Championship Leaders – “swiftly moving on…”

After being at the epicentre of controversy following their crushing 1-2 victory in Monaco, the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team are keen to shift the focus onto the next Grand Prix in Canada just over a week away.

Closing the door on the controversial issues surrounding their team tactics, McLaren take the positives with them from their dominating form all weekend at Monaco. However, the championship leading team are reluctant to expect their domination to continue as the next two races move to North America.

“The Canadian Grand Prix is a very different event to the Monaco race”, said Martin Whitmarsh, CEO of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. He continues, “We go from the slowest, tightest track packed with corners on the calendar to a circuit that is all about long periods of power and braking. The MP4-22 performed incredibly well in Monte Carlo, however as the track conditions are poles apart, we are not going to Montreal with the same expectations. We go to Canada aiming to fight for the victory and to maintain our positions at the top of both the Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championships; however are realistic about the potential to dominate.”

The cautious sentiment is shared by McLaren driver, Fernando Alonso, who leads the driver’s championship and is looking to defend is win in Montreal from last year. Nonetheless, the reigning world champion is brimming with confidence after his win in Monte Carlo and feels his team have a psychological edge over their rivals with the momentum they carry. “We have a great momentum in the team right now after such a fantastic result in Monaco, which is a positive way to be going into the North American double-header”, he says.

Alonso is weary of being too expectant for the coming races as he has mostly had difficulties in the past at the North American venues. He comments, “Until last year, I hadn’t had great results in Canada, so it was fantastic to win there. It is always a tough race, and you see a lot of retirements because you are stressing the whole car with the high speeds and the hard braking zones.” His boosted confidence from Monaco, and having won in Montreal last year, makes him take an optimistic approach for the next race: “The track conditions also change over the race weekend, the grip levels improve as more rubber is laid and the dusty conditions. On race day, it is much better than Friday. We have some new packages on the car for Montreal; we are all pushing hard to attack and fight for more race victories. It is a good circuit to race on as there are a number of places you can overtake, which makes it more exciting for the drivers, teams and fans.”

His team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, also looks firmly towards his first Canadian Grand Prix. Being at the centre of the media storm regarding his expressions of disappointment after the race in Monaco, he now hopes to take the spotlight off the issue by focusing on the more positive aspects of the result. He says, “The result in Monaco was great for everyone in the team, it was a dream result considering it was my first year there in a Formula 1 car, and it means we are going to North America at the top of both Championship tables. I cannot wait to get back on track and continue to focus on racing.”

Having no experience on the North American circuits, Hamilton relishes the prospect of putting his preparations for them into practice. “This will be my debut at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, because of the chances there are to pass; it looks like a great track to compete on. It has some very distinctive characteristics, such as the low grip, the long straights, hard braking and so on, so my initial laps will focus on understanding all these and how best to drive the track to get good times. I have completed preparation work with my engineers at the McLaren Technology Centre specific to Canada and the US, and it will be great to finally take to the track here in Montreal.”

With no test dates between the races in Monaco and Canada, the team capitalised on the testing session at Paul Ricard to prepare for the contrasting nature from one circuit to the next. Norbert Haug, Vice President of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport explains, “Instead of maximum aero downforce as in Monaco, there will be only a little; instead of slow turns we will see fast corners, instead of short straights, there are long ones.”

The caution, despite the performance of the car in Monaco, comes as the Canadian track is notoriously punishing to the cars and many teams suffer failures to either the engine or the brakes. Haug continues, “The longest straight is the section between the L’Epingle hairpin and the chicane prior to start and finish; 1,100 metres or 15 seconds are run under full throttle. This is particularly demanding for brakes and engines; four times per lap, the drivers slow down from speeds of more than 300km/h to about 100km/h. During the test one and a half weeks before Monaco, our team completed an intensive test at the Paul Ricard circuit’s long version to prepare for this race.”

The Canadian Grand Prix is followed by the U.S. Grand Prix in Indianapolis, only 7 days later; and with Ferrari having always been considerably stronger than all other teams at the latter, McLaren take their confidence from Monaco to face much tougher competition henceforth.

– AC

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