A concrete wall sits at the exit of the final chicane at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. It’s always been the 2.70-mile high-speed track's trickiest section, so no one was surprised when legendary driver Damon Hill crashed there during the ’99 Canadian Grand Prix. Later that race, Michael Schumacher powerslid into the same barrier, and then Jacques Villeneuve hit the barrier. Turn 13 had officially claimed three ex-F1 champs in a single afternoon, earning it a new nickname: The Wall of Champions.
Keep an eye on that infamous corner, along with these three major storylines, when the green flag drops at this year’s Canadian Grand Prix.
1. Lewis Hamilton back on top
Photo: Getty Images
Another Formula 1 Grand Prix, another back-and-forth in the Silver Arrows garage—this time in clear favor of NicoRosberg. The young German turned in a confident drive at Monte Carlo to reclaim the top spot in the point standings. Hamilton, meanwhile, spent the latter part of his race wiping Nico’s dust off his visor and fending off the relentless Red Bull RB10 of the year’s biggest driver surprise, Daniel Ricciardo.
But this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix is primed for another shift in momentum. Nearly 70% of the race is run at full throttle—a boon for the Mercedes AMG drivers, both of whom will continue to exploit Merc’s massive horsepower advantage. So why the advantage for Hamilton? Put simply, dude owns Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The Brit’s first career victory came here in 2007. Then he won in 2010. And 2012. Except for Nelson Piquet and Michael Schumacher, Hamilton is actually the most successful driver in Canadian Grand Prix history. Rosberg, on the other hand, never registered a point here in three outings with Williams, and has never captured a Montreal podium for Merc.
2. Engine tweaks and resurgent Raikkonen scores points for Ferrari
Photo: Getty Images
Man, did Ferrari F1 look to be in good standing entering 2014? A new V6 engine designed in-house, a superfluity of funds, and a dynamic duo of ex-World Champion drivers at the reins. Yet, thus far, the scarlet F14Ts of Maranello have been this season’s greatest disappointment. The culprit? A noticeable lack of horsepower—something the team is looking to remedy in Canada.
The turbo engines were homologated back in February, so those 6-cylinder lumps won’t be able to undergo hardware changes. But Ferrari technical director James Allison says the team has been erring on the side of reliability, and is now confident enough to start pushing this setup for maximum output. A quicker car will certainly help Alonso, a man known for bringing middle-of-the-pack rides onto the podium through sheer raw talent.
Perhaps more importantly, Raikkonen leapfrogged from sixth to fourth at Monaco within moments of lights-out, then onto third once Vettel’sRB10 popped. A collision with Max Chilton at Mirabeau and yet another racing incident with Kevin Magnussen (seriously, what’s up with these two?) dropped Kimi from contention. Still, everybody’s favorite Finn finally looked comfortable at the helm of his new ride.
Don’t be surprised if Kimi and Fernando both finish inside the top five.
3. Sorry, Marussia
Look, we all love an underdog story. Watching Marussia hang on to score its first-ever Formula 1 points was certainly a nice subplot at Monaco, and Jules Bianchi may indeed be more talented than he’s given credit for. Let's not get carried away, though.
Remember, this year’s Grand Prix was rife with retirements. Perennial top 10 contenders like Force India’s Sergio Perez and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas retired, as did both Torro Rosso and Sauber cars. One-third of the grid was gone and, once Magnussen started playing bumper cars with Raikkonen at the hairpin, Bianchi was simply tasked with outrunning both Caterham drivers and his own teammate. At that point, it’s essentially a glorified GP2 race.
Hats off to Marussia, which brought both of its cars home safe from a serious battle of attrition at Monte Carlo, with points to boot. But they’re still minnows in a very large Formula 1 pond. Don’t count on seeing Marussia—or any other back marker—chasing down heavyweights at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. After all, those Jamaicans lose at the end of Cool Runnings, remember?
Maxim’s prediction: Hamilton takes his fourth win at the Canadian Grand Prix; Rosberg comes in second, while Ricciardo again impresses with a podium finish.