Canadian GP preview

Hamilton celebrates his maiden F1 victory in Canada last year

Lewis Hamilton's victory in the Monaco Grand Prix was in some respects a lucky one but they all count and, with his form having come under scrutiny following a poor showing in the Bahrain Grand Prix at the start of April, the McLaren Mercedes driver heads into Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix suddenly grasping a three-point championship lead.

Two months is obviously a long time in Formula One. Hamilton finished 13th in the Middle East after having almost stalled on the grid before ploughing into the back of Fernando Alonso's Renault.

Had his sixth-lap collision with the barrier at Tabac a fortnight ago brought worse consequences than a puncture and bent wheel rim - and had the rain not spread out the field to the extent that he was able to rejoin the race in fifth place following his subsequent pit stop - questions would, once again, surely have been raised.

In the event, from that moment on, everything went Hamilton's way.

Fuelled for a long middle stint, his second stop also conveniently coincided with a drying track so that, having built a commanding lead, it was not lost when dry tyres were finally bolted on.

A late safety car interlude saw that lead whittled away but, with a forecast shower late in the race failing to materialise, Hamilton never looked likely to suffer any more hiccups.

He first demonstrated his coolness under the pressure brought by a safety car interruption at last year's Canadian Grand Prix.

Having also taken his first ever pole position in an F1 car, Hamilton disappeared into the distance on three separate occasions, only then to have the rug pulled thanks to errors made by others.

After winning at Monaco he spoke of the honour in emulating his hero, Ayrton Senna, and it should be noted that the great Brazilian was also made to work for his breakthrough win in the rain-lashed 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix.

Much like Monaco, the nature of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve almost begs drivers to get it all wrong.

The two tracks are similar in some respects: the close proximity of barriers - in this case unforgiving concrete walls that line the 2.71-mile track - and the fact that they are both normally used as public roads.

The latter means that grip levels are particularly low when Friday practice gets underway, although that rapidly changes as the weekend progresses.


Nevertheless, things remain, to say the least, tricky off the racing line, with the accumulation of dirt and pieces of tyre rubber coming together under the parlance of 'marbles' to catch out those who stray.

Adrian Sutil - the outcome of whose Monaco outing suggests he was not alongside Hamilton at the head of the queue when good fortune was being dispensed - got it wrong early in last year's race when his Spyker clouted the wall at Turn Four.

The safety car thus appeared, as it also did when Vitantonio Liuzzi subsequently hit the so-called 'Wall of Champions' (situated beyond the final chicane on the start-finish straight).

No-one really remembers those accidents though, separated as they were by the spectacle of Robert Kubica hitting the wall head on the run down to Turn Ten, his BMW Sauber having clipped the back of Jarno Trulli's Toyota.

Hamilton's win aside, the incident stands as the main talking point of last year's race and, upon repeat viewing, it's hard to fathom how the Pole suffered little more than a sprained ankle.

However, barriers, lack of use and potential for safety car interruptions aside, Monaco and Montreal couldn't be more different.

The latter is, in essence, a series of straights punctuated by chicanes; as such, cars will be set up to run low downforce - which might conspire with the marbles and the walls against a driver - and brake wear will certainly play its part.

And, as already mentioned, so will luck. Another driver who had to stomach a great dollop of misfortune in Monaco was Hamilton's team-mate, Heikki Kovalainen.

Such has been the story of the Finn's season so far and the tale was fairly similar twelve months ago: while Hamilton was hoovering up the plaudits, his fellow rookie was struggling to make the switch to the big time at Renault until things finally went his way with a fourth-place finish in Canada.

Kovalainen is about due a decent hand and hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later.