Formula 1: 2013 Canadian Grand Prix Preview
The Formula One world heads over the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in 2013 this weekend for the Canadian Grand Prix.
The venue will be the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Montreal's Ile Notre Dame, the 33rd time the race has taken place here. It will be the 43rd Canadian Grand Prix in total—the others were held at Mosport Park or Mont-Tremblant.
Gilles Villeneuve was one of the most exciting true racers the sport has ever seen, and the circuit which bears his name does justice to his memory. You're not likely to see a dull race here.
Michael Schumacher won here seven times, but of the current field only Lewis Hamilton (with three) has more than a single victory.
Most teams have a bogey track or two, and this is one of Red Bull's. Though the dominant team of recent years, they've never won in Canada, and have scored only three podiums.
If history repeats itself, their rivals will see this as a golden opportunity to close the gap.
As It Stands
Sebastian Vettel extended his lead over Kimi Raikkonen in Monaco, and the gap now stands at 21 points. Fernando Alonso is eight points further back in third.
For comparison, last year's leader at this stage of the season had 76 points. In 2011 the leader had 143, and in 2010 two drivers were tied for the lead at 78.
The current top 10 are:
|01||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||107|
|05||Mark Webber||Red Bull||57|
|08||Paul di Resta||Force India||28|
Red Bull lead the constructors' championship with 164 points. Ferrari are second, with Lotus third and Mercedes fourth.
Then there's a huge gap down to Force India in fifth.
By comparison, last year the leading team had 146 points. In 2011 it was 222, and in 2010 they had 156.
The teams currently with at least one point are:
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a semi-permanent track on the man-made Île Notre-Dame, Montreal. The island was constructed in 1965 using rock excavated for the building of the Montreal Metro.
This place is one of the leftovers from the time before F1 starting moving into new markets, plonking shiny "international circuits" all around the globe. It's no masterpiece, but it's certainly loved by fans.
While Hermann Tilke works to produce circuits with a rich variety of corners, the Montreal track is basically two hairpins connected by two straights, with a few chicanes in between.
While modern circuits have super-safe, expansive run-off areas which could probably host their own music festivals, Montreal has a few patches of gravel and lots and lots of walls.
And while modern circuits might as well have neon signs saying "Overtake here, please" perched above their carefully-sculped passing zones, Montreal provides at least three outstanding overtaking opportunities without even trying.
Races here are almost always great spectacles and rated highly by those in the know. F1Fanatic readers say Montreal has produced on average the best races of any circuit since 2008.
Progress isn't always a forward step.
Turns 1 and 2
The start-finish line is (as always) on the pit straight, and the track curves to the right as soon as the lap begins. After this kink the cars have a short run down towards Turn 1.
This tight left-hander often sees overtaking moves and mistakes, and is especially tricky because the drivers have to compromise their exit to get into position for Turn 2, which follows immediately.
This is a right-hand hairpin which anchors the southern end of the circuit. If a move didn't work into the first corner, a driver will often have a second go here—with varying results.
Turns 3 and 4
From here is a short run down to the first of the chicanes, Turns 3 and 4. It's first right, then left, and you can overtake into here—especially if a rival just exited the pits, or if he got out of shape in the hairpin.
The entry is tighter than the exit, and drivers can get the power down early. But there's absolutely no room for error here, due to the closeness of the wall on the outside.
Turns 5, 6 and 7
The walls close in as the cars file through Turn 5, a fast right-hander taken flat out. It exits into the braking area for Turn 6—a reasonably tight left-hander and part one of the second chicane which also comprises Turn 7.
Again, the first part of this chicane is tighter than the second, and the drivers need to get on the throttle quickly for the straight that follows.
Worn tyres and a slippery rear end are the last thing you need here.
Turns 8 and 9
The cars can reach close to 190 mph before the braking zone for the third chicane, Turns 8 and 9. This one is another right-left, and a potential overtaking spot.
Per the Montreal norm, the first part of the chicane is tighter, allowing the drivers to get on the power nice and early. It's difficult to hit the wall on the outside here, but it's very close to the track.
Next up is a curved straight which sweeps left and down to the northernmost part of the track. This is the second of the hairpins, Turn 10, one of the few places with a sizable run-off area. Mistakes will cost time, but probably not the car.
This is perhaps the second-best overtaking point on the circuit, and with the DRS detection point situated before the corner this year (it was after it last year, so no one wanted to overtake here) it might actually be used in 2013.
