Gary Anderson slams McLaren for Button repairs

McLaren on Friday continued to play down criticism team flaws are hurting its drivers’ chances of winning the 2012 world championship.

The latest criticism comes after Lewis Hamilton dominated Friday’s proceedings at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. In total contrast, his teammate Jenson Button managed only a handful of laps, with a double gearbox failure.

“We had an oil leak so we had to take the gearbox off then put it back on,” revealed the 2009 world champion. “And then we found another problem, so they had to take it off again then put it back on again!”

Gary Anderson, a former F1 technical chief who is now an analyst for British television BBC, was unimpressed.

“This is a top team with a world champion in it challenging for the world championship,” he said. “It has been three and three-quarter hours now changing the gearbox — it should be 30 minutes. It’s not good enough.

“During that time Caterham have rebuilt the car of Heikki Kovalainen, who hit the wall,” added Anderson.

McLaren’s Jonathan Neale said Anderson is “entitled to his opinion”.

“I think it helps if you’re standing a bit nearer the problem,” he added. “We don’t want these things to happen, they’re not designed to happen, but Formula One cars are designed to be right on the edge.”

Team boss Martin Whitmarsh, however, tipped 2011 Montreal winner Button to bounce back on Saturday and beyond.

“It’s not a disaster,” he is quoted by Reuters. “Lewis was doing some good long runs and some good short runs so we’ve got quite a lot of data anyway within the team and that feeds across to Jenson.”

HRT mechanic not seriously hurt in pitlane accident

An HRT mechanic has escaped serious injury after being struck by Pedro de la Rosa’s car in the pitlane on Friday.

Craig Stubley, the first mechanic on de la Rosa’s car, had hearts racing after morning practice when an ambulance rushed to his aid. The first rumours were that he was seriously injured, and many were then relieved to hear that his worst injury could be a broken leg.

Actually, there were no broken bones. “No, no,” said technical director Antonio Cuquerella.

Stubley was, however, taken to hospital, but later released.

“I think, happily, (he) is ok,” said Cuquerella. “It looked worse when it happened but he just got some bruises and a swollen knee. He’s going to have some pain but in a few days he’s going to be back to work.”


Many favourites for Canada victory

Friday showed there are many favourites for Canadian grand prix victory this weekend.

As F1 seeks an unprecedented seventh different winner for its seventh different round of 2012, the top teams will need to keep an eye on dark horses Sauber and Williams, Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport reports. Much less than a second separates much more than half of the entire field.

“Last year it (the gap) was two and a half seconds,” said Peter Sauber.

Red Bull’s Christian Horner predicted: “Q2 is going to be interesting. A mistake, or traffic at the wrong time, and you’re out.”

An analysis of Friday’s practice results shows that McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, Lotus, Williams and Sauber are all potential candidates for the win — and Force India may be an outside chance as well.

“We want to have both cars in the top ten, which should be possible,” said sporting director Otmar Szafnauer.

The ultimate favourite, however, is McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton.

“We are on average a tenth slower (than Hamilton) on the long runs,” said Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko.

And the Austrian added that Ferrari is “just behind us”.

But Sauber team manager Beat Zehnder insisted: “They (the top teams) fail to realise that Perez and (Williams’ Pastor) Maldonado are just as fast.”

British commentator Martin Brundle added: “The Mercedes is making a good impression.”

And Lotus team owner Gerard Lopez said: “This could be our weekend.”


Police arrest protesters at Ecclestone event

Protesters attempted to disrupt an event attended by Bernie Ecclestone on Thursday. The F1 chief executive – as well as other F1 dignitaries including 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve – was at a cocktail gala for this weekend’s Formula One race in Montreal when riot police moved in on a group of masked protesters.

About 20 were arrested, the Canadian Press reported. Asked what message he had for protesting university students, former Williams and Sauber driver Villeneuve answered: “Go back to school. It’s time for people to wake up and stop loafing about. It’s lasted long enough,” he blasted.

“They spoke, we heard, and now it’s time to go back to school.”

Ecclestone said he hoped the protesters would not attempt to disrupt the actual track action this weekend.

“It would be terrible if somebody got killed like that, you know, running across the track,” said the 81-year-old.

