It is a cruel aspect of all sport that, after the event, all that is left are the statistics and, in the case of the last round of the Formula 1 World Championship in Monaco, those statistics show that Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro finished third and ninth. What those statistics do not show is that the race started with an all-red front row and that during the race, especially in the hands of Felipe Massa, the F2008 showed good pace and, in general terms, the Scuderia was far more competitive around the streets of the Principality than it had been in recent years. However, the team did a less than perfect job and made a couple of errors in terms of strategy, which is all part of the game in Formula 1.
Also on the positive side, the new methodology and approach the team applied to the race weekend as a whole paid dividends and this will be continued over the coming three days of running in Montreal. The result of the 2007 Canadian GP was poor, chiefly because of problems in qualifying, even if the race pace was acceptable, although compromised by the inevitable Montreal Safety Car period. Prior to the Monaco race, all the teams had one day's testing on the "Canada-spec" layout at the Paul Ricard circuit, however the day was pretty much washed out by rain and so there are no real indicators of who has done the best preparation work for what is the first low downforce configuration circuit on the calendar. So far this year, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro has been competitive at all types of track and the team has enjoyed great success on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in the past, even if it has not won here for the past three years: there have been eleven wins here for the Prancing Horse and Kimi Raikkonen won with another team in 2005.
This race has always been one of the most popular on the calendar, particularly so for the Ferrari team, who can always count on extensive and very vocal support from the large Italian community in Montreal and we can be sure of at least one Ferrari victory this weekend, as the F430 car has its own one-make series, the North American Ferrari Challenge running as a support race to the main event!
The circuit itself is unusual, offering all the usual challenges of a high speed road circuit, but with little in the way of run-off at the side of the track on the cramped confines of the island. This also means facilities have not been the best, with cramped working conditions for the teams, although this year there have been modifications to the track itself, with the unforgiving kerbs smoothed out and team areas also improved. Logistically, there is a change this year as the usual additional workload of dealing with an overseas race is further complicated by the fact that everything has to be packed up and flown back to Europe for the French GP, which is now the next round, rather than going on to the traditional appointment in the USA.
As for the F2008, they are basically the same as used on the streets of Monaco, barring small modifications to suit the low downforce nature of the track. This will be the second race for both engines and gearboxes: engines did not get a very hard time a fortnight ago on the lowest mileage track of the year and the Monegasque rain also means the power plants did not get put under any undue strain, even if the street circuit is quite tough on transmissions. Braking is an issue in Montreal, with tight corners following high speed straights and evaluating brake cooling and the effect on the brakes of running with heavy fuel loads will be a key area to watch during Friday's free practice sessions. Two factors mean one can predict an exciting Sunday afternoon: the fact the track layout is conducive to overtaking and its location, in an exposed area near the ocean also makes for changeable weather with the chance of a sudden downpour at any time. Indeed, current weather forecasts predict a good chance of rain on race day. In terms of the Championships, the Scuderia still heads the Constructors' classification, while four drivers are all very close at the top of the Drivers' points table. The fact that Raikkonen has now slipped off the top position shows just how closely contested is this year's fight and just how costly a "zero points" finish like the one in Monaco can be. Everyone in the team at the track and the Gestione Sportiva back in Maranello is keen to ensure Montreal reaps more points than Monaco.