Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton set to renew Rosberg rivalry in Montreal

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The Mercedes express is set to roll into Montreal for one of Formula 1's most unpredictable races of the year, the Canadian Grand Prix.

Set in the middle of the Il de Notre Dame on the St Lawrence Seaway, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve offers a challenge quite unlike any other on the F1 calendar.

Much like Monaco, the track is lined with walls ready to catch the unwary racing driver, however whereas the streets of Monte Carlo see an average speed of less than 100mph, Montreal is one of the fastest circuits on the calendar.

It is the first low downforce track of the year which will see teams put skinnier wings onto the cars for increased top speed as the slow speed chicanes and hairpins mean there is less emphasis on aerodynamic grip.

For much of the year, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a cycle park and, because of the low usage, is always one of the slipperiest tracks on the calendar, Pirelli, as a result, will bring the softest compound tyres to the race as they did in Monaco.

As I mentioned this race has a history of producing unpredictable races and that is due to the high percentage chance of a Safety Car because of the tight confines of the circuit.

Lewis Hamilton, Robert Kubica and Jenson Button have all won races with three or more interruptions with Button's 2011 triumph still regarded as one of the craziest races in F1 history.

You also can't talk about this race and not mention its signature feature, the Wall of Champions.

Located on the exit of the final chicane, it gained its name after a raft of world champions found their races ended by crashing into it.

Names like Michael Schumacher, Button and Sebastian Vettel have all hit this wall during their F1 careers albeit Vettel's crash came during a practice session.

Looking ahead to the 2014 edition of this race it remains all about the battle of the Silver Arrows.

The rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg raised several notches during the course of a very controversial weekend both on and off the track in Monaco.

After Rosberg had claimed his second straight win in the Principality, it really did appear we were heading for a divided pit garage at Mercedes, however, some wounds have been healed in the days since.

Both Hamilton and Rosberg insist they remain friends but in the heat of the battle it is hard to see this apparent truce holding.

What may be the difference in Montreal, however, is this is very much one of Hamilton's strongest circuits to race at.

The Briton won his first race there in 2007 and two more wins since mean beating Lewis in Canada would be a huge mental win for Rosberg.

The need for horse power also mean the gaining Red Bull's may find themselves looking over their shoulder too despite Renault insisting upgrades are coming for this race.

Certainly Sebastian Vettel will be hoping for improvements after another frustrating weekend in Monaco.

The German's unfavourable view of the new V6 era was only worsened by turbo problems while his ever impressive team-mate Daniel Ricciardo took his second straight podium.

Their biggest threat, however, could be Force India who always go well at lower downforce circuits; as Sergio Perez's podium in Bahrain proved.

Nico Hulkenberg also remains firmly the best non-Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari driver on the grid and would be a good each way bet for a podium if you fancy a trip to the bookies.

Williams too should be stronger than they were in Monaco as Valtteri Bottas remains one of the big breakthrough stars of the year so far.

Also the final Mercedes-powered team McLaren showed some signs of life in Monaco and with the lack of downforce less of an issue in Canada will also put up a good showing.

All this is worrying for Ferrari because whereas Red Bull seem to have enough aerodynamic ability to stay ahead of the customer teams, the Scuderia often don't as their lowly ninth and tenth in Bahrain showed.

There has been calls for a fresh, more expansive approach from new team boss Marco Mattiacci and Technical Chief James Allison but I think the Tifosi around the world may be in for a tough weekend in Montreal.

Toro Rosso could spring a surprise, despite using the inferior Renault power unit, the Italian team always have a car among the fastest in the speed traps due to running less downforce.

I would expect them to potentially battle with Ferrari, Williams and McLaren for the positions in the bottom half of the top 10.

Lotus' street circuit woes were evident again in Monaco despite Romain Grosjean's eighth place finish, much like Ferrari, a lack in overall downforce may not be enough to make up for the inferior power unit so another tough weekend looks on the cards for the Enstone team.

However, their problems are nothing compared to those mounting at Sauber. A double retirement in Monaco meant they dropped behind Marussia, as Jules Bianchi picked up the team's first ever F1 points finishing ninth.

It is apparent the team are in the void between the mighty midfield scrap behind the top two teams and ahead of Marussia and Caterham, on a normal day, but with the added pressure of Bianchi's Monaco result allied to the boost that will give, the Swiss team desperately need a quick response and Canada may offer that chance.

The magnitude of Bianchi's achievement is likely still setting in at Marussia. After four and a third seasons finally the team had something special to celebrate.

Good things had been coming as a raft of updates in recent races saw the MR03 look more of a threat to Sauber than worrying about traditional rival Caterham. 

Certainly it would take another race of high attrition to see another points finish occur but it is within the realms of possibility in Canada.

As for Caterham, they too were unlucky to miss out on points in Monaco as Marcus Ericsson got the Leafield team their best result in F1 finishing 11th.

Off the track uncertainty reigns over whether owner Tony Fernandes in considering selling the team, though currently the Malaysian denies all report suggesting such.

It continues to be a difficult season for the team and sadly I see little chance for improvement in Canada.

In reviewing this preview then, certainly the wise money is on Hamilton retaking the lead in the drivers' championship with Rosberg in second and an almighty battle for third behind, but knowing Montreal it likely won't be as simple as that. 

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