Friday, 10 June 2011

Crashing at Canada and No Bahrain

The Canadian Grand Prix started today. Both free practice sessions saw a decent number of drivers trying to find a way to avoid the walls and failing. This race will be the first time that two DRS zones will be used. There will be one activation line as usual but the flap will be used on both of the following straights. This should add an interesting twist, as long as it does not make overtaking far too easy.

Photo Courtesy of Force India
Friday started with an announcement from the organisers of the Bahrain Grand Prix. The statement accepted that this years event would be cancelled which must have resulted in a huge amount of people suddenly feeling much more relaxed. It certainly seemed that if things had continued there would have to be some kind of showdown or standoff to decide the fate of the race. The race organisers seem to have taken the reigns and saved everyone that embarrassment.

In Canada however the race weekend started well. The weather was sunny unlike the previous few days and the cars headed out onto the track to get used to the new tyres. This weekend the race will be run on the soft and super soft tyres but the teams also have a chance to test a new medium compound. The technical problems started early for both McLaren and Red Bull though. Lewis Hamilton's car was being stripped down to try and find the cause of his steering wheel display going blank. Sebastien Vettel was suffering from front brake problems. That isn't going to be fun at the best of times but at one of the heaviest braking circuits on the calendar it must be even worse.

Hamilton had to drive the rest of the session using a beep played into his crash helmet to determine when to shift gears. Vettel's brake problem was solved but the German driver overcooked the final chicane and added his name to the list of victims at Champion's Wall. He bounced across the kerbs and hit the wall taking a big chunk off the Red Bull. The session was red flagged while the wreckage was recovered. Rosberg ended up with the fastest time in Free Practice 1 followed by Alonso and Schumacher.

Free Practice 2 saw Vettel back on track with a fully repaired Red Bull and Hamilton with a working dash. Sergio Perez however had decided that he was not fit enough to compete in the rest of the event and Sauber took the unusual step of borrowing Pedro De La Rosa from McLaren. They spent half the session getting the car modified to fit him in. It was at this time that the track started to take its toll again, Sutil being the first victim as he wiped off a front wheel on the way out of turn 7. He pulled the car off the track only for Kamui Kobayashi to hit the wall hard at turn 4 and bring out the red. Once the track was clear D'Ambrosio tried the same move and also brought the session to a standstill while his wreckage was removed.

Alonso was the fastest driver this time around closely followed by Vettel who was obviously not too bothered by his incident in the morning session. Massa came third ahead of Hamilton and Button with Force India's Paul Di Resta doing a fantastic job to finish up sixth.

With such an interrupted day, relative performance is even harder to gauge than usual. The Red Bull's do not seem to have a very high top speed, their impressive high speed cornering is not much help here. Ferrari on the other hand have been struggling with aerodynamic grip and making the hard tyres work neither of which will affect them nearly as much as usual at this track. McLaren are the unknown quantity having missed out on a decent run in either session. Their engine is strong but so far they just haven't had the chance to show their potential.

Ferrari could really do well at a track which suits their car but you can never rule out Vettel where qualifying is concerned. So predictions are going to be: Vettel for pole. The race could well be a different matter though. I still think McLaren will be strong in the main event so I'm going for Hamilton first, Alonso second and Vettel third thanks to tyres and DRS zones. This is the best chance so far for McLaren and Ferrari to get some points back on Red Bull. Can't wait to find out which way it goes!

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