Mercedes' star expected to shine in Canada as well

© AP, 5 June 2014
© AP Photo/Luca Bruno

The tightly cornered Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve is a different track than most in Formula One, but don't expect the Mercedes team to be any less dominant.

The Mercedes duo of three-time Canadian Grand Prix champion Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg has won all six races to start the season, finishing one-two in the last five. They will be the favourites again despite the close walls and hard braking on the circuit.

"I don't think it will be different from the other weeks before," a resigned Nico Hulkenberg of Force India said on Thursday.

The race weekend begins with practice on Friday, and qualifying on Saturday, before the grandstands on the island track across from downtown Montreal fill up on what is expected to be sunny, warm day for the 45th Canadian GP on Sunday.

It will be first experience for Canadian fans of the quieter, more fuel-efficient 1.6-litre turbo engines introduced this year, which have dropped the formerly dominant Red Bull team down the grid and raised Mercedes to near invincibility.

In the opening six events, Rosberg has two wins and finished second four times to lead the drivers' standings by four points from Hamilton, who has four wins and one second.

They have nearly double the points of third place Fernando Alonso of Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel, the champion the last four years with Red Bull, was sixth.

Some felt the peculiar Gilles-Villeneuve track, which features long straights leading into sharp turns, a hairpin and some tricky chicanes, might close the power gap on Mercedes.

Not at all, Hamilton said.

"I'll be guessing, but I don't feel that will be the case," he said. "We're particularly strong in the straights, the Mercedes are, but I don't know.

"Maybe we'll be surprised this weekend, but the long straights do suit us very well. We have a very good power unit in our engines. Mercedes has done the best job with the engines, so Renault and Ferrari would have had to have done an exceptional job coming into this weekend in that area to be able to keep up with us on the straights."

The Mercedes supremacy is drawing comparisons to 1988, when the McLaren Honda team of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost won 15 of the 16 races on the schedule, with the Brazilian taking eight and Prost winning seven.

"In a way, I'm honoured to hear those comparisons because that was an extremely high-level, big battle at the time, but I leave it at that," Rosberg said. "I don't really compare myself to that era. I want to do my own thing."

HAMILTON VS ROSBERG

It seems the only thing that can stop Mercedes may be infighting between Hamilton and Rosberg, but even the tension that was building between them looks to have abated since a blowup at Monaco two weeks ago, when Hamilton felt Rosberg cheated him of a chance to claim pole position.

Hamilton tweeted recently "we spoke and we're cool, still friends noproblem."

Vettel has had bad luck in Canada in the past, but broke through last year when he cruised to win from the pole, finishing 14 seconds ahead of Alonso.

Now he's grasping at any edge to stay competitive.

"It will be difficult to match the Mercedes-powered cars down the straights," the German said. "We know the corners are very tricky and demanding here, and you can make up a lot of time in the corners. We'll try to do our best down the straights and try to do better than everyone else on the corners."

The McLaren, Force India and Williams teams also use Mercedes engines, but none has put the package of engine and car together quite like Mercedes.

"In terms of the development of the car, it is working and we're going in the right direction," said Jenson Button of McLaren, the 2011 Canadian GP winner who has found himself battling just to get into the points by finishing in the top ten this season. "It's tough.

"When you've been fighting for wins and the team is used to fighting for wins, it's difficult when you find yourself in this situation."

 

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