Pirelli

F1 Preview: 2017 Canadian Grand Prix

Leave a comment

With the opening leg of European rounds on the 2017 calendar now out of the way, this weekend sees Formula 1 venture to North America for the first time this season for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.

Sebastian Vettel arrives in Canada with a healthy 25-point advantage at the top of the drivers’ championship following his victory in Monaco two weeks ago, where he led Ferrari to its first one-two finish in almost seven years.

Monaco proved to be a tougher weekend for his title rival, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who suffer a shock knock-out at the second stage of qualifying. Although the Briton was able to recover to seventh in the race, he was powerless to stop Vettel taking the biggest lead yet in their title battle.

The Canadian Grand Prix rarely disappoints. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has a knack for producing the unexpected, and the city of Montreal embraces F1 with a warmth that few other locations on the calendar can match.

2017 Canadian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Vettel out to extend championship lead

Sebastian Vettel’s flying start to the season has seen him take three race wins and three second-place finishes from the opening six rounds, enjoying the kind of form reminiscent of his Red Bull title-winning days.

The German’s march for a fifth world championship – and, more poignantly, first in Ferrari colors – has been impressive thus far. The results have done much to break the hoodoo that has seemed to blight the Scuderia in recent times, with Vettel’s Monaco victory being Ferrari’s first since 2001.

Another drought could end this weekend, with Ferrari having not won in Canada since Michael Schumacher’s victory in 2004. If Vettel can hit the top step once again – particularly given the Mercedes’ line-up’s strength in Montreal – it would be another signal that Ferrari is in charge of this title battle.

Can Mercedes’ Montreal specialists win?

Mercedes’ Monaco showing was pretty miserable. To get neither car on the podium despite both finishing has been a rare occurrence for the Silver Arrows in the V6 hybrid era, making a response in Canada this weekend all the more important.

Luckily for Mercedes, it has two of the strongest drivers around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Valtteri Bottas finished third in each of the last two years for Williams, and famously charged to third on the grid in 2013 in the wet.

The real favorite will be Lewis Hamilton, though. The three-time champion took his maiden F1 win in Montreal back in 2007, and has since taken another four, putting him second only to Schumacher for Canadian Grand Prix victories.

Mercedes may not have the quickest car in Montreal, but you’d be hard-pressed to find two drivers more suited to this circuit.

Back to the grind for Fernando

Fernando Alonso will make his F1 return this weekend following his Indianapolis 500 adventure. It was a story that captured the attention of the racing world, acting as a rare slice of good news for the struggling McLaren-Honda partnership, even if Alonso did end up retiring from the race due to an engine failure.

But the Spaniard will now return to the stark reality of his current F1 standing. With a power unit that lacks both reliability and performance, he will not be dicing for the lead as he was at IMS. Points – hell, not even plural, a point – would be a big breakthrough for McLaren, the team having not scored a single one thus far in 2017.

Alonso will be encouraged by the evident step we saw from McLaren in Monaco (albeit partly down to the circuit), and given his hurculean habit of dragging the car further up the order than in rightfully be, points are not totally out of the question in Canada. That said, the power-hungry nature of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and the absence of the promised Honda updates doesn’t make it a favorable outlook.

Tires to be testing once again

The big debate following last month’s Monaco Grand Prix was tire management, with Pirelli’s softest compound selection once again causing trouble for some teams in Monaco. Mercedes’ woes with the ultra-soft have been particularly clear this year, with Hamilton unable to get to grips – quite literally – with the tires last time out.

The same tire selection is on tap for Montreal, and given last year’s race was won by Hamilton with just one pit stop, one would expect that strategy to be the way to go once again, particularly with the added durability of the 2017-spec tires. Managing them will be the key to victory, and perhaps the decisive factor between Hamilton and Vettel once again.

Hopefully we’ll have more overtaking than we got in Monaco, with the long back straight and DRS zone giving drivers plenty of chances to close up and make a pass.

Will Stroll’s homecoming yield maiden points?

Lance Stroll will end an 11-year drought on Sunday when he becomes the first Canadian driver to start his home F1 race since Jacques Villeneuve last appeared in 2006.

