2012 Canadian Grand Prix preview

As the world's racing elite gather in Montreal for the seventh round of the Formula One Championship, they are prepared to make history. The first six rounds have produced six different winners and one more could be produced here in Canada.
Fernando Alonso of Spain and Ferrari waves to fans as he drives on his installation lap during practice for the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix. (Paul Gilham/Getty Images )

As the world’s racing elite gather in Montreal for the seventh round of the Formula One Championship, they are prepared to make history. The first six rounds have produced six different winners and one more could be produced here in Canada. 

Six winners in six races is an unprecedented feat and cause for celebration for race fans.

This is a series that just last year followed history in the sense that a single driver and a single team dominated. Defending champion Sebastian Vettel won 11 of 19 races.  This year he has won only once, and it seems to be wide open for any one of 10 drivers to be the guy to uncork the Moet on the podium. What happened?

Formula One is a dictatorship. Under the control of billionaire octogenarian Bernie Eccelstone, the rules are tightly managed and often adjusted to produced a better show. Bernie is no fool. He understands fans want a show, and teams, who invest upward of $200 million US a year, want a chance to win. Eccelstone has worked with series tire manufacture Pirelli to create a variety of tire compounds that actually wear out during the race.

Once upon a time tire manufacturers created a tire that lasted as long as possible with no degradation so their performance characteristics were consistent. Drivers did not have to worry about their tires, and more importantly engineers built cars to perform in conjunction with these very consistent compounds. So the engineers decided who won the race, not the drivers. This recipe in 2011, gave us a total of four different drivers, for three different teams, sharing 19 wins.

Ecclestone felt F1 should be more interesting, so he went back to the drawing board. He worked with Pirelli to create a tire, using softer compounds, that actually change depending on how the drivers use, or abuse them. He put the race back in the hands of his stars, the drivers. Now drivers and engineers spend the weekend trying to figure out how to maximize the performance of their tires. Each track is different, and the compounds vary from track to track. The result has been better than Bernie could have even dreamed, giving us six different winners for five different teams.

With victory clearly in the drivers this could be the most competitive Canadian Grand Prix ever, with many projecting a seventh new winner.

The Race

The Canadian Grand Prix part has been part of Formula One since 1967 and in the earlier years was staged either at Mosport Park in Ontario or Le Circuit Mont Tremblant in Quebec.  Then in 1978 the Canadian Grand Prix moved to its current home on Île Notre Dame in Montreal, on Le Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

This is considered to be one of the true high speed tracks in Formula One. The 4.316 km long track is essentially two long straights connected by two hairpins. It usually provides for a lot of passing, and with the premium on tire management, the smoother the drivers are on this circuit the better they should do.

5 to watch

As mentioned above there are many drivers who could win, but here are five who will be favoured to be on the podium. 

Fernando Alonso – Ferrari: Alonso leads the current championship, in a very average car. He won here in 2006, albeit while driving a Renault.  His current manufacturer is Ferrari and this organization produces cars that love Canada with 11 wins all time on Canadian soil. Ferrari continues to fine tune their car and no team knows Le Circuit better than this squad.

Lewis Hamilton – McLaren: Lewis is one of the drivers who is still looking for his first win of the season. Hamilton has won at Le Circuit in 2007 and 2010. McLaren has also  tasted victory in Canada 11 times. Hamilton is in a bit of a funk of late.  He’s always fast, but is prone to mistakes.

Kimi Raikkonen – Lotus: The "iceman" returns in 2012 after a couple of years away from the sport. The 05 winner looks for his first win with Lotus and is an early favourite based on his love of speed and ability on fast tracks.

Michael Schumacher – Mercedes: You can’t talk about The Canadian Grand Prix without mentioning 7 time race winner Schumacher. Michael at 43 is looking for his first win for Mercedes, and comes from the  Monaco race in where he was the fastest qualifier. Michael is hungry to prove he is still a winner and Canada might be his best chance for victory this season. 

Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull Racing: The two-time and defending series champion can never be counted out. The young German looked set to rewrite the F1 record books until Bernie and Pirelli got together. He has a win in Bahrain this season, but Red Bull nor Vettel have ever won on Canadian soil.