MONTREAL — Lewis Hamilton’s quest for a record-tying seventh Canadian Grand Prix victory will be tougher than he wanted.
The British driver was hoping to have an updated engine for the race weekend at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, but the Mercedes team didn’t have it ready on time. That could leave Formula One standings leader Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas with a little less power as they continue their battle for supremacy with the Ferrari and Red Bulls teams.
“This is a power circuit and it definitely was our target and it definitely would have been helpful, but the guys worked as hard as they could and had to make a sensible decision not to bring it here, which is unfortunate but you try to make do without,” Hamilton said Thursday.
“But it will mean our performance is not probably the greatest. The goal is to make the engine stay the same the whole way through but naturally it’s degraded. You lose horsepower over races. If we’re in the 7-to-8,000 kilometres (range), it would have definitely lost performance, and on a power circuit it would be magnified.”
Hamilton is looking to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven Canadian Grand Prix wins. He has won the last three, and is still likely to be battling for the lead even though his closest competition, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, will have new engines.
The Gilles-Villeneuve track suits Hamilton, who posted his first career win on it in 2007. Like Schumacher before him, he looks to have mastered heavy braking and acceleration on the circuit’s long straightaways that lead into tight chicanes.
“There are tracks where each driver has strengths and weaknesses,” said Hamilton. “There’s 21 circuits and it’s impossible to be perfect on every single one.
“There are certain circuits that will suit you more and this has always been one of those particular circuits for me. I’ve always been very aggressive on curving and being able to get close up to the wall and this is a place where you really need to be able to utilize that and have confidence. It’s one that I’ve always loved driving on.”
Racing begins Friday with two practice sessions, followed by qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday afternoon.
It will be a big weekend at the track, which is celebrating the 40th anniversary of event’s move to the island circuit across from downtown Montreal. Gilles Villeneuve, the Berthierville, Que., native the track is named for, won the 1978 race. His son, the 1997 Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve, will drive his father’s Ferrari from that race in the parade lap on Sunday.
It will also be the 300th career F1 race for Spanish star Fernando Alonso, the two-time world champion now driving for McLaren.
And it will feature two Canadians on track — second-year Williams pilot Lance Stroll of Montreal and Nicolas Latifi of Toronto, who will drive a Force India car in the Friday practice only.
Stroll earned his first F1 points at the Canadian Grand Prix last year. It will be tough to repeat his ninth place finish with the Williams team struggling to get the car up to pace this season. Stroll has only four points through the first six races from an eighth-place finish in Azerbaijan.
“It’s been a frustrating start for all of us,” said Stroll. ”As a team we’re not where we want to be.
“But it’s been very positive in my view. It may not show in terms of results but I feel like in many ways I made a big step over the winter compared to where I was last year. It’s a long year. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. Hopefully we can turn things around and pick up more points.”