Friday, 8 June 2012

Round 7: Canadian capers

A lot has happened in Formula One while I've been away.

I did a little piece about the Bahrain Grand Prix a while back, a post that got a hell of a lot of my standards. Sebastian Vettel's win in the Gulf brought back ominous memories of last season, when the German swept aside all before him. That day, I had that strange feeling akin to when your regular teacher returns after a week off, bringing an end to the dossing and frivolity in the presence of the supply teacher. I did use the words dossing and frivolity there, but don't worry, I haven't suddenly gone Jubilee crazy and turned really posh, I'm still the same guy.

But a lot has changed.

Pastor Maldonado won the Spanish Grand Prix in a race I honestly can't remember much of. I know the BBC showed the whole race, but they may as well have clumsily edited it to save time. But, this being the BBC, they were very professional and showed all the best bits. Next was Monaco, a race which was nearly brilliant but, despite the opinions of other, wasn't. It is not often that the top six cars finish within five seconds of each other and Felipe Massa doesn't spin off in wettish conditions, but it was still a pedestrian race on the public streets. Mark Webber became the sixth different driver to win this season and claimed his second win in the principality. And next up is Canada.

The race in Montreal - or a weird island just outside it - is one of my favourite Grand Prix of the year. The combination of long straights and fast chicanes give it an almost Monza feel. In fact, they are almost the same circuit, but I'm sure it is just a coincidence; after all, none of F1's newer tracks are suspiciously similar.

Anyone with at least a passing interest in F1 will remember last year's race, where Jenson Button collided with Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, was often at the back, but came through to win on the final lap. All this was achieved in addition to a drive-thru penalty for speeding under the safety car. After clashing with his team-mate and Alonso, this punishment must have felt like a mafia leader being given a prison sentence for littering. As he so often does, Button excelled in unpredictable conditions and he was helped by numerous safety cars which contributed to making the race about three days long.

But what does this weekend have in store for us? A seventh different winner is a very real possibility, with Lewis Hamilton yet to claim a victory this year and often imperious around the Gilles Villeneuve circuit. His pole lap and lights-to-flag victory in 2007 outlined his talent. A stunning lap followed by a mindless error in 2008 showed us his inconsistency. Two years later, he broke Red Bull's monopolistic hold over pole position, before running out of fuel on the way back to the pits, an offence he was punished for in Spain, but not back then, when McLaren were slightly less incompetent. What followed the next day was the best race of 2010, when high tyre wear and five contenders for victory battled for most of the race, with Hamilton eventually emerging victorious after thrilling battles with Alonso and Vettel.

As mentioned already, the 2011 race was even better. You'll be seeing enough highlights of those over the next few days if, like me, you spend a worryingly high proportion of your days flicking through the BBC Sport website.

Other contenders for victory are the two Lotus drivers. Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean are handily placed in the World Championship standings after consistent performances this year. I know, the words "Raikkonen" and "consistent" don't often go hand-in-hand, but he has been impressive in 2012, while his team-mate has often been a victim of misfortune and being near Michael Schumacher, which means he only has 35 points when he could have easily had at least 50. The Swiss/French/German/Austrian/Belgian driver is a contender in Canada as the Lotus has good straight-line speed. That said, he'll probably qualify sixth again and run into...

Michael Schumacher. In all six races, the 53 year-old has qualified well, including last time around in Monaco WHEN HE DID NOT QUALIFY ON POLE. Yes, he was fastest, but he qualified sixth, so I wish everyone would stop getting a stiffy over it. For some reason, I sympathise with Michael and want him to do well...ish. He has been unlucky in nearly all the races this season and has picked up just two points, which is the same as both the Toro Rosso drivers, who I don't think have even competed in a race yet.

I personally think this weekend's race will be a great one, but the later start time (who invented time zones anyway?) and Sky coverage will make things a little annoying. I love the Canadian Grand Prix and can't remember a boring one, so I hope this weekend is no different. If it is, I'll just moan at the BBC, Sky, Martin Whitmarsh and maybe Michel Platini for some reason. So, boring or not, I'll have a blog on Sunday for you guys to enjoy/despair at grammatical errors.

It's good to be back.

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