In a season of 20 races, contested by 24 exceptional drivers, six of whom are former world champions, it seems inevitable that Formula 1 in 2012 will be defined by individual moments rather than individual dominance.
The first six rounds of this year have seen an unprecedented six different victors, testament itself to just how closely matched many of the cars have been, but for all the brilliance in Barcelona and magic of Monte Carlo, it is this weekend’s race in Montreal that to me says more about the sport than perhaps any other.
Located on the Ile Notre-Dame, a man-made island in the St. Lawrence River, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was built in the late 1970s after growing safety concerns were voiced over Canada’s previous Grand Prix venue at Mosport Park. Lasting for 4.4km, it is a low-downforce track with long straights, tight turns, close walls and a high-top speed, all of which combine to create a unique challenge to teams and drivers. Even without the unpredictability of the weather, the spectacle here is like no other; it demands a level of approach and delivery that leaves no room for error and tells us more about the capability of the car than perhaps any where else. If the car has balance and speed, this is where it will show, if it is lacking, this is also where it will show.
Of all those who line-up for qualifying today, one name stands out as having achieved more at this circuit than anybody else. Lewis Hamilton has two wins to his name, and Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen, one a-piece (Sebastian Vettel has never won here), but Michael Schumacher has taken to the top-step an incredible seven times, the first some 18 years ago. I can’t say whether this will be the German’s swan song weekend or if it will belong to this season’s almost man, Hamilton. What I do know is that whoever is strong here can be expected to carry their performance through to the rest of the season; they will be the contenders. And those cars that fail to meet the challenge? Well those teams are going to need to start thinking very seriously about what some are doing right and they are getting wrong.
9th June 2012