Questions for Canada
Will Hamilton prove untouchable in Montreal? How far ahead will Mercedes be? Can Vettel keep pace with Ricciardo? And more...
By Sky Sports Online. Last Updated: 06/06/14 10:21am
Will Hamilton prove untouchable in Montreal?
The most interesting aspect of the Monaco GP contretemps involving Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg wasn't the question of whether the latter's trip up the Mirabeau escape road was a deliberate course of action; more it was Hamilton's own reaction to the incident. No matter what the stewards thought, his sullen demeanour and monosyllabic utterances (in marked contrast to earlier in the week) were clearly those of someone who felt his team-mate had got one over on him. Perhaps Lewis felt he should have seen it coming? His funk carried over into race day, with Hamilton's radio outburst after his pit stop that of someone who knew his best chance to right the wrong of the day before had just been and gone. All in all, it naturally begs the question of how he might react from here on in, starting this weekend.
There are plenty who believe Hamilton to be more susceptible than most to such niggles - to get wound up by them, let them fester and play on his mind - but Jenson Button isn't one of them. "Initially, he is an emotional character, and he will be quite hurt, but he comes back strong," the McLaren driver said after Monaco, and he should know.
Button also pointed out that Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a track Hamilton likes and three victories (including his first in F1 back in 2007) are testament to that. However, Button didn't mention their collision early on in that remarkable race three years ago, which he overcame before going on to take an improbable victory, but which resulted in Hamilton's retirement. And then there was the 2008 race, which Lewis led before he crunched into the back of Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari during a pit stop. It's a race Hamilton has an understandable fondness for but his results there certainly reflect the propensity, seen throughout his career, for extremes.
Assuming (as everyone will be) that we're in for another two-horse race, then it's worth contrasting Hamilton's record with the rather more circumspect one of Rosberg, whose best finish was fifth last year. The way things are going, he'll probably find it harder to finish fifth this time around than challenge for the win. But as Nico knows, challenging for the win is one thing, actually winning is another.
How far ahead will Mercedes be?
F1 heads from one unique venue to another this weekend as the twists of the Monte Carlo streets are replaced by the high-speed blasts through Parc Jean Drapeau on Montreal's Ile Notre Dame.
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a track which rewards a powerful engine with plenty of top-end grunt - something Mercedes have in abundance.
Couple that with a driver who has never finished off the podium when he has made the chequered flag in Canada and things are starting to look rather ominous. To add to that, Lewis Hamilton will also be fired up after the perceived injustice of Monaco, with Jenson Button warning that he could be "untouchable" this weekend, adding that when there had been issues between the pair at McLaren "at the next race he would destroy me".
Red Bull appear to be the closest challengers to Mercedes; however, the lack of high-speed turns will negate their aerodynamic grip advantage and could in fact see them drop into the clutches of Ferrari, Force India, Williams and McLaren rather than closer to the Silver Arrows.
The only thing that could keep the chasing pack close this weekend is the Safety Car, with six of the last nine races being neutralised at least once. But whilst that may keep more cars on the lead lap, it would appear the only thing that can beat Mercedes this weekend are Mercedes themselves.
Will Vettel keep pace with Ricciardo?
"Mitigating circumstances? What are they?" An excerpt from an imaginary conversation involving Sebastian Vettel that could have taken place any time in recent years but most likely in the middle of that run of nine straight wins last season when, even by his own standards, there was very little that seemed to go wrong. Times have clearly changed, but as Red Bull look for ways they can close the gap to Mercedes, the World Champion must also knuckle down and gets to grips with another novelty: an Australian who is consistently getting the better of him.
Yes, it happened occasionally in the past with Mark Webber but with Daniel Ricciardo 5-1 up in qualifying and now also nine points ahead in the Drivers' Championship, the replacement is continuing to surprise everyone, including Red Bull themselves by the sounds of it. Danny Ricc is clearly brimming with confidence, although after his races in Spain and Monaco it's possible that Vettel might have re-acquainted himself with mitigating circumstances. Certainly the gearbox problems that bumped him down to 15th on the grid in Barcelona were not helpful, and the less said about the power unit problems that started to dog him during qualifying for the Monaco GP and which brought about his early retirement there, the better.
Ricciardo looked 'on it' in the Principality and scored his second straight podium finish. But what if Vettel's car hadn't suffered ERS and turbo problems? Although out-qualified by his team-mate, he made the better start and was up to third before his early retirement. The bare facts might suggest that Ricciardo is currently bossing the world champ but there are evident signs Vettel is overcoming his slow start to 2014. Can he assert himself in Montreal?
Can the minnows compete in Canada?
Jules Bianchi defied odds of 33/1 by claiming a top-ten finish for Marussia in Monaco, but repeating that feat in Montreal would be an even greater obstacle to overcome, with Sky Bet offering 50/1 on the Frenchman scoring points this weekend.
Surprisingly, 18 customers of Sky Bet backed the 24-year-old to pick up points in Monte Carlo, with one punter gaining a return of £170 for a modest investment, though most stakes were in the region of a singular pound. Still, one can only tilt one's hat to such a shrewd prediction.
Granted, Marussia's success was aided by a series of retirements, so Bianchi's team-mate Max Chilton is another long shot at 50/1 to score in Canada. But Caterham will be determined to catch up those two points; they're even longer shots this weekend, with Marcus Ericsson 66/1 to pick up a point, the same odds as Kamui Kobayashi.
Meanwhile, Sauber remain without a point this season but they're deemed much more likely to produce a top-ten finish, with Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez rated 10/1 apiece to score on Sunday. Incidentally, Lewis Hamilton is the bookmakers' favourite to return to winning ways at 1/2, with Nico Rosberg given odds of 15/8 for back-to-back race wins for the first time this season.