Saturday, 7 June 2008

Canadian Grand Prix: Qualifying Report

Lewis Hamilton recorded his second consecutive Montreal pole position with a blistering last minute lap to oust the impressive Robert Kubica. He wasn't just faster by a small margin either, he completely blitzed the field, which suggests that he may be running lighter than the other front runners on the grid. However, arguably the biggest story of qualifying was the condition of the track; it looked truly terrible as it broke apart throughout the session. The lap times were slow, and the drivers were incredibly cautious. Heaven only knows what sort of state it will be in during tomorrow's race after all the support races.

The session today was perfectly dry, and it was a beautifully warm and sunny day. Ideal conditions for driving a race car in theory. In practice however, things panned out rather differently as the track slowly began disintegrating from early on in the session. It was really disappointing to see, and Mark Webber in particular vented his frustration about the state of the track after he spun off at the end of Q2 and ruined his shot at the top-10 shootout. Lewis Hamilton's pole-setting time was a full TWO seconds slower than his pole time last year, which just shows how awful the track had become by the end of the session.

The first of the three sessions was fairly uneventful. With Vettel already out after his practice crash, and Button pulling out with a broken gearbox, there were only three more people to be eliminated. There were no shocks to be had, as the remaining Toro Rosso driver and both Force India drivers dropped out. Hamilton was comfortably fastest, and the only man to break under the 1:17s mark all afternoon.

The second session was a little more eventful. Jarno Trulli entertained the fans with some beautiful pirouetting in his Toyota. Needless to say, it didn't do him much good as he finished 14th ahead of Piquet and dropped out. Coulthard also dropped out, but complained about getting held up by Piquet who was on one of his patented epically slow hot-laps. Nakajima also dropped out after looking decent all weekend, and he was joined by Glock who put in one of his best showings of the season by beating his teammate for the very first time. As previously mentioned, Webber ended the session in the barriers and was robbed of the chance to fight it out in the final shootout.

Rubens Barrichello impressed by making it through to the final shootout for the first time in a while. He couldn't improve from ninth and last of the runners in the final session, but plenty of reason to be optimistic for one half of the Honda garage. For the rest of the field, it seemed to be a question of "who dares wins". Many drivers were extremely cautious in the deteriorating conditions, whereas the likes of Kubica and Hamilton seemed to throw caution to the wind and were throwing their cars over the kerbs with abandon. It seemed to work for them as they locked out the top row quite comfortably.

The Ferraris weren't too impressive, finishing in 3rd and 6th place for Raikkonen and Massa respectively. Whether they are heavier on fuel or not remains to be seen, but they may have their work cut out to stop Hamilton extending his lead in the championship.

Heidfeld and Kovalainen didn't impress at all, down in 8th and 7th place. More worryingly for them they were both comprehensively thrashed by their teammates. They were also well beaten by arguably the two stars of qualifying; Williams' Nico Rosberg and Renault's Fernando Alonso. They both managed to split the two Ferraris, and can be extremely happy with their day's work. They will both be hoping to convert their good performances into solid points finishes tomorrow after they both missed out in Monaco with accident filled races.

So tomorrow will be something of a voyage into the unknown for the drivers as they set out on a track which seems almost certain to fall to pieces throughout the course of the race. Lewis Hamilton is certainly in the ideal position as he will be able to avoid the trouble that will almost inevitably occur. There will probably be plenty of safety car periods throughout, just like last year. I think Mark Webber summed things up perfectly when he said they should be out on motocross bikes tomorrow, not Grand Prix cars...

Provisional Race Grid

01 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:17.886
02 R. Kubica BMW 1:18.498
03 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:18.735
04 F. Alonso Renault 1:18.746
05 N. Rosberg Williams 1:18.844
06 F. Massa Ferrari 1:19.048
07 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:19.089
08 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:19.633
09 R. Barrichello Honda 1:20.848
10 M. Webber Red Bull no time
11 T. Glock Toyota 1:18.031
12 K. Nakajima Williams 1:18.062
13 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:18.238
14 J. Trulli Toyota 1:18.327
15 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:18.393
16 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:18.916
17 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:19.108
18 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:19.165
19 J. Button Honda 1:23.565
20 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso no time
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Canadian Grand Prix: Third Practice

Sadly your intrepid reporter didn't get to see this session, but apparently it was a rather eventful one. Piquet spun out (again), Bourdais bent his rear suspension on the barriers, and his young teammate Vettel trashed his car in the same place. His car was so badly damaged he will be forced to sit out qualifying, but should be ready in time for the race tomorrow. It's a real shame, as he had been looking really strong all weekend. Stay tuned for today's qualifying report! Read more!

