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Canada GP: Preview - McLaren


This weekend's Canadian Grand Prix is Formula 1's first foray of the year to North America. It's a popular event with fans and drivers alike because the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve usually throws up an exciting and unpredictable race, and the vibrant city of Montreal provides a colourful backdrop to the on-track activity.

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is the first high-speed track of the 2014 campaign. The cars exceed 300km/h (186mph) on four occasions around the lap, but the corners are all relatively slow, and that places an emphasis on three key areas of performance: top speed, braking and traction.

From a driving point of view, the 4.361km (2.710-mile) circuit is hard to tame because the walls are close and the apex kerbs high; the smallest error can result in a crash. The final corner in particular has claimed its share of superstars, and is known colloquially as "The Wall of Champions".

The Canadian Grand Prix's association with Formula 1 dates back to 1967, the year that Montreal's Ile Notre Dame was built in the St Lawrence River to host Expo '67. The early F1 races were staged at Mosport, near Toronto, before the event found its permanent home in Montreal in 1978.

The circuit has been updated several times, the most recent changes taking place in 2002 when the approach to the Hairpin (Turn 10) was shortened and the pitlane exit was lengthened. As a result of those changes, the number of race laps was increased from 69 to 70.

Harsh winters and hot summers take their toll on the circuit's asphalt. Despite being re-surfaced only a few years ago, bumps and cracks are already appearing and cars have to be set-up accordingly. However, the track surface remains surprisingly smooth, which is why Pirelli are taking their Soft (Prime) and Supersoft (Option) tyre compounds to the race - the same as at Monaco a fortnight ago.

McLaren has an impressive record in Canada, having won the race 13 times. Among those victories is Jenson Button's magnificent victory in 2011, when he drove from last to first and took the lead on the final lap of the race. Kevin Magnussen has never previously raced at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve - the stats you need

First championship race: 1978

What makes it special: High top speeds, lots of overtaking places and plenty to do in the evenings

Wins from pole position: 15

Track abrasiveness: Low. Pirelli are taking their two softest tyre compounds to the race

Pirelli tyre choice: Supersoft (Option)/Soft (Prime)

2013 winning strategy: Two stops

Fuel consumption: High. Nearly 70 per cent of the lap is spent on full throttle, with lots of hard acceleration from slow-speed corners

Brakewear: High. There are seven major braking areas around the lap, with the heaviest deceleration peaking at 5.5g into the final chicane. Brake wear and temperatures have to be carefully monitored

Weather: Montreal's coastal location can throw up all types of weather in June. Last year there was rain in qualifying and sunshine during the race, and the teams should be prepared for anything this weekend

DRS zones: Two - along the start-finish straight and on the approach to the final corner

Turbo effect: High, due to lots of acceleration from slow speeds

Safety Car likelihood: High. Ten of the last 15 Canadian Grands Prix have been interrupted by the Safety Car, with nearly half of the race in 2011 spent behind it

Grid advantage: The racing line is on the right-hand-side: if it's been a rain-free weekend and rubber has built up from practice and qualifying, then it holds a slight advantage at the start

Pitlane time: 21s

Jenson Button: "I really enjoy the Canadian Grand Prix - it's one of those races where everything just feels right. The city is fantastic, the fans are friendly, loyal to the sport and incredibly supportive, the track is intense, and the racing is usually pretty hectic. It's a place that simply produces great Formula 1.

"It was a positive for the whole team to put some points back on the board at Monaco after a difficult few races; we're obviously still far away from where we want to be, but it's important that we maintain our aim of continuous development throughout the whole season. Although we're still a long way from the leaders, we've matched the general rate of development since the start of the season, which is a positive.

"In Canada, the weather can always play a key role - the forecast currently looks good, but you never know when you pull back the curtains in the morning whether you're going to be faced with blue skies, or grey clouds and pelting rain. We'll probably get a bit of both next week."

Kevin Magnussen: "The Canadian Grand Prix is one of those races I'm really looking forward to: I've always watched it on TV, and it's always looked like one of the very best, most enjoyable, and most dramatic events of the season.

"The track looks like a lot of fun; it's got a good blend of corners, and it's the kind of place where you want the car nicely hooked up and beneath you because, apart from the back straight, it's pretty much always changing direction. So it's a bit like Monaco in that respect, but a lot faster.

"It would be nice to have a straightforward weekend after a couple of disappointing technical problems. Things didn't quite go my way in Spain or Monaco - through no fault of my own - so I just want to get my head down, work with my engineers and work on delivering a good result, with no mishaps.

"I think it'll actually be interesting to see what we can achieve without encountering a problem that sets us back."

Eric Boullier, Racing Director: "In recent years, the Canadian Grand Prix has really developed into one of Formula 1's showpiece events. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is one of the purest racetracks on the calendar, and one that invariably produces an unusual and unexpected result.

"At McLaren, of course, we fondly remember the 2011 race, when Jenson enjoyed one of his greatest, most memorable victories there. Despite our current lack of pace, Jenson continues to be an absolutely fantastic ambassador for the team. Not only is he a fantastic driver, but he's also somebody with the feel and experience to steer the team and give it direction for development. His input has been invaluable, and he remains a tireless contributor.

"Kevin, equally, has been a fantastic asset so far this season. He'll be keen for a problem-free weekend after a couple of niggling technical issues in the past two races. That's a shame, because they've robbed him of a couple of potentially strong points finishes, but he'll surely have a weekend less beset with undeserved mishap soon. And when that happens, I think people will be impessed by his pace, in both qualifying and the race, because it's clear that he's the complete package and that good results will inevitably therefore come in time.

"Overall, it's still difficult to gauge exactly where we are: both Monaco and Canada are very particular types of circuit, and don't really offer a true reflection of our current state of development. It would be nice to get some more points on the board, but I don't think we'll get a clear idea of how much we've progressed until we go back to Europe."


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