Usually the most vocal driver on political matters is the plain-speaking Australian Mark Webber.

“I’m not completely up to speed with what’s going on,” the Monaco winner said on Thursday.

“I’m not saying it’s a minority, but sometimes when there’s a little bit of tension then some other people can lose out.

“I’m sure the weekend will go well,” Webber added.

Peter Sauber cuts head in Montreal

Peter Sauber is in the wars again. In Melbourne, the Hinwil based team’s 68-year-old majority owner and founder tripped and fell at the paddock entrance, hurting his elbow and wrist. Now, in Montreal on Thursday, the Swiss hurt himself again.

In the carpark near the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Sauber struck the top of his bald head on the hook of his hire car’s rear trunk. The four centimetre cut was treated by team physio Josef Leberer, according to veteran Blick newspaper correspondent Roger Benoit. Sauber confirmed on Thursday that even his Melbourne injuries are not yet fully healed.

“But an operation would be too complicated,” he said.

He hopes the Montreal incident is the last bout of bad luck for now.

“It’s frustrating,” said Sauber. “We have the best car in my 20 years in Formula One and we are almost always giving away the results.”


Montreal upgrades for Ferrari, Williams and McLaren

Lots of new and shiny upgrades could be seen in the Montreal paddock on Thursday.

Spanish sports daily Marca said the new exhaust on Ferrari’s car is a refined version of what the Italian team intended to debut on the F2012 at the start of the season. Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport said it is similar to McLaren’s solution.

“How much better (it is) is difficult to say, we just need to try it,” said Felipe Massa, who will back-to-back test the configuration alongside Fernando Alonso on Friday.

Over at Barcelona winner Williams’ garage, a reportedly radical rear wing is ready to run.

“Especially in the activated DRS position,” said Auto Motor und Sport, “it will bring more top speed.”

McLaren’s Montreal upgrade is comparatively minor, but it is designed to cut out troublesome pitstop errors.

It is the Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari-style ‘nut-in-the-wheel’ solution, which made its debut in the McLaren pit area only on the rear wheels in Monaco.

Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel said on Thursday he thinks F1’s top teams will soon stop the ‘lottery’ that has been seen so far in 2012.

“Perhaps Lewis Hamilton or even Michael Schumacher will win a race now,” said the Red Bull driver, admitting an unprecedented seventh different winner could win the seventh race of 2012.

But he added: “I think the ‘lottery’ will stop here, or at the latest in Valencia. I don’t think we are going to see 20 different winners,” smiled Vettel.


Villeneuve no fan of today’s ‘daddy’s boys’ drivers

Jacques Villeneuve has prefaced this weekend’s Canadian grand prix by admitting he is no big fan of today’s Formula One.

The 1997 world champion will be attending this weekend’s race, held in Montreal at the circuit named in honour of his late father. Race organisers intend to mark the 30th anniversary of legendary Gilles Villeneuve’s death.

“There’s something planned, but I would like to keep it a surprise,” promoter Francois Dumontier told the Montreal Gazette.

Villeneuve, 41, recently marked the anniversary by driving one of his father’s old Ferraris at the Italian marque’s Fiorano test track. He will be at his home race this weekend as a guest pundit for British television Sky. But he has kicked off his involvement by slamming the 2012 spectacle, including the Pirelli tyre lottery and “daddy’s boy” drivers.

Comparing today’s crop with his father’s era, Villeneuve said: “They weren’t racers at 12 years old, the financing there in place for them to race.

“They had to sweat for it, they weren’t little daddy’s boys like you have now basically. They are driving F1 and they are still children, they are still babies and they are kept like that,” said the former Williams, BAR, Renault and BMW driver.

The winner of 11 grands prix also admitted he is not particularly enjoying the big impact of Pirelli’s heavily-degrading and difficult to understand control tyre.

“I am not a huge, huge fan right now,” said the French Canadian.

“There is very little the drivers can do, the tyres just suddenly disappear and that doesn’t seem to be to the level that F1 should be at.”

Villeneuve said he does not agree it is a good thing that ‘underdogs’ like Pastor Maldonado are considered perennial contenders for race wins.

“It is always fun to see an underdog beat the establishment but it is something that happens once in a while. Now it seems to be almost a constant,” he said.