Friday, 6 June 2008

Canadian Grand Prix: Second Practice

After a quiet first session, World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton showed his hand in the second free practice session of the day by taking P1 on the time sheets. He ended the dry session over a quarter of a second faster than Robert Kubica, who had his second P2 of the day. The BMWs seem to have recovered somewhat after two races off the pace, and seem to be right back in the thick of things with the Ferraris and McLarens. It looks very close between the top 3 teams, and should make for a fascinating qualifying day tomorrow.

The big news for the Tifosi though will be the sight of Felipe Massa's car grinding to a halt on out on the circuit with what could have been gearbox problems. It didn't look good for the Brazilian, and we will have to see whether he will end up incurring a penalty. Certainly some headaches for the Ferrari engineers.

The Red Bull and Williams cars again looked like the best of the rest, although Mark Webber almost trashed his car in the dying minutes of the session with a spectacular spin. The gravel trap did its job though, and he was able to continue without any damage. It was a poor session for Renault, with Fernando Alonso looking out of sorts. He had a shocker of a race here last year, and any anxieties about that performance won't have been helped with a couple of spins in the session, one of which ended in him stalling the car and needing to hitch a lift back to the pits.

Sebastien Vettel yet again impressed for Toro Rosso, while Toyota had a marginally better session this time out despite a big spin for Glock. The Hondas failed to improve however, and again looked pretty horrible all session long. Button in particular seems to be struggling to find a good setup on the Montreal circuit. The only man he was able to beat was Nelson Piquet Jnr, who again looked completely abject and devoid of any confidence whatsoever. He really is having a torrid time for Renault so far this season.

01 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:15.752 42 laps
02 R. Kubica BMW 1:16.023 41 laps
03 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:16.093 39 laps
04 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:16.331 36 laps
05 F. Massa Ferrari 1:16.413 27 laps
06 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:16.589 43 laps
07 M. Webber Red Bull 1:16.604 39 laps
08 N. Rosberg Williams 1:16.767 37 laps
09 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:17.019 43 laps
10 J. Trulli Toyota 1:17.068 46 laps
11 K. Nakajima Williams 1:17.242 37 laps
12 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:17.334 31 laps
13 R. Barrichello Honda 1:17.462 39 laps
14 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:17.508 39 laps
15 T. Glock Toyota 1:17.549 31 laps
16 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:17.559 38 laps
17 F. Alonso Renault 1:17.644 30 laps
18 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:17.813 37 laps
19 J. Button Honda 1:17.842 39 laps
20 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:18.076 17 laps
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Canadian Grand Prix: First Practice

The first practice session for Sunday's Grand Prix got underway under stormy skies in Montreal, with few cars venturing out on track for the first 15 minutes or so of the session. It was raining quite hard, and the conditions out on track were extremely tricky, as evidenced by the performances of those who did try their luck. About half way through the session the rain stopped and the track began to dry out. Inevitably the times began to tumble, and in a very busy final five minutes it was Ferrari's Felipe Massa who took top spot.

The likes of Trulli, Fisichella, Alonso and Sutil were the first drivers to tip-toe out on track, and they were finding that traction was virtually non-existent. In the slow corners like the opening complex and the hairpin, the cars were chugging along as though they were driving on ice, such was the difficulty in getting any power down. Once they got a bit more accustomed to the conditions they tried to push a little bit, and Trulli was the first to find himself bouncing across the wet grass at the Turn 8 and 9 chicane. He wasn't to be the only one by any means, and indeed Trulli himself had more off track excursions than any other driver on track.

The big hitters were choosing to keep their powder dry early on, leaving the smaller teams to clean the track up a bit before they headed out. The only driver from the "big 3" teams to go out early on was Heidfeld, and he immediately went fastest. Those in the crowd who came to see the likes of Raikkonen and Hamilton would have been slightly disappointed by the lack of running from McLaren and Ferrari. Indeed, Hamilton turned just 8 laps in the session (the fewest of anybody) on his way to P6 on the time sheets.

