CANADIAN GRAND PRIX

By Pat Espresso

Few mid-season races have been so eagerly-anticipated as this weekend’s showdown at the Circuit Gilles Villenueve – a fitting venue for what looks like a real fight between closely-matched racers battling turmoil within their teams.

The Red Bull scandal has kept us all online since Turkey, desperate for news of the latest twists in a PR scandal of jaw-dropping proportions for the self-styled coolest team in the pitlane. Many F1 fans and almost everyone with an interest in a fair sporting contest were outraged by the team’s shameless attempt to blame Mark Webber for the Istanbul debacle. It tells you everything you need to know about the true feelings within the team that Dr Helmut Marko, the driver guru at Red Bull and confidant of supremo Dietrich Mateschitz, has not been sacked over his comments blaming the Australian. For us, the main spectacle will be how the drivers handle it. Sebastian Vettel, who looks less like a wunderkind and more like a spoilt brat with every messed-up race, is now under real pressure. Many think he can’t handle it like a champion. How he performs now will answer a lot of critics. In many ways, Mark Webber is the winner in all this. His reputation is only enhanced by his showings this year and all he needs to do now is let his results do the talking. He has been one of the stars of the season so far.

Almost as intriguing is the phony war at McLaren. Lewis Hamilton’s body language and comments after being gifted victory at Turkey told us that the team’s equilibrium is not as rock solid as Martin Whitmarsh might like us to think. I urge anyone who hasn’t seen it yet to watch the Turkey race edit on F1.com to find out why Hamilton looked less than impressed with his team. The website helpfully provides subtitles so it couldn’t be clearer: hearing Lewis ask if Button is going to try and pass him and getting a definitive ‘No!’ Either Jenson Button pulled a fast one in taking advantage of a team-mate he knew was ordered to deliberately slow, or his race engineer/team boss made an appalling error or deliberately misled him. Human nature being what it is, I can imagine that Hamilton was given more specific instructions than Button. What was suspicious, though, was that after the race Button looked like a child who’d been caught with his hand in the biscuit tin. Hamilton certainly looked like he’d learned a valuable lesson that afternoon which makes this weekend all the more exciting.

Hamilton will also have high expectations at the circuit where he scored his first F1 victory in 2007. The high-speed track will suit the McLaren and the close proximity of the walls will make demands on all the drivers. The wall on the exit of the final chicane has claimed many big names. Now called The Wall of Champions, it has ended the races of, among others, Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button. The wall at turn 5 has also claimed Fernando Alonso, who will be hoping for better fortune in a Ferrari that is looking more and more like a dog.

While the drivers at Red Bull and McLaren are under scrutiny, it is the team bosses at Ferrari who must carry the blame for the team’s dismal showing so far. Both drivers are proven winners, it is a disaster that for the second year running it’s looking like they will not be provided with the machinery to show their talent. The tifosi must be asking themselves how come McLaren have the resources and capability to improve an under-performing car within a few races, yet the richest team in F1 seems unable? Something needs to change at Maranello very quickly if the season is to be rescued.

Montreal will also provide us with the next instalment of the Michael Schumacher story. It’s not top of Nico Rosberg’s reading list, but no one can deny that the German legend is improving with every race. It appears he may now have reached the limit of the Mercedes car. It will be interesting to see how such a character will deal with a team who cannot provide him with the machinery he thinks he must have to show his true pace. We can expert fireworks sooner or later. The skirmishing is just starting between Force India and Lotus. A lawsuit from Force India was answered by Lotus poaching key design personnel. It can only get juicier as the season goes on. Almost as desperate is the desire of reputable teams like Williams and Sauber to avoid the humiliation of being ranked with the back of the grid. The BMW decline is remarkable but F1 fans can only feel sadness that a team with the pedigree of Williams is finding the championship such a struggle. Still, let’s hope that on Sunday we will still be raising a glass to another epic race in a vintage season…

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Comments
2 Responses to “CANADIAN GRAND PRIX”
  1. Oscar says:

    Good post. The term “Team mate” has become a thing of the past. All drivers seem to care about these days is themselves. Remember the days when Nigel stopped to pick Ayrton up? That was sportsmanship. sadly F1 no longer has it!

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