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Preview: Can Mercedes power to victory in Montreal?

Written by  Jun 07, 2017

It's safe to say Mercedes have been downplaying their title credentials ahead of this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix.

After falling behind Ferrari in both championships, team boss Toto Wolff has already described the defending champions as the "underdog" and, following his bad weekend in Monaco, Lewis Hamilton believes the Scuderia are simply "better".

Yet what the Brackley team seem to have forgotten is, prior to their blip on the streets of Monte Carlo, they had won the two races before in Russia and Barcelona. Yes, they did it by overcoming strong challenges by Sebastian Vettel, but nonetheless, the gap between the two teams at most circuits remains very small.

Looking ahead to Montreal and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, while it is wall-lined and will share the same three tyre compounds as Monaco, it is a very different proposition to those tight and twisty streets and offer plenty for Mercedes to be hopeful about.

This is a power circuit first and foremost and that has remained the big strength of the W08 this year. If you look back across the different circuits, you'll see that every sector where the longest straights are located Mercedes usually has the edge over Ferrari.

Canada has four significant straights split by a number of chicanes and the famous hairpin, this means a lower downforce configuration is required than at most tracks and that should help in other areas.

The big concern for Mercedes is the tyres, particularly the ultrasoft compound. Yet the tarmac is more abrasive at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and the less downforce undoubtedly means more sliding all of which generate more temperature.

If Mercedes can avoid overheating the Pirellis, which it should as they cool down the straights then it may allow them to better manage the tyres, whether that means extracting more performance we'll have to wait and see.

If they can't, then all of the above may be pretty irrelevant as Ferrari will likely make up for any time lost down the straights in the chicanes and twisty Sector 1. It's also worth remembering who won at the last circuit similar to Montreal, Sebastian Vettel in Bahrain.

Behind the top two, Red Bull has also been playing down their expectations due to their underpowered TAG-Heuer branded Renault power unit. However, the team was quite competitive in Bahrain before falling back during the race and the RB13 has been designed to be slipperier through the air than many of their rivals.

It's doubtful that this will mean they can compete for the victory but Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen should have enough performance to remain clear of the midfield as the third fastest team.

In the midfield, Williams, who have a good recent record in Canada, should be back challenging Force India for the final places in the top 10 with Haas also in the mix. These teams should an advantage over Toro Rosso and Renault, but a strong performance by Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg particularly can't be ruled out.

It may well be a much more difficult weekend for Sauber, with their old Ferrari units, and McLaren, using the Honda engine but all these midfield teams can't rule out any result out at a circuit known for unpredictable races.

The wider cars may well make the final chicane particularly more difficult and with several areas where judgement against the exit wall is crucial, more incidents than in previous years can't be ruled out. It all should make for a very eventful Canadian Grand Prix weekend.

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