under performed in the last handful of races so surely Alonso at least will be able to strike back.

    Alonso was quick in Monaco on a bumpy track will slow speed corners, with the addition of their F-Duct I think they will be closer to Mclaren / Red Bull.

  20. Pferdestärken is horsepower in german, I dunno what pferdsfark means.

  21. RBR’s weak brakes also showed themselves in australia once again on vettels car.
    luckily mark’s is tougher !

    1. Both in Australia and in Turkey, it wasn’t the brakes on vettel’s car that failed.

      Vettel in both cases incorrectly assessed that it was his brakes that failed, but in both cases he was wrong. makes you wonder how good he is at “feeling the car”.

      I don’t remember what exactly was the problem in Australia, but Brembo was pretty adament that it wasn’t the brakes.

      In Turkey it was the rollbar.

      So Vettel had a problem with his brakes just once. Big deal.

  22. My favourite race of the year!

  23. I can’t wait to watch my home race! I made it to the GP in 2008, but unfortunatly I cannot attend this year. Nonetheless, I’ll have my eyes glued to the TV for this one-I hope it will be a great one again!

  24. Barcelona’s Sector 3 showed that Red Bull are good in the slow corners too, and unlike its predecessor the MP4-25 isn’t as good in this area, so it won’t be all bad news for Red Bull and good for McLaren.

  25. I want to see with what Renault will come up, it seems they’re giong to outperform Mercedes in this race. Kubica was diong really well behind those Mercedes cars at Turkey. Mclaren did pretty good at Turkey and I think they are favorites at Canada too. I wonder what Mercedes would do to improve their pace, their speed on straight is not that nice and to be honest is awful! I hope they have done sth about it. Ferrari has been really disappointing at Turkey and as they said they will bring an extreme diffiuser to Valencia, but what about Montreal, Have they done any improvement? I just can’t wait to the start of the practices on Friday

  26. I am really hopeing webber can pick it up where he left off.
    Cause i feel strongly that this is his year for the championship and i hope the Turkey incedent dosnt effect that to much.

  27. Red Bull **MAY** be vulnerable in Montreal ?? They were already vulnerable in Turkey !

    Lewis is going to walk this race.

  28. This may be the first race where we may not see the Red Bull on pole. Mclaren keeping a lot of promise this weekend so i do expect them to be on the top. The team I will be eyeing is Mercedes if they struggle on this low downforce circuit then it will mean that they will also struggle in Spa, Interlagos, Silverstone I wouldn’t be surprise to hear that the team decides to switch their attention on 2011 car sometime very soon.

    1. I do not think they will do that. Look at Ferrari who did that last year and Williams having a clean sheet design as well and compare that with McLaren and Red Bull who have pushed till the end and picked up in this year.

      To me it seems to be a better stragegy to push on and learn more about improving the car than just starting anew early.

  29. Late to the post, but I’m going to the Canadian GP and I’m blogging about it for Badger and tweeting about it. Going to the track for the first time tomorrow – getting excited now!

    1. Thanks for the link ‘Spiffy. I’ll definitely give that a read and I love your tweets. Bet you’re pleased with the Massa news too this week. have a terrific weekend!

  30. Ferrari’s f-duct used in barcelena gave them the top speed over mclaren but it is believed it also acted as a downforce trimming device.Therefore it was slow in the other two sectors there.But the canadian circuit is a low downforce circuit and so downforce wouldnt be that serious issue i guess.It can be compromised. Hence the ferraris have a chance to grab a podium perhaps.

  31. Gonna be a typical Montreal race, a war of attrition. The cars with the best reliability and the drivers who can keep their nose clean will be sure to get points.

    A surprise winner at any other track may not be such a surprise here.

    1. With rain on the table for Sunday it will be even more of a lottery.
      I do expect Vettel to get a pole out of the RedBull, not sure on where Webber, Hamilton, Button as well as Alonso, Kubica, Rosberg and Schumi end up.
      For the race i think McLaren have the advantage, but Red Bull will want to avoid mistakes made earlier with pit-stops, Alonso has something to prove with the car and on this track, Rosberg and Schumi have a good engine and Kubica might spring a suprise.

