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McLaren Fastest, Renault second
and the jury is out on Ferrari
9 June 2005 Volume 7 - Issue 9

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Raikkonen was unbeatable until a tyre problem (probably caused himself by flat spotting) terminated his race. Alonso tried to catch up but was just not fast enough on the day.

In the past Raikkonen has impressed me with his ability to think behind the wheel but this time I could not understand why he did not pit for another tyre.

Forget about the fact that the tyre started delaminating six/seven laps before the end of the race which was an almost rock solid guarantee that if he continued at the same pace it was not up to that many laps, the vibrations from that tyre was so bad that it could be heard in the grand stand. It was obviously not going to last. I thought it would not last long enough to get to the pits on the lap it delaminated, let alone full race distance.

Had Raikkonen pitted he would have finished third in the worst case losing four points to Alonso. Now he lost 10 and probably his chance of the championship. Pretty expensive price to pay for a low odds gamble. Alonso is now more than 30 points ahead - at this stage in the season I would say that is pretty much a win.

I have been saying for months that Ferrari are being held back by Bridgestone, but I am starting to wonder if that is their only problem. They seem a little off the pace even when things are going their way.

Not that it matters, there is no way that either Barrichello or Schumacher can win the season from here - they are just too far behind.

I was impressed with Williams, they are getting better fast (or is it getting better at being fast?). A pity that Mark Webber retired so early but Heidfeld certainly stayed in touch with Alonso's Renault for the whole race.

The Canadian track (layout) is a power circuit demanding top speeds of at least 320km/H (198mph) to be competitive along the Droit du Casino and Pont de la Concorde.

The start is reasonably close to Coin Senna, a sharp left/right turn (1 and 2), where the drivers will be braking down to 80km/H(50mph) before accelerating through a gentle right hand curve (where speeds will get up to 270km/H or 166mph) , before turns 3 and 4, another "S" formation where speeds will again come down to around 135km/H(77mph), then accelerating through turn 5, a fast right hand kink, to turns 6 and 7 a further left/right "S" which is taken at around 150km/H(93mph).

From here it is flat out to over 330km/H(204mph) before braking down to 100km/H(62mph) for yet 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 that leads on to the straight.

Now we get to the fast part of the circuit as cars will get close to 350km/H(216mph) 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 is pretty much part of a straight that has been defined as a turn).

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 could also create an opportunity in the following faster sections.

The circuit is an interesting combination of power straights that are not quite straight where speeds are so high that the required downforce can be achieved with pretty small wings and slower corners where a lot of wing is needed to be fast. Setup is always a compromise between grip and drag and on any circuit it could severely affect a team's ability but here that compromise is crucial.

McLaren will in all probability be very fast here. At the moment their pace seems to be just a little ahead of the rest.

If Raikkonen does not flat spot again my money is on him winning the race but Montoya has his days and here he will be close to his home turf of CART racing. He cannot be discounted but he is not as consistent as Raikkonen.

Renault will probably be fast enough to stay in touch and even challenge for the lead but I suspect that Alonso is not going to take any chances. If he finishes only on the podium for the rest of the season his championship is guaranteed even if he is forced to retire for one of the remaining races. He is unlikely to let the pressure of the day get to him.

If he is fast enough or gets a clear run out of the starting blocks Alonso could lead but do not be surprised at a very conservative drive.

If Williams improve again they may be the team that will force Alonso to push harder. It will not take much improvement in pace for Williams to match Renault. They may even challenge for the lead before the end of this season.

Toyota is also worth watching as Canada is a fast track and they are very often the fastest through speed traps. Their pace may bring them into contention too.

Ferrari could be the wild card. So far this season they have performed poorly, compared to the last several seasons. Chances are that it is Bridgestone that is holding them back but both Michael and Rubens are not posting as many fastest laps as they did last year.

They believe that the car has promise and they may just realise that in Canada but I do not think so.

BAR did not perform at the Nurburgring. They may have favoured their engines that, after all, did age enormously during their ban but if that was anything to go by it is going to take them a few more races to get back up to speed.

The rest are unlikely to get better. Sauber are possibly hampered by the same engine gremlins that Ferrari could be suffering from, Red Bull are doing so well considering the engines that they have to work with and like always Minardi and Jordan will provide back markers to be lapped and rookies with a drive.

Agree or disagree ?

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