Canada GP: Preview - Honda


Round seven of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship takes the Honda Racing F1 Team to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix. The 70-lap race takes place at the 4.361km (2.710-mile) Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and is the only race on North American soil this year.

The track is located on the Ile Notre Dame, a man-made island in the St Lawrence River that was originally built to house the city's Expo in 1967. The island subsequently staged the rowing competitions at the 1976 Olympics, before becoming the home of the Canadian Grand Prix in 1978.

The circuit consists of slow corners and six long straights, which encourage the teams to run their cars in low downforce trim. The longest of these straights is a one-kilometre dash between the hairpin at Turn 10 and the final chicane, at the end of which the cars reach a top speed of 324kph (201mph).

Honda first won the Canadian Grand Prix in 1986 with Nigel Mansell, since when it has retained close links with the event and will once again be an official sponsor of the Grand Prix with a significant programme of activities at the Crescent Street Festival and in and around the circuit.

There are no long corners on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The combination of short, slow corners and chicanes are linked by six long straights, which place an emphasis on high top speeds.

As a result, the cars run in a low downforce set-up for the first time this year and the main engineering focus of the weekend is tyre and brake management. To combat the track's smooth asphalt, Bridgestone brings its soft and super-soft compounds to the race, as was the case in Monaco, but the heat generated by the centrifugal forces along the straights and under braking make tyre graining an issue.

The circuit is also the hardest of the year on brake wear. The cars slow from seventh to second gear on six occasions during the lap, but the engineers are unwilling to enlarge the size of the brake ducts due to the resultant increase in aerodynamic drag. When you add the strain placed on the gearboxes - there are more gear changes per lap than at Monaco - the 70-lap Canadian Grand Prix is one of the biggest technical challenges of the year.

How do you expect the Honda Racing F1 Team to perform at the Canadian Grand Prix?
Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "We were pleased with the pace and performance of the RA108 around Monaco last week and it was encouraging to score further points, particularly with Rubens for the first time this season. However Canada is a completely different challenge and the downforce levels required are medium to low, the opposite of Monaco. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a big technical challenge, and with a combination of high-speed blasts, slow chicanes and hairpins, it can be very tough on the cars. Although I am pleased with the progress that the team has made over the last few races, we have been lacking the speed necessary to really maximise long straights, so it will be up to us to get the most from the performance that we have available in the car. I am expecting a more challenging weekend than in Monaco."

What sort of development work has gone into the RA108's low downforce package?
RB: "We ran the RA108 in low downforce specification on a Montreal configured layout of the Paul Ricard circuit on the final day of the test before Monaco. Unfortunately the weather conditions were very poor which resulted in most of the day being washed out. However Jenson was able to achieve a few laps to obtain some basic aerodynamic data, which we have used along with data from previous years, to prepare our specific aerodynamic package for this race."

What are your hopes for the Canadian Grand Prix weekend?
Jenson Button: "Montreal is one of my favourite race weekends on the F1 calendar. The atmosphere around the track and the city is always fantastic. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a challenging track which is good fun to drive and completely different from the last race in Monaco. We were not able to achieve much testing specifically for this race due to the poor weather at Paul Ricard, so it is difficult to know how the RA108 will perform until we have the chance to get a few laps under our belt in practice on Friday."

You started from pole position at this race in 2005. What's the key to a quick lap?
JB: "The key to a quick lap is being able to ride the kerbs and you need to have a car which can do this comfortably. You have to be precise because if you hit the kerbs in the wrong place, then you'll probably end up in the wall. The biggest challenge is getting the last chicane before the pits just right. You can have a perfect lap all the way round but if you hit those kerbs badly, it will throw you off. Getting off the grid cleanly is also important as the first couple of corners are very tight with all 20 cars trying to squeeze through, although you can overtake here if the opportunity presents itself. The hairpin at turn ten is probably the best opportunity for overtaking and where you can see some pretty exciting racing."

How much of a relief was it to score your first points of the year in Monaco?
Rubens Barrichello: "It was very satisfying to score points in Monaco as the car had performed well over the weekend and we deserved a good result from the race. I hope this will be the start of better things to come. This team has a lot of potential and it is important that we all maintain our focus, keep working hard and I am confident that the car will continue to improve over the season."

Will the car feel very different to drive in low downforce specification?
RB: "The Montreal track is a complete change from the last race where the tight and twisty streets of Monaco are all about high downforce. For Canada, the car will be set-up in our lowest downforce configuration so far, which means a lower wing level than we have seen this season, and we will spend practice on Friday and Saturday morning tuning the balance and set-up to suit the characteristics of this venue."

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Published: 02/06/2008
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