His teammate Kovalainen was the second quietest driver out on track with just 10 laps under his belt, although his 3rd place proves that the McLaren has plenty of raw speed here. Kubica and Raikkonen each drove 12 laps, finishing 2nd and 5th respectively. The busiest of the headline drivers was also the fastest, as Felipe Massa took the honours in this first session. The session wasn't without its dramas for Massa though, as he went skidding through the wet grass at one point towards the end of the session as the drivers started to switch to dry tyres.

The Red Bulls, Williams and Renaults seemed pretty evenly matched (Nelson Piquet Jnr excepted). Vettel added another impressive session to his already glowing CV by beating the likes of the Hondas and Toyotas. The Toyotas drove more laps between them than any other team, and by some margin. It didn't appear to do them much good in terms of lap times though as they languished down in 13th and 14th place. The Hondas looked even worse throughout the session. Button and Barrichello both spent time in the grass run-offs, and they finished the session with a dismal 18th and 20th (last) place.

So first blood to Ferrari, but there was so little running in the session it is difficult to draw any conclusions from this session about how things will shape up in qualifying tomorrow...


01 F. Massa Ferrari 1:17.553 14 laps
02 R. Kubica BMW 1:17.809 12 laps
03 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:18.133 10 laps
04 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:18.182 13 laps
05 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:18.292 12 laps
06 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:18.303 8 laps
07 M. Webber Red Bull 1:18.712 11 laps
08 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:18.809 12 laps
09 K. Nakajima Williams 1:18.971 24 laps
10 F. Alonso Renault 1:19.005 13 laps
11 N. Rosberg Williams 1:19.093 20 laps
12 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:19.228 21 laps
13 T. Glock Toyota 1:19.346 28 laps
14 J. Trulli Toyota 1:19.568 31 laps
15 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:19.815 16 laps
16 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:19.888 15 laps
17 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:20.091 23 laps
18 R. Barrichello Honda 1:20.173 17 laps
19 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:20.541 16 laps
20 J. Button Honda 1:21.542 17 laps
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Canadian Grand Prix: Preview

After the thrills and spills of a soaking wet Monaco two weeks ago, the Formula One circus crosses the Atlantic for its one and only trip to North America this season. As well as all the technology and speed, the glitz and glamour, and the controversy, Formula One appears to have brought the wet weather from Monaco with them to Montreal. The predictions are for scattered thunderstorms throughout the course of the weekend, mixed in with some high humidity and occasional sunshine. We could very well have our second wet race in succession!

With the controversy relating to FIA President Max Mosley still circulating the media, the F1 teams, manufacturers and drivers will be glad to get back to motor racing and hopefully making the headlines for all the right reasons. This time last year the Canadian Grand Prix made big headlines for two main reasons; firstly the debut victory of McLaren prodigy Lewis Hamilton, and secondly Robert Kubica's miraculous escape from a horrific mid-race accident.

There have been some much needed modifications to the track and the safety barriers that line the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve which will hopefully reduce the chances of another monster crash. Work has also been undertaken to try to improve the track surface itself, which has caused severe problems for the past two Grand Prix here as the surface breaks apart due to the heavy use from the F1 cars and all the support racing. The surface hasn't been fitting of the world's elite motor racing competition for some time now, but hopefully those problems will have been successfully remedied this weekend.

Lewis Hamilton returns to the circuit that holds so many happy memories for him after taking the lead in the World Championship standings last time out in Monte Carlo. The Ferrari duo of Massa and Raikkonen will be looking to hit back at McLaren after a disappointing race in Monaco, and they are the pre-race favourites to be on the top spots of the podium this weekend. Monaco suited the McLaren car, but the long straights here in Montreal should suit the Ferraris perfectly. Lewis Hamilton has already spoken of his worries over the superior straight-line speed of the red cars.

If the race does indeed turn out to be wet, then it could be another rare opportunity for some of the minnows at the back of the pack to make a name for themselves. Adrian Sutil and Sebastien Vettel were the two youngsters who shone in Monaco; will someone else get the chance to shine on Sunday? We'll have to wait and see...
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