Stroll, 18, stepped up to F1 at the beginning of the season with Williams, but has experienced a baptism of fire. After failing to finish any of his first three races, Stroll managed to get to the finish in Russia, ending up 11th. Further classified finishes have followed, yet he is still without points despite the evident quality of the Williams FW40 car.

At the track named after Canada’s greatest F1 talent, Gilles Villeneuve, Stroll will aim to become just the third Canadian to score points – and the first whose surname is not above the door of the circuit.

2017 Canadian Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
Corners: 14
Lap Record: Rubens Barrichello 1:13.622 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Ultra-Soft/Super-Soft/Soft
2016 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2016 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:12.812
2016 Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:15.599
DRS Zone: T12 to T13, T14 to T1

2017 Canadian Grand Prix – TV/Stream Times

INDYCAR: What Drivers Said after Friday’s two practices at Road America

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Here’s what IndyCar drivers had to say – courtesy of IndyCar Media Relations – after Friday’s two practice sessions at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin:

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I think we are relatively pleased. The car has been easy to work with, which is great. It is nice when you don’t have to change too much. We’ve been trying things to make sure we understand sort of both ends of the car and where it can go if we adjust either end of it. Seems quick right out of the box. We haven’t had to do too much with it. The Chevy package is working really well, which I felt like it would be strong at this kind of track. We’ve been working hard with that group to make sure our power down and everything else is great. So far, so good with the Verizon car. We have a solid start; we just have to maintain it throughout the weekend.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “Pretty productive day. Obviously, we tested here last week, which I think helped us roll off with a solid car. For Practice 2, we decided to go in a little different direction with our setup, just to try and cover our bases, so we have a lot of data to look over tonight. We have pretty good pace on the blacks (primary Firestone tires) and were into the top five, but when we put the reds (alternate Firestone tires) on, we just didn’t find the grip that we normally do; we’ll look into that. This Arrow Electronics SPM team’s got a way of turning things around and being strong in qualifying, so hopefully, we can do that and get the job done tomorrow.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): “I think it was a pretty decent Friday. The Lucas Oil car feels good and we’re making good progress. We were top five in both sessions, but it’s only Friday, so we still have to work hard and keep our heads down. Initial signs are pretty positive for, hopefully, a good weekend.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I think we started a little bit slow for some reason and had some work to do after the first practice session here at Road America. We know our way around here though, and after some changes tonight, I hope we can have the PNC Bank car pointed in the right direction, and closer to the top time the other manufacturer set.”

ED JONES (No. 10 First Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I’m obviously not thrilled with the results today with the First Data Honda, but we know Scott (Dixon) had a great car here last year and won the race, so there is good data to look at tonight. We have some work to do for sure, but I’m confident in our team that we can find what we were missing today in practice and be ready for qualifying tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “We definitely changed the setup a bit, then went back. I think the track had really low grip at the beginning of every session, then got better. Kind of a little bit hard to pick what to do. But obviously, Josef (Newgarden) is really quick, so got plenty of data to look at. We’ll just keep working away at it.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 GEHL Honda): “It was a good finish to the day for the GEHL team. We pushed hard and made some changes between the sessions and I think we went the right direction. This morning we had some mishaps, and unfortunately, it lost us the session, but we had a good recovery. We’ll try to keep improving the car a little bit and see what we can do in qualifying.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team Sealmaster Honda): “(I’m) pretty happy. I think, obviously, we didn’t test, a couple of guys did. Felt a little bit off this morning. We’re pretty confident because it was just mostly understeer in the car. Just pretty happy with the day. Our guys did a good job. The Firestone red (alternate) tires are definitely giving a huge amount of grip in comparison to the prime. But for us, it really wasn’t much of a balance change, so that was nice. Could definitely get a pretty decent run. Consistency was quite good, as well. Looking forward to the rest of the weekend.”

ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): “It’s awesome driving an Indy car here. I love the Road America track and I’m excited to be back here. We had a tough second session today in our Paysafe car, but we made big improvements from our first practice, which is really encouraging. What Sebastien (Bourdais) has seems to be working really well, so we’ll look at that and also at what I need to work on to improve. With that and some steady improvements, we should be looking good for tomorrow.”

