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Canada is where we find out if Williams and BMW still have a power advantage over the Ferrari. So far over the season it has been difficult to assess the power differential between these two teams (if there is one). Unless misadventure spoils either teams efforts we should know after the Canadian Grand Prix.
The start leads on to a gentle right hand curve which is normally negotiated at around 300km/H(186mph), ending in a sharp left/right turn (1 and 2) where they will be braking down to 80km/H(50mph).
Another gentle right hand curve (where speeds will get up to 270km/H or 166mph) leads up to another "S" configuration right (turn 3) and left (turn 4) where speeds will again come down to around 135km/H(77mph) before accelerating through turn 5 a fast right hand kink to turns 6 and 7, another left/right "S" which is taken at around 150km/H(93mph).
From here it is flat out up to 330km/H(204mph) before braking down to 100km/H(62mph) for another loose "S" (turns 8 and 9). After that they get up to 265Kmh/165mph before braking down to 80km/H(50mph) for turn 10 a tight right hand hairpin.
Now we get to the fast part of the circuit as cars get up to an estimated 340km/H(210mph) before braking for turns 12 and 13 that could almost be described as a chicane. (For those who have noticed: yes I did not mention turn 11 as that is a mild sweep soon after the exit of turn 10, that in my opinion looks pretty straight).
Turn 13 exits onto the pit straight and we are ready for another lap.
The very slow exit out of turn 10 makes the section between turns 10 and 12 the best overtaking opportunity. Cars will be running at their maximum speed and a car with superior pace should be able to get by.
The slow exit out of turn 13 onto the pit straight (if you can call it a straight) and out of turn 7 are also possible candidates for overtaking.
The best overtaking opportunities will present themselves towards the end of the race when brakes will be giving trouble. (This is of course always assuming that the overtaking car does not experience braking problems too.)
This circuit is exceptionally hard on brakes. The very fast sections followed by slow corners means that they will be using their brakes for lengthy braking sessions several times a lap with barely enough time in between to cool. Last year several cars crashed because of brake failure and it will probably happen again this year.
Although only a medium downforce circuit (which means that the optimum configuration will be with medium sized wings) the very high speeds will create substantial downforce greatly stressing and heating tyres. Add close to extreme braking and tyre wear is a difficult issue. Harder compounds will take the beating better but are unsuited to the very slow corners where softer compounds will give better grip. Whoever gets this compromise right will have a substantial advantage (seeing that a lot of it will depend on the temperature during the race, which is hard to predict accurately).
I have this depressing feeling that Ferrari will turn out to be faster than Williams (and therefore the whole field) in Canada. The few indications that we have had so far this season did indicate that Ferrari have substantially closed the power gap to Williams but on the few occasions that Ferrari dominated the race they were hardly pushed, so it was not possible to work out if they could have gone faster. I suspect they could have. (The reason why the prospect of Ferrari being fastest depresses me is that I believe if they are also dominant in Canada it means that they will dominate on all circuits taking most of the excitement out of the season.)
Williams may still have an edge on tracks with very high speed sections like Canada. If so, their ability to lead and win the race will be very dependant on the performance of their Michelin tyres. Last year well scrubbed (totally worn) Michelins gave Ralf the relative speed and opportunity to romp away from brother Michael Schumacher although the Ferrari was faster than the Williams on new tyres.
If there is a difference between Bridgestone and Michelin this season it is not as acute or significant as it was last year, but then the difference in horsepower between Williams and Ferrari seems to be much smaller too.
It would be nice to see Williams and Ferrari equally matched, but don't hold your breath.
Although there is a chance that one or both McLarens will finish in the points on Sunday they have no chance of making it to the podium unless two of the four Ferraris and Williams retire or have some other serious problem that sets them too far back to get past the field. Of the two drivers Coulthard seems to be consistent while Raikkonen seems to show great talent in spurts.
Sauber will do well to get in front in the middle bunch. It is getting a little late in the season for them to be able to stay ahead of the rest of the teams that are all working hard on getting more power out of their motors or even getting new engines. Heidfeld is an excellent driver but it has been a long time since drivers have been able to make up for mediocre cars. Massa on the other hand is likely to continue his career of being noticed, even if it is by helping other cars off the track.
Fisichella will have a new motor which may give him the opportunity to do better. He certainly deserves it, but I am not too sure that the only problem Jordan are facing this year is engine or power. BAR are counting on a whole new package to help them score their first points of the season.
Villeneuve is almost guaranteed to break the new Honda engine in front of his home crowd. He is normally hard on cars so we can expect him to be even harder on he circuit named after his late father.
Renault may do well. They are constantly improving their performance and seem to consistently move up in the ranks. Trulli and Button are both fast and could both do well.
This will not be a Jaguar event. They are not fast enough to match the top speed on this circuit and do not have the chassis to get around the tight corners (if they did I am sure that Irvine would have done better in Monaco). Arrows with the same engines are doing a lot better however they do have better drivers!.
Webber will do OK compared to the other slow teams but this is not the circuit for him to shine on as the Minardi will not get anywhere near the required speed on the faster bits.
Toyota may have the speed to be competitive but seem to lack in traction and road holding I suspect that they will do well enough to finish one or even both divers in the points
It will not be a processional race. Brakes and tyre wear alone will have an impact on finishing position. Overtaking is possible and William may be fast enough to surprise us all.
Agree or disagree ?