Formula One : England V Germany again?
As the Euro 2012 Tournament looms, there is a strong chance that we will face one of those high-tension England versus Germany matches again. Not just on the soccer pitch either — it could be just the same on the track in Canada.
The past week has seen celebrations for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth, celebrating her 60 years as British monarch. Could therefore, a British or Commonwealth driver, continue the Jubilee celebrations with victory in Montreal?
Four drivers could potentially fulfil the honours. Two weekends ago in Monaco, Mark Webber took his second victory in the Principality with a perfectly judged race.
The Australian drove just fast enough to ensure that the seven car pack behind him were never close enough to make an overtaking bid. Equally, he preserved his tyres in case he needed to defend.
That critical moment came on the 27th lap, when Nico Rosberg dived into the pits from second place. The teams call this “the undercut”. The theory is that by stopping earlier and changing to fresher tyres, Rosberg would subsequently lap faster and overtake Webber when he made his pit stop in turn.
Webber, having preserved his tyres, had enough life left in them to put in two quick laps before he made his stop. Those laps meant that the Red Bull driver resumed his place at the head of the field and took a well-deserved victory.
However a Red Bull has never yet won in Canada, although they did finish second and third in last year’s rain-soaked monsoon marathon. With downpours, stoppages and safety cars, the race lasted a record 4 hours, 4 minutes and 39 seconds, making it the longest Grand Prix in history.
It was also one of the best races of the season. Race winner Jenson Button was dead last on lap 40. Yet despite a puncture, a collision with team-mate Hamilton, a drive through penalty, five pits stops and a further clash with the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso, he charged through the field to hunt down and force an error from Sebastian Vettel, on the very last lap.
Meanwhile, perhaps the strongest British hope has a point to prove. Lewis Hamilton collided with both Webber and team-mate Button last year and his accident-packed non-finish perhaps marked the lowest point of his career at McLaren.
One should remember though, Hamilton has been on pole position on three out of his four visits to Montreal. In 2007, he scored his maiden victory at the track (in just his sixth F1 race) and he won again in 2010. If McLaren have got to the bottom of their pit stop bungles, Hamilton could again be a winner.
Meanwhile both the Force India car and the driving style of “Flying Scotsman” Paul di Resta may also well be suited to the low-downforce nature of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Just as Williams sprung a surprise in Barcelona, I would not be surprised to see them challenging for at very least a podium place in Canada.
While Lotus and Williams could also surprise again in Canada, I suspect though that four German drivers could spoil Commonwealth celebrations. If Paul de Resta has a chance with the Force India, then so too does his team-mate Nico Hulkenburg.
Likewise, if Webber can win for Red Bull, then Sebastian Vettel cannot be ruled out either.
However I think all eyes will be on Mercedes. Their clever, ducted “double DRS” system, which moves air from the rear wing to the front of the car to reduce drag, gave Nico Rosberg his maiden win in Bahrain in April and Schumacher’s qualifying pace in Monaco showed that the veteran still possesses raw speed. Another Mercedes win cannot be ruled out.
Four German drivers versus four Commonwealth racers at the head of the field? Sounds less like a Euro soccer tournament or Jubilee pageant, more like The Battle of Britain!
Steve Slater is an F1 race commentator on STAR Sports’ coverage of the Formula One