  32. Jhonnie Siggie
    10th June 2010, 6:31

    I learnt from trading the markets that the trend is your friend. Ride the trend until you have strong evidence to the contrary. Although mclaren is doing better, I’ll take the words of Ross Brawn seriously. He believes that the Bulls are strong everywhere. The only weakness I have seen is when it’s wet. Those that think Mclaren will win easily might find themselves real sad this weekend. Enjoy the race all!

  33. For RBR they have a low speed corner grip advantage over McLaren and they should be able to take more regular wing off than most.

    I suspected that the brake issues were tied up with Vettel’s kerb smacking and the high ambient temperature venting.

    I don’t think it will be RBR’s strongest track and am actually too unsure to predict their relative speed but I also see some mitigating signs. Maybe Ferrari will surprise here and I will be interested to see how the Renault-Force India-Sauber-Mercedes scrap ends up.

    You might even put a very long odds dollar on Sutil for a win if it rains as is currently predicting, but on full wets (not inters) I feel RBR might improve again too.

  34. Great article kieth, but i think that the real drivers to watch are Alonso and Massa. Since Ferrari promised a new kit, and they are very hungry for a podium finish.

    1. Ferrari promised a new kit for Valencia, not Montreal. They’ve said they’re essentially running the same car as in Istanbul.

  35. The only thing RBR have to worry about is each other as they have no idea about being in a team and the team having no reliability plus its Germany Vs Australia in the footy.

  36. The Canadian Grand Prix was always one of my favourites as it usually delivered exciting races without the need for rain, so after one year off the calendar it is probably the race I most looking forward to this season.

    I think this is the probably the best chance so far of a non Red Bull pole, and given Hamilton’s past form here I wouldn’t be surprised if he achieves pole and the win.

    Things I expect to see include some high profile retirements due to mechanical failure, some drivers in the Wall of Champions and at least one safety car.

    Having said all that it will probably end up a largely uneventful race.

    1. Canada is NEVER uneventful!

  37. Hamilton, kubica and button is all i can say and maybe something special from schumi XD?

  38. I will be there!

    Cant wait!!!! Go McLaren!

  39. Sorry, but I’m not drinking the McLaren Kool-aid until they SHOW us they can beat the Bulls. Vettel and Webber still favored in my book.

    I think the only track surface issue was at the hairpin and that’s allegedly been resurfaced.

    The real kicker is the potential for rain.

    I’ll give Jenson a potential P1 if it’s a wet race. He’s been extraordinarily lucky/great at deciding which wets to use and when to switch to dries. Hope it continues.

  40. Agree with GeorgeK. I don’t think RBR will be disadvantaged compared to McLaren. RBR had a 1-2 at Monaco, where McLaren struggled, so RBR may have an advantage through low speed/tight corners too. Unless McLaren have sort out their weekness, I can’t see them as the team to beat.

  41. What is this talk of trends and kool aid? Look at the WCC table. RBR is losing. You don’t win the crown in practice and qualifying. Results are the best prediction of results, and its too late to talk of circumstances and luck. RBR do not get it done.

    This season, RBR is like that charming, loquacious student who sounds so brilliant in class discussion but somehow falls apart during the exam, while VMM is the grind who lives in the library and then leaves the exam early with a big smile. Face it, RBR is a B+ student at best.

    1. Same as last year really. You’d think that at some point they started learning how to act like a top team.

  42. Australia on top of the Castrol rankings already and a win over Vettel in Montreal would take Mark to P1.

  43. I don’t think Ferrari are ever to be counted out. They don’t seem to be grabbing the headlines as much as Mclaren and RBR at the moment, but they seem to be all -rounders as opposed to having strength in some areas and defects in others, like RBR for instance.

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