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Schumacher improve his record ?
Michael Schumacher has won more races (and pole positions) in Canada than any other F1 driver. He has won this race 4 times, 3 of them in the last 4 years. Of the current drivers only Hakkinen and Alesi have won the Canadian Grand Prix and that was only once each.
Can he win again? Or is that pushing the odds and lady luck too far.
Although it is certainly far from being the fastest race of the season the Giles Villeneuve circuit in Montreal has several very fast sections. These semi straights are interrupted by a series of very tight, slow corners.
Fuel consumption will be high as a result of acceleration to around 310 km/H from second gear several times per lap and brake wear will be at the highest of the season to arrest this headlong pace for the next slow corner. The bumpiness of the track and constant gear changes under acceleration will tax all transmissions to the extreme.
Brake and transmission failure rates will be high and I will be surprised to see much more than half of the cars finish.
Set up will be a compromise slanted towards minimising drag to ensure that the cars gain speed rapidly in the fast sections while still providing enough aerodynamic grip to keep the cars on the planet through the two faster (between 80mph/128km/H and 100mph/160km/H) corners.
With little help from the wings through the slow corners I expect to see soft compound tyres being used by all. Depending on how well it is expected that the soft compound tyres will last, most teams will probably try for a single stop. Average lap speed will be around 127mph/204km/H and although the pit lane is not as bad as some tracks it is hard to imagine that lighter fuel loads and fresh rubber will make up for an additional stop.
Last year Michael Schumacher lapped at 1.18.439 to get pole position and Hakkinen set the fastest lap of the race (and a new race lap record) at 1.19.049. I am expecting pole to be close to 1.17.00 (or even below it) and average lap speeds of the leaders to be faster than last year's pole.
The start of the race will be particularly exciting and like always a major influence on the outcome of the race. Leading cars will build up to 188mph/300km/H before braking to 45mph/72km/H for the tight right hand corner at the Senna hairpin. As all of them are bound to still be very close together in the right/left kink on the approach to this corner there is a high possibility of a touch between several as they struggle with full fuel loads and cold brakes and tyres which could easily result in several laps behind the pace car or even a restart.
After Coin Senna there is a short straight where cars will reach 170mph/272km/H before braking to 75mph/120 km/H for an opened S bend or chicane, and then accelerating on a slight curve to 175mph/280km/H before braking to 90mph/144km/H for Pont de la Concorde.
Braking from an expected 210mph/336km/H into the 65mph/105km/H chicane (or S bend) between Pont de la Concorde and L'Epingle is the first possible overtaking opportunity of the lap. It certainly is a better overtaking prospect than the next section where the overtaking car will be forced to be on the outside (and dirty side) of this 200mph/321km/H curve to set up for an inside run under brakes into L'Epingle which is very slow (40mph/64km/H).
I would not be surprised to see the cars exceed 215mph/342km/H on the next section before braking to 50mph/80km/H for the S bend into the pit straight. Cars, like Williams, that have a distinct power and speed advantage may find this the easiest spot to overtake by winning the drag race to the next corner.
Hard braking, hard acceleration and high top speeds promises brake, tyre, transmission and engine problems for even the best-prepared teams. Finishing with both cars will be an achievement.
Last year Ferrari finished first and second (of course Schumacher won) with Fisichella in third.
Statistically it is improbable that Ferrari will be able to do that again as that would mean that they have not only achieved this in successive years on the same track but also successive races in the same year (after finishing 1:2 in Monaco).
It is even less likely that Fisichella will be able to finish on the podium this year. He may be capable but the Benetton certainly is not.
Michael Schumacher is very fast here. I also believe that his car is suited to the track so he may well be able to pull off the statistically improbable.
Barrichello may have finished in second in Monaco and in last year's Canadian Grand Prix but I am still unwilling to predict that he is likely to finish on the podium, let alone second. He is just too unpredictable - varying from brilliant (almost brilliant) to very ordinary from race to race without any perceivable reason. He blames it on everything from team orders to foot cramps.
Coulthard has driven extremely well so far this season to finish in the points in every race but has never won the Canadian race. If Michael wins and Coulthard does not finish on the podium (which he did not last year) he will find it harder to stay in contention for the championship.
Hakkinen, who will start the race with a measly 4 championship points is still talking about winning this race and the championship. I think that he has left his run for too late and cannot understand why team orders are not in force in the McLaren camp. I have no doubt that he has the ability to win some of the remaining races but if he thinks that he will be able to make up the huge deficit to the leaders he is dreaming. To do that he has to win at least 5 races while both Coulthard and Schumacher finish out of the points.
Williams will in all probability be fastest. It is a power and top speed track, which will favour them. Both drivers will qualify well and I will not be surprised to see both start on the front row of the grid.
Unfortunately, I think that is all they will achieve. The Williams is not robust enough to make full race distance and although it will be very fast while going the probability of both retiring is high. Montoya could always slide off or crash his car before it gets a chance to die of natural causes.
Sadly, I can't see Jacques Villeneuve winning or even finishing on the podium in front of his home crowd (on the track named after his late father). Currently the BAR is not fast enough to stay in touch with the leaders and he will only get a chance to do well if most of the leading cars retire (which is not inconceivable).
Jordan are even less likely to do well. At the start of the season they looked like the faster of the Honda powered cars but now it looks as if BAR are definitely ahead.
It must be a bitter experience for the two Benetton drivers, who are both capable of going much faster than their cars will allow them to. Last year Fisichella finished 3rd - this year I will be surprised if either finish in the points.
Sauber may have looked reasonable in the earlier part of the season but by now the difference between last year's Ferrari engine and the new generation engines is getting too big for them to feature at all. Rumour has it that they are looking around for an alternative engine supplier but it is unlikely that we will see that in the foreseeable future.
Prost does not deserve any comment other than a rude one, and I have done that too often already.
Irvine may have done well in Monaco but that was because he loves the circuit and it requires very little power. In Canada Jaguar will not be fast enough to be competitive.
Minardi should fit larger rear view mirrors (it would be a good idea for Prost too) to ensure that they notice and keep out of the way of the leaders who will be lapping them frequently.
Canada is the first of the low downforce circuits and although we can speculate we are yet to see how the different cars perform under these circumstances. If nothing else it will be an indication of what to expect on the really fast circuits that are coming.
Agree or disagree ?