While Sebastian Vettel is seemingly cruising at the top of the drivers' standings, who elsewhere needs a change of fortune in this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix?
Sebastian Vettel (GER), Red Bull – 1st (145pts)
Mark Webber (AUS), Red Bull – 3rd (79pts)
This year it was Seb’s turn to jump into Red Bull's Monaco swimming pool with the winner’s trophy – sadly from Mark Webber’s point of view there was no repeat of 2010. In fact, last season’s highs are still some way off for the Australian, yet to win in 2011… Vettel’s form, however, is threatening to match or even surpass what we saw from Jenson Button and Brawn GP two years ago. Five wins from six races is a truly awesome result, even if other events perhaps swung the pendulum the German’s way in the principality, as a red flag and permitted tyre change on the restart grid meant the risk he was taking staying out on his ragged set of tyres was neutralised. But you make your own luck sometimes in F1, and if you start at the front in Monaco, you usually stay there. Last year Vettel won the championship with five victories over the whole season, having finished fourth in Montreal last year. A Vettel triumph here this year might make it start to look like a one-horse race.
Lewis Hamilton (GBR), McLaren – 2nd (85pts)
Still the only man to beat Vettel this season, it’s also worth remembering that Lewis did much in Montreal to bury the disastrous opening to McLaren’s 2010 season with the win here last year. The trouble for Lewis is that, in contrast to his early career when he (boringly for some fans and commentators) publicly said only what he was told to, his extraordinary outburst post-Monaco, blaming the stewards for his woes and fellow drivers Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado for ‘racing incidents’, has left a sour taste for some people who believe he should be taking a look at his own driving. One of Hamilton’s strengths has always been his attacking driving style, but with the new Ayrton Senna movie reminding people that, away from his on-track aggression, Ayrton was a gentleman of the sport, Lewis would do well to emulate his hero in Canada without having to use Twitter to clear up any more mess.
Nick Heidfeld (GER), Renault – 6th (29pts)
Vitaly Petrov (RUS), Renault – 9th (21pts)
A topsy-turvy season for Renault continues, with their JPS Lotus-inspired livery finally agreed not to contravene Canada’s anti-tobacco laws this week. Now team boss Eric Boullier is targeting a top-eight finish for his drivers, both of whom have graced the podium this year, Heidfeld in his very first race at the team in Australia, and Petrov (pictured, top) in Malaysia. The R31 is pretty good in race trim, but indifferent qualifying form has been the problem. Rumours suggested earlier this week that Heidfeld’s seat was under threat from a former occupant, Roman Grosjean, now doing wonders back in GP2, and Petrov’s head must still be spinning from the terrifying smash that ended his Monaco GP. In any case, both drivers need a decent Canadian outing.
Sergio Perez (MEX), Sauber – 15th (2pts)
Missing a race through injury after just five grands prix in the sport, particularly after showing promising form in the Sauber in the previous race in Spain, where he recorded his first points finish, was unlucky for Sergio Perez, but despite two days in hospital after his Monaco qualifying shunt, the Mexican is sure he’ll be racing, despite still feeling “some pain” after his record 80G impact. If he fails a Thursday fitness test and the FIA decide he isn’t ready yet, we might welcome reserve driver and 2010 GP3 champion Esteban Gutierrez onto the grid for a debut in his place. But with respect to Gutierrez, that would be a cruel twist to Perez’s fledgling career.
Pastor Maldonado (VEN), Williams – 21st (0pts)
With other drivers in this column under pressure from team bosses, it must be a relief for Pastor Maldonado (pictured, left) that his own, Williams technical director Sam Michael, considers his latest performances as “nothing short of excellent”. Even in other recent years when their star had already fallen, a Williams drive would still have been a solid proposition, but the dire start to 2011 for the team – their worst ever, without a single point in the first five GPs, a start that has led to Michael’s decision to quit at the end of the season – and therefore the driver even led one wag to comment that ‘Pastor Maldonado’ sounded more like he should be the resident chaplain. With team-mate and veteran Rubens Barrichello taking the first points, the unlucky Maldonado ended GP Monaco in the barriers when he was running sixth, after a Q3 showing on Saturday. Surely the Venezuelan’s luck must soon change – if he can just stay out of the way of Lewis Hamilton…
- Canadian Grand Prix event page
- Red Bull Racing on Twitter @redbullf1spy
- Official F1 website, formula1.com