Canadian GP Preview
McLaren's somewhat controversial one-two finish in Monaco has Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton sharing the world championship lead, but Ferrari, with such a strong record in Montreal, will be looking to bridge the gap in Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix.
The world championship is still well and truly up in the air with just five points between the top three and another 10 points back to Kimi Raikkonen. McLaren, while the most dominant this year, hasn't performed well in Canada, with only one win this decade (ironically Raikkonen in 2005). Alonso won in a Renault 12 months ago, while Schumacher won the three GPs between 2002 and 2004.
Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve has a habit of producing drama, in particular at the first and last corners, and after the dominance of Ferrari and McLaren over the first five races, you get the feeling that this is the chance for the rest of the grid to really challenge. Having had close to three months to fine tune since the start of the season BMW, Renault, Williams, Honda and Red Bull should have ironed out the kinks.
The intrigue surrounding the No.1 driver status at McLaren at the moment is detracting from the marvellous efforts of rookie Lewis Hamilton. No-one has produced such a start to their career as the Brit, who has five podiums from as many races. The McLaren garage can take some of the credit, but it takes an exceptional talent not to make a mistake in your first five races in Formula One.
Alonso is as determined as ever to retain his world title, and while he puts his car in front of Hamilton's on the track, it is always going to be hard for the younger driver to break through for his maiden win. If Ferrari can't get back on the pace, then the battle of the two McLarens may be the most intriguing of the season.
However, Felipe Massa and Raikkonen will be very determined to ensure the prancing horse remains at the front of the grid. Massa has been excellent in the past three races, with two wins and a third, while the Finn's luck has deserted him with a DNF in Spain followed up with a disaster in qualifying in Monaco. If he has designs on the world title, then he needs to start getting himself into the mix very quickly.
BMW is by far the most consistent outside those leading two teams, with Nick Heidfeld fifth and Robert Kubica seventh. Splitting them is Giancarlo Fisichella, who has been doing a serviceable job for the new-look Renault. Rookie team-mate Heikki Kovalainen is enduring a tough opening to his career, and needs to get on the pace.
The Williams pairing of Nico Rosberg and Alex Wurz also need to break out of the midfield mode, while Honda seems to finally be on the improve after a horror start to the year.
If Mark Webber can keep his Red Bull from the various forms of mechanical failure which have dogged him of late, then he could be a genuine chance for a points finish. He was strong in qualifying in Monaco, and just needs the car underneath him to carry him the distance. David Coulthard showed with his fifth placing in Spain, that the set-up of the Renault is competitive.
Canadian Grands Prix of the past have taught us to expect the unexpected, and there is no reason to expect any different this time around.