“It is not logical, the best should win,” Villeneuve insisted.

He also slammed F1’s new generation for not taking the risks of formula one seriously enough.

“When you see Bruno Senna in Barcelona, he is not in the same race, he is going appallingly slow and he is blocking guys who are fighting for the points,” he said, referring to the Brazilian’s crash with Michael Schumacher.

“That is just not intelligent driving for starters. But secondly, when you do a little twitch down the straight, that is just wrong.”


Canadian GP expecting not to be a sell-out

Threats to disrupt this weekend’s Canadian grand prix will affect attendance, promoter Francois Dumontier has revealed.

“They said they wanted to disrupt the grand prix,” Dumontier said, referring to protesting students and internet terrorists. “They already have,” he told the Montreal Gazette.

He said ticket sales began to decline precisely when the threats became international news. Organisers have already cancelled the traditional ‘open day’ on Thursday, which traditionally involves free-of-charge access for spectators including the F1 pitlane.

“I can’t remember the last time we didn’t sell out. It’s been that long,” Dumontier said.

He defended the decision to cancel the open day.

“I didn’t want to jeopardise the entire weekend,” Dumontier said. “Imagine if someone with bad intentions was standing in front of a driver, or an open garage? The teams have told me they understand the decision to cancel, but they say it’s a shame because they enjoyed it. I took no pleasure in cancelling it.”


Massa to use Monaco setup in Canada

Although the complete opposite of Monaco, Felipe Massa on Tuesday was bound for Canada with his mind still firmly on the famous Principality.

Trapped in a worsening slump since the start of the 2012 season, Massa’s tumbling form had triggered speculation the Brazilian was fighting for his career in Monaco. But on those fabled streets, he appeared to turn the corner.

“I really liked the car there,” the 31-year-old said on Tuesday, “and it was working in the right direction to suit my style and I hope this positive trend can continue, starting with the race in Canada and then through to the end of the championship.”

Indeed, Monaco was apparently such a turning point that his engineering team, led by Briton Rob Smedley, intend to use Massa’s Monaco car setup as the foundation for this weekend, in spite of the diametrically opposed lines of Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Massa admitted that “the setup required for Monaco is very different to that at other tracks”, but “even if the street circuit is unique, we can at least follow the direction we took there and make it work at other tracks”.

“It might not be a normal situation, but maybe it is the best direction to go in to make the F2012 work for me,” he added.


Red Bull hoping for Canada win

Red Bull sees this weekend’s Canadian grand prix as a chance to set its almost perfect record straight. Of the 20 circuits on the 2012 calendar, the energy drink owned team has won at all of them with the exception of newcomer Austin — and Montreal.

Sebastian Vettel came close a year ago, succumbing to Jenson Button’s challenge only on the very last lap.

“I led every lap until part of the last one,” the reigning world champion ruefully recalled.

Team boss Christian Horner told La Presse newspaper: “We love coming to Montreal. The city comes alive. It’s always a great atmosphere. Even if the circuit is not the most exciting of the season, it has always produced exciting racing. This is one of the only races that Red Bull has never won, even though we came very close last year.”

The 2011 loss was even sourer for Red Bull given the marathon day at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, due to an excruciatingly long red flag delay and torrential rain.

“It would be wonderful to come back and rectify the situation,” Horner smiled.

Indeed, a win on Sunday would also mark a definite comeback for the reigning world champions, whose recent victory in Monaco meant Red Bull is the only constructor to have won more a single grand prix so far in 2012.

“In Montreal, power is crucial,” said Horner. “It’s the complete opposite of Monaco. Who knows if we’ll be competitive, but we’ll be in attack mode. We are still young,” said 38-year-old Briton Horner, referring to the Milton Keynes based team.

“This is our eighth car for our eighth season in formula one and we’re still hungry. There is a great desire to do more. Our people enjoyed winning but we want more. Motivation at Red Bull has never been higher.”

The team comes to Montreal having had the floor of its RB8 declared illegal by the FIA, following complaints to the governing body reportedly lodged by direct rivals Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes.

“It doesn’t get easier,” Horner admitted. “Everything we do is scrutinised much more than if we were in the middle of the pack.”