Tom Clarkson's 2008 Canadian Grand Prix preview

Published: 06 June 2008

The feel-good factor surrounding the Canadian Grand Prix makes people do the oddest things. Jenson Button swam the length of the two-kilometre rowing strip behind the paddock on Wednesday ('the water didn’t taste great,' he says), mechanics have downed tools every lunchtime to do a spot of fishing and journalists have gone beaver spotting in the forests of Mont Tremblant.

Other drivers have taken advantage of this race being F1’s only visit to North America this year. Lewis Hamilton and Adrian Sutil – the heroes of Monaco, no less – were in Los Angeles last weekend for the MTV Awards; David Coulthard was in Dover, Delaware, to watch them good ol’ boys racing their Nascars and Kazuki Nakajima was in New York to catch a Mets baseball game.

Everyone had arrived in Montreal by Wednesday evening, however, giving the drivers plenty of time to accept their invitations from Guy Laliberte, the founder of Cirque de Soleil, to a special performance after the race on Sunday.

So, can Lewis repeat his sensational win of last year? In a word: yes. He’ll have been buoyed by the performance of his McLaren MP4-23 on the soft and super-soft Bridgestone tyres in Monaco, and the same rubber compounds being used here. However, tyre temperatures at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve are much higher than in Monaco due to the friction caused by the high straightline speeds and that makes it harder to preserve the super-soft tyre over a long stint. McLaren won’t be fazed by this though.

This race is the hardest of the year on brakes and for the second time this season (the other being Bahrain), Ferrari are expected to swap their customary Brembos for the more durable Carbon Industries used by McLaren. If the Scuderia get their CIs working as well as they did at Sakhir, we’re sure to have a thrilling battle at the front.

A word on Robert Kubica. The BMW Sauber driver is returning to the scene of his death-defying crash last year and – amazingly – he’s totally undaunted by the prospect. 'This is one of my favourite tracks,' he says. 'It’s great – I can’t wait to get started.' Either he’s nuts, or Montreal’s feel-good factor has gone to his head!

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By Tom Clarkson

F1 correspondent, BBC pitlane man, accesser of all areas, head beans-spiller

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