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “It is quite difficult to learn the circuit, relative to others that I have driven on. For example, St. Pete, it just felt a little bit easier to pick up the smaller parts. I feel quite comfortable in the car now, but it took a bit longer to get there in this morning’s session. It’s a longer circuit and requires a lot of confidence with the high speed and blind corners; when it’s only 45 minutes, you end up eating into your track time. I felt quite good in this afternoon’s session and we have a better idea of what direction we want to go in. A little bit annoying we haven’t quite jumped on it straight away, still a bit of progress to be made. Looking forward to having a good night’s sleep. I always find that when you are able to chill out, think about it, and sleep well it makes the second day much nicer. We all know where we need to go with the car and should be quicker tomorrow.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet): “It was a pretty difficult day for us. We are kind of struggling to zero in on the balance and the setup that we want. We know what we need the car to do, we just have to try and find a way of getting it there. We are going to try and find some things overnight, then get the Direct Supply car handling a bit better and get more speed out of it tomorrow.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “We’ve made big improvement this weekend. It is obviously another very important weekend with Menards on the car. This is John’s (Menard) country here. I am eager to do very well, and the whole No. 22 team is using the momentum we gained at Texas. It feels like a really good weekend so far. I think we have more in the car; I didn’t extract all the best out of during practice. But, it felt really good. Chevy is giving us a lot of power around here which is always useful on those long straightaways. Now we are just going to have to put it all together in qualifying tomorrow.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): “Obviously, that wasn’t the day we wanted for the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet. We’re struggling for balance and grip-a little bit of both. But we’ve got some good ideas, good data to look through and some concepts to think about. We’ll make solid, reasonable, intelligent changes for tomorrow. Hopefully, we can pick a good direction out of that and be ready for qualifying.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda): “Overall, it was a pretty good day for us in the Relay car. We know, confidently, that we have a car good enough to be in the top 10, maybe in the top six. We’re fighting a bit of an issue throughout the second session, but we know what that is, so we’ll fix it and get the speed we need tomorrow. I haven’t felt this confident in an Indy car yet – but I said that at Detroit and I said that at Texas. I really just feel like we are coming into our own and this is going to be our best weekend yet.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “Today wasn’t the best Friday that we’ve had. I think we are stepping through changes and making small improvements, but we didn’t find the big improvement that we need, which is disappointing. Fortunately, we have another session tomorrow and three teammate cars to try and put our heads together and come up with a solution. Right now, we need a pretty big step in performance to be fighting for pole.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We made some progress with the DHL car today, we need to make another step tomorrow. We didn’t really have a clear lap, but if we had, I think we would have been around P4 or P5 and we can work from there. We’ll put our heads down tonight, check in with the teammates and see where we are at tomorrow. We have one more session before qualifying and we’ll put it to good use.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “It was a good day, a productive one. We wanted to improve a little more than we did in the second session, but overall, we tried a few things and we learned a few good things and a few not so good. I think we can continue improving for tomorrow.”

ALFONSO CELIS JR. (No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet): “Today was going pretty well until the last practice. The day started off well for us. I was happy with the balance and I am still happy with the balance. We worked on some changes and I was happy with the direction we were going in. The second practice was going pretty good up until my incident. It is really unfortunate we have now lost this track time, but we will work hard and bounce back for tomorrow.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): “It was a challenging day at the office here at Road America for the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet. This is one of my favorite tracks – I know I can pedal a car around here pretty well. We were fighting for top six last year, so I’m trying to just drive the same, obviously, with less downforce. We’ve got an underlying balance issue – whether it’s new tires or old tires, it’s really just wherever we are, we’ve got the same issue that we just can’t seem to iron out. It’s slightly frustrating for a new team with the lack of testing we’ve been able to do, so we’ve got limited time to try and sort it. We’ll work it out tonight and if we can make some significant progress toward the end of FP3, I’m sure we can have a fairly decent qualifying.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “Road America is a great track and a lot of fun. Today was a bit challenging, as we are just working through our plan, but we found a big chunk of time between Practice 1 and Practice 2 today. That is very encouraging as we get ready for Practice 3 tomorrow. There are some things we are going to try out and that will hopefully take us to the next step to doing a great job in qualifying and then the race.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): “I was definitely happier with the car this morning. We kind of went in a different direction for the afternoon session and lost the car. We definitely have a clear direction on where we need to go and we’ll put that to use to go forward tomorrow with the U.S. Concrete car.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski