Canadian GP to challenge new F1 cars

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Reuters

Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton plans to regain the lead at the Canadian Grand Prix this weekend. File photo: Max Rossi.

Montreal - Nico Rosberg seized the Formula One championship lead from aggrieved Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in Monaco but he may have to hand it straight back in Montreal this weekend.

With their rivalry sure to be as fierce as ever, despite both drivers playing down talk of feuding in recent days, Hamilton can be expected to hit back hard at one of his favourite circuits.

The 2008 world champion has won three times in Canada and took the first grand prix victory of his career at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, with McLaren in 2007.

Until last year, when he started on the front row and ended up third behind Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, the 29-year-old Briton could boast of winning every Canadian Grand Prix he had finished.

“Canada is a very good circuit for me,” Hamilton said after Rosberg ended his run of four wins in a row with victory in Monaco on May 25.

“We were both quite quick there last year but with this car it should be better. It is a late-braking circuit and I am better on the brakes, so it should be a good one for us.

“This one is really important. It's where I won my first grand prix, so I want to make sure I keep doing that,” he added after driving the layout on a simulator this week.

Even if Rosberg rates Montreal as a favourite venue, with the city's nightlife making it a great place to celebrate a good result, the German has never finished higher than fifth there.

That must surely change this time, with Mercedes chasing its sixth one-two finish in a row and seventh successive pole and victory, but Hamilton will have the bit between his teeth after falling four points behind his rival.

STRONGER THAN EVER

“I always remember with Lewis that when we had a tussle in a race, or there was an issue between us ... the next race he would destroy me. He would come there and be stronger than ever,” recalled his former McLaren team mate Jenson Button.

“He's very good at turning it around and coming back because he is a superb driver. He is very fast and he can wrestle a car around a circuit. He won't have any issues going into the next race with Nico.”

Champions Red Bull are unlikely to repeat last year's win even if engine partners Renault say Vettel will finally have full power at his fingertips after a difficult start to the season.

“In the last four races we've introduced several new upgrades and we will complete the process in Montreal, effectively giving us the first full opportunity to see where we are versus the competition,” said Remi Taffin, Renault F1's head of track operations.

Taffin said Renault had fixed the power-unit problem that forced Vettel to retire in Monaco, as well as the exhaust issues that hit both Toro Rosso drivers.

Canada, with long straights and cars hitting top speeds in excess of 330km/h as well as brushing the infamous 'Wall of Champions', will be the toughest challenge so far for the new V6 power units and energy-recovery systems, and should favour Mercedes.

“You go from one extreme to the other,” said Red Bull principal Christian Horner, of the challenge of Montreal after Monaco. “The next event is straight-line performance so it's going to be very interesting to see how we fare against Mercedes-powered teams.”

Ferrari hopes to be more competitive, with Alonso - winner in Canada in 2006 with Renault - spending time at the factory in Maranello since Monaco.

“We have been improving the car on the aero side, while in the simulator we have done a lot of work on the set-up,” the Spaniard told the Ferrari website (http://formula1.ferrari.com/).

“We can't make any predictions because our improvement has to be seen in relation to what our competitors come up with. We need to match them and then find a plus.”

McLaren, which has done well in Montreal in the past, is also hoping to step up after ending a three-race run without points.

“It should suit our car and we should be in better shape than we were in Monaco,” said racing director Eric Boullier. -Reuters

THE SEASON SO FAR

Australian Grand Prix - March 16

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg led from start to finish as rivals dropped out with mechanical problems in a race that saw Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo controversially disqualified from second place over new fuel rules.

As teams grappled with widespread technical changes, pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton and world champion Sebastian Vettel both retired early, leaving Rosberg victorious by a wide margin ahead of Ricciardo and McLaren's Danish debutant Kevin Magnussen.

Ricciardo, newly arrived at Red Bull, was later stripped of the first podium finish of his career for a technical infringement, prompting an appeal from his team.

Standings: 1. Nico Rosberg (25 points), 2. Kevin Magnussen (18), 3. Jenson Button (15)

Malaysian Grand Prix - March 30

Hamilton led the first Mercedes one-two in 59 years. He streaked away from pole position and was never pressured as he finished ahead of team-mate Rosberg with Vettel third for Red Bull.

It was the first time both Mercedes drivers have led the field since 1955, when the German marque departed the sport before returning in 2010 and now confirming themselves as the team to beat in F1's new era.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was fourth and Nico Hulkenberg placed a creditable fifth for Force India. The win was Hamilton's first since Hungary last July. Afterwards, Hamilton paid tribute to the victims of the MH370 plane disappearance, which cast a shadow over the race.

Standings: 1. Nico Rosberg (43), 2. Lewis Hamilton (25), 3. Fernando Alonso (24)

Bahrain Grand Prix - April 6

Hamilton and Rosberg repeated their one-two in Malaysia after a thrilling wheel-to-wheel duel as Hamilton equalled the legendary Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio's record of 24 grand prix victories.

Sergio Perez gave Force India just their second ever podium finish in third. Ricciardo, 13th on the grid, continued his impressive start for Red Bull with fourth, followed by Hulkenberg in the second Force India and Vettel in the second Red Bull completing the top six.

Hamilton had been cruising with a lead of more than nine seconds when the safety car was called out on lap 42 of the 57-lap floodlit race. Rosberg, on faster tyres, quickly closed the gap after the restart but Hamilton held off his team-mate's charge in a frantic finale.

Standings: 1. Nico Rosberg (61), 2. Lewis Hamilton (50), 3. Nico Hulkenberg (28)

Chinese Grand Prix - April 20

Lewis Hamilton sealed his first hat-trick of Formula One wins and led Mercedes to their third straight one-two finish. The former world champion got away smoothly from pole and was rarely troubled as he finished 18 seconds ahead of Nico Rosberg, with Fernando Alonso third.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo outran his team-mate and reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel for fourth spot, with the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg coming home in sixth. But there was a bizarre finish when Hamilton was inadvertently shown the chequered flag early, meaning that the race was later declared over after 54 laps instead of the 56 completed.

Standings: 1. Nico Rosberg (79), 2. Lewis Hamilton (75), 3. Fernando Alonso (41)

Spanish Grand Prix - May 11

Lewis Hamilton took over the leadership of the drivers championship when he made it four wins in a row by grabbing a heart-stopping victory at the Circuit de Catalunya. He finished just 0.6 seconds ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg to move on to 100 points for the season and into the lead of the title race ahead of Rosberg, on 97.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo came home third for Red Bull ahead of his team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who had started from 15th on the grid. The win was Hamilton's first in Spain and the 26th of his career. Finn Valtteri Bottas finished fifth for the resurgent Williams team, ahead of local hero and two-time champion Fernando Alonso.

Standings: 1. Lewis Hamilton (100), 2. Nico Rosberg (97), 3. Fernando Alonso (49)

Monaco Grand Prix - May 25

Nico Rosberg started on pole in Monaco and claimed a faultless victory for Mercedes to regain the lead in the drivers' world championship. The 28-year-old German came home 9.2 seconds clear of nearest rival and team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who coped with loss of vision in one eye as he held off Australian Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull in the closing laps to take second.

It was Rosberg's second consecutive victory in his home event, his second win of the 2014 season and the fifth win of his career. Fernando Alonso finished fourth for Ferrari ahead of Nico Hulkenberg of Force India and Jenson Button, who finished sixth for McLaren.

Standings: 1. Nico Rosberg (122), 2. Lewis Hamilton (118), 3. Fernando Alonso (61)

-AFP


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