It's the Canadian GP next and the groundhogs are all heading off to IIle St. Helene for a quiet time. The most challenging thing about the Montreal race is of course the lurking threat of the Champions' Wall, once hit by three World Champs in the same 1999 race.
Daniel Ricciardo Describes The Champions' Wall
"I doubt anyone on the grid lacks motivation, but there's definitely a little extra edge to it at some circuits. They tend to be the ones that demand the most from you and hold real consequences from getting it wrong. Montreal definitely falls into that category. Each of the chicanes (the hairpin too) is an opportunity to make up, or lose, time but the crucial corner is probably the last one: you arrive at top speed so there's a lot to be gained in braking if you get that just right, and then the way you go over the kerbs is worth more time. The flip side is that it's very easy to get wrong and if you do then there's that big wall waiting. It's a clear choice: some guys will play it safe and sacrifice half a tenth to get through there cleanly; others who will take a risk and go flat out trying to find a little bit. The nearer you are, the faster you'll go. Give the wall a kiss and you feel pretty good; kiss it too hard and that's it!"
The Wall has claimed: Jacques Villeneuve, Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel.
Cars Need To Be Good Over Kerbs
Knowing how much kerb you can take is very important in Montreal as being able to ride the kerbs over the two chicanes is key to a quick lap time. As Dan Ricciardo has mentioned, the finer the judgement, the quicker the lap time, but hit them too hard and there will be payback.
McLaren Say This Time It'll be Better
McLaren have spent most of this season promising fans that 'next race it's going to be much better'. It was going to be much better in Malaysia, Barcelona and Monaco - and it was very difficult to notice. But now they're convinced that Canada will have them challenging again. Eric Boullier: "The track layout of Canada is high-speed with a lot of straight lines, but with no real high-speed corners, a lot of chicanes and low-speed corners, so it should suit our car and we should be in better shape than we were in Monaco."
Lewis Hamilton Got His Debut Win Here
"Montreal is one of my favourite weekends of the year. It's where I won my first Grand Prix back in 2007 and I've had another two victories there since, so it holds some special memories for me. The city itself is incredible. It's one I always love to go to and there's always a great crowd, so I'm hoping for them that the weather is good and we can put on a great show!" Vettel won the race last year with Hamilton third and Nico Rosberg fifth. In Qualifying last year it was:
Lewis Hamilton: 1:25.512
Nico Rosberg 1:26.008
2008 Was Almost Groundhog Day
In 2007 Anthony Davidson was running in a brilliant third position in the Super-Aguri-Honda when he hit a groundhog with his frontwing. Located right next to the St Lawrence Seaway, the Ile Notre Dame has a lot of wildlife that have colonised the island. In the weeks before the Canadian Grand Prix, city officials trap as many groundhogs as they can and transport them to nearby Ile Ste-Helene. The following year, a groundhog crossed the track at the hairpin during practice and TV cameras often scan round to try and find them. The BBC's resident 'twitcher' David Coulthard is keen to spot the red shouldered blackbird and during the four-hour delay in the middle of the 2011 grand prix, the commentary became more like an edition of Springwatch.
Paddy Lowe Thinks There'll Be A Lot of Stress On Engines
Canada is a power circuit. Along with Monza it's where cars are at full throttle for longest on a lap, so unsurprisingly it's going to play to Mercedes' strengths. Mercedes' Paddy Lowe has been looking at the reasons for the failure of one of the customer Mercedes engines at Monaco, last time out: "Endurance will be an important factor in Canada given the high demands placed on the components, so this weekend will provide a comprehensive test of the Power Unit. There were some concerns after Monaco following a retirement for Valtteri Bottas but the team at Brixworth have been working extremely hard to understand that problem and ensure that it is contained across every engine."
A Non-Merc Winner Is A Long-Shot
In betting terms, the nearest anyone comes to toppling the all-conquering Mercedes' are Red Bull with Daniel Ricciardo at 16-1, Sebastian Vettel at 20-1 and with Fernando Alonso at 25-1.
Quebec Drove A Hard Bargain
The city of Montreal embraces its grand prix weekend. It is one of the most popular on the calendar with the highest level of attendance from a 'highly F1 literate' audience (who don't particularly like Sebastian Vettel). But when Bernie Ecclestone tried to lever more money for hosting the race, a reported CDN$35 million, officials from Quebec said "non". When it dropped off the calendar in 2009 F1 had no North American race which created paddock uproar and a hasty rethink by Bernie. The new deal struck from 2010 to 2014 saw them paying a much more reasonable CDN$15 million. The negotiation for 2015 plus will be interesting
Expect Marbles, Lots Of Marbles
The weather in Canada could turn rainy for practice on Friday but we're due dry warm days on Saturday and Sunday with highs of up to 29C on Sunday. Too warm for any self-respecting groundhog to be ambling across the track, but the kind of temperature that might create thermal degradation. Traditionally by the end of the race in Canada there is a carpet of rubber 'marbles' strewn across the track and going off the racing line to pass a car can be hazardous.
We get to see F1 races because marshals give up their time to help run races and lest it be forgotten, the 2013 saw the first marshal fatality in twelve years. Track marshal Mark Robinson was run over by a recovery vehicle, while removing the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez after he had spun off track during the closing stages of the race. Ayrton was the last driver to die, in 1994, but since that time three F1 marshals have lost their lives at F1 events.