Q and A with Martin Whitmarsh and Norbert Haug Vodafone McLaren Mercedes travels across the Atlantic for round seven of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship, the Canadian Grand Prix, which is being staged in the North American country for the 40th time.
Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula 1, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes:
Coming out of Monaco, what is the mood within the team?
"Overall the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team comes out of Monaco a third of the way through the season leading the Drivers’ Championship and second in the Constructors’ title. Consequentially, particularly on the back of a fabulous win in Monaco, the mood is very good. The feeling is that there is good development momentum in the team and that we have an exciting season ahead of us. Inevitably Lewis comes out of Monaco in a very positive frame of mind and firmly believing that he can build upon that success and have a strong Championship fight. Heikki of course has performed quite brilliantly in his first six races with the team and therefore has to come out of it with some disappointment. Whilst there is underlying satisfaction with his personal performance, Heikki has suffered some misfortune, which has taken from him the opportunity to win his first Grand Prix. But he is an extremely positive guy who realizes that he has a great career ahead of him and there is no doubt that he is going to enjoy many Grand Prix victories during the course of his career."
Next stop Montreal where track characteristics are completely opposite to the narrow streets of Monaco.
"We have a car which excels in high speed corners and there aren’t too many of those in Canada, however, we have a reasonably good track record at this event. It is about high speed down the straights, braking stability, durability of the braking system, traction out of the corners, which are relatively short but with high speeds into them. All this means it is an unusual circuit that is not the easiest to forecast, but we have every reason to believe we have made improvements on the car and the whole team is looking forward to carrying our championship campaign forward."
This is traditionally a tough race for brakes, what measure does the team take towards maintaining performance throughout the race and the weekend?
"Inevitably all of the teams have to review their braking systems prior to the Canadian round of the Championship as it would be extremely unusual if the more standard brakes used at conventional circuits would last the Canadian Grand Prix. There have been many occasions in the past where quite simply the brakes have worn out before the end and that is something that we all have to work very hard at. As the hardest circuit on brakes in terms of wear, the team and Akebono, with areas such as friction materials and cooling systems, work to have a special Canadian Grand Prix set-up. "
Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
How do you evaluate the balance of power after the first third of the season and prior to the Canadian Grand Prix?
"The previous three races in Barcelona, Istanbul and Monte Carlo provided completely different challenges for teams and drivers and offered probably the widest possible spectrum of three consecutive Grands Prix. Vodafone McLaren Mercedes was capable of achieving podium finishes at all three tracks and scored these positions in the races. Whilst Lewis ended up third, second and first respectively, a broken wheel rim, a tire slashed by a competitor and a software problem while engaging first gear at the start to the formation lap in Monaco prevented Heikki from scoring a similar amount of points. Now Lewis leads the Drivers’ World Championship with a gap of three points, one year ago his advantage after six races was eight points."
What are the specific demands of the Montreal circuit for drivers, cars and teams?
"First of all, the race is renowned for its many Safety Car periods. In the previous five years, there has been at least one Safety Car period in 42 percent of all races; in Canada there have been Safety Car periods in three out of the last five races which is 60 percent. No other circuit is more demanding for the brakes than Montreal; four times per lap the cars slow down from 300km/h and more to about 100km/h. Montreal puts also strain on the engines; on the long straight, the cars run under full throttle for 15 seconds out of the total lap time of about 75 seconds.
How difficult is it for teams and drivers to adjust to such extremely opposed demands like in Monaco and Montreal?
"It is true - apart from the same initials and from being street circuits, the venues of these two consecutive Grands Prix have only a few things in common considering their demands. The team was able to deal with these contrasts at best; Lewis won his first Formula 1 race in Canada, and one year later, he arrives in Montreal as six-time Formula 1 winner, current winner of the Monaco GP and with 16 podium finishes out of his 23 Grands Prix."