Turns 11 and 12
Out of the hairpin the drivers set off along the track's longest straight. Turns 11 and 12 (or just 11, depending on the track map—Formula1.com shows two numbered corners, other sources show one) are on here.
Can't see any corners? They're the tiny left and right the drivers speed through before getting onto the straight proper.
Hitting speeds of around 200 mph beside the Olympic rowing basin (from the 1976 games), this is the overtaking spot. It's probably the best in F1—DRS or not.
Turns 13, 14 and the Wall of Champions
From high speed the drivers brake heavily for the final chicane (Turns 13 and 14).
This tight right-left flick is a true test of nerve. It's taken faster than you might expect from looking at it, the drivers having to just turn in and trust their car to negotiate the nasty curbs and spit them out at the other side.
If someone gets it wrong, they'll almost certainly meet the most famous piece of scenery in F1—the Wall of Champions. Bienvenue au Quebec, gentlemen.
It's claimed many victims down the years, including world champions Michael Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve and Damon Hill. It was this trio ending their races here in 1999 which earned it the name.
It's been quieter in recent years, the last title-winning victim being Sebastian Vettel in practice for the 2011 race—but never count it out.
Assuming the chicane is navigated safely, the cars enter the pit straight. The normal line is to move diagonally across to the left of the track by the time you reach the start-finish line, for an optimal entry into the right-hand kink.
However, expect a few drivers to stay right during qualifying to try to save a few metres—and thousandths of a second.
The pit lane entry is straight-on at the final chicane, and the exit is on the outside of Turn 2.
Tyres and DRS
Monaco provided us with a masterclass in how to drive slowly, quickly. Canada might produce something a little bit different.
Pirelli are bringing the red-marked super-soft and yellow-marked medium tyres to the race. This balance of durability and pure grip is a good match for the surface at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. It's semi-permanent and quite low-grip, especially at the start of the weekend.
The super-soft will be the stand-out qualifying tyre, while the medium will do most of the work in the race.
Two or three stops is Pirelli's expectation, and there should be more variety than usual when it comes to strategy choices. It's quite easy to overtake here, so getting held up by a slower car is less of an issue than it might be elsewhere.
This makes a strategy with a higher number of stops and increased pace a more attractive proposition. Mercedes, in particular, might benefit from this approach.
Like last year, expect a notable divide—some teams will likely go with that, while others will stick to the 2013 standard of as few stops as possible, with greater focus on preserving the tyres.
Also available to all teams, for Friday practice only, will be two sets of the experimental tyres which Mercedes (much to the ire of their rivals) tested last month in Spain.
Note Regarding Tyre Wear
The Montreal circuit is what's known as "rear limited"—the biggest challenges are faced by the rear tyres in the numerous acceleration zones out of the slow corners.
"Front-limited" circuits are those with long, fast corners—something Canada lacks—which place greater demands on the front tyres.
Vocal tyre critics Red Bull should find this place to their liking, as their primary problem is at front-limited circuits such as Catalunya and Shanghai. Or so it seems.
There is such a thing as too much DRS, and with all respect to their wide knowledge and expertise one has to wonder what on earth was going through the minds of whoever decided Montreal needed two DRS zones.
The two zones will have a single detection point, situated between Turns 9 and 10. The first zone will begin at Turn 12, running most of the length of the long back straight and ending at the final chicane.
It'll be slightly shorter than last year's single zone.
The second zone will run the length of the pit straight. Even if you overtake someone in the first zone, you'll still get DRS in the second.
Expect much plaintive quacking from a legion of sitting ducks on Sunday.
Two years ago, the Canadian Grand Prix set a new record for the longest-ever race in F1 history—four hours, four minutes and a shade under 40 seconds. This was due to the race being suspended for over two hours due to extremely heavy rain.
That record is safe and can never be beaten (maximum race time including stoppages is now four hours exactly), but rain is always a threat in Montreal.
And guess what? It might pay a visit this weekend, too. Forecasts currently lean towards showers on Friday, with a possibility of more sustained rainfall on Saturday. Sunday looks more likely to be dry, but things can change very quickly.
As always, the Canadian Grand Prix weekend will consist of three free practice sessions, qualifying and the race.
The session times are as follows.
All times given are Montreal local time (EDT). Formula1.com has a handy one-click tool to convert them to your own timezone.