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Behind the scenes at the Canadian GP

Ted Kravitz
By Ted Kravitz
BBC pit-lane reporter

Ted Kravitz gives his inside line on the Canadian Grand Prix, bringing you the stories behind the headlines from the eighth race of the Formula 1 season.

McLAREN

McLaren's three trophies sat glinting on a black table in Montreal's afternoon sun. The hospitality area was being packed up, the drivers were in their debrief, and a few guests were milling around watching Germany v Australia on the TV.

Yet the man who deserved to have those three trophies on his desk was back in the McLaren factory in Surrey.

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh celebrates Canada's one-two with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button
McLaren line up the silverware after a one-two in Canada

He is the design engineer who dreamt up the RW-80 or F-duct. He remains unnamed by the team, but it was his ingenious creation that won McLaren a one-two result at the Canadian Grand Prix.

The F-duct allowed McLaren to run more wing, meaning more downforce, yet not suffer from that on the straight. The car slid around less, allowing the drivers to keep the final set of tyres in good shape to the finish.

A couple of races ago, McLaren's engineering director Paddy Lowe told the BBC a little more of how the F-duct came about. The anonymous engineer came up with the idea a few years previously and had initially faced a lot of doubters within the company.

But with perseverance and the support of Tim Goss, project leader for this year's car, the inventor of the F-duct saw his creation being built into this year's chassis - and because of that, Canada may not be the team's last victory his season.

Saturday had been a little more tense at McLaren after the team was fined $10,000 (£6,750) and reprimanded for allowing Lewis Hamilton to do a final lap in qualifying despite not having enough fuel to make it back to the pits.

The paddock assumed it was McLaren playing an old trick; running the car light so it does a quick lap on low fuel, but then doesn't have enough fuel to do the in-lap.

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh explained that it was an honest mistake. There was an error in the fuelling procedure; a mechanic had not put enough fuel in the tank and the engineers only found out as Hamilton was about to start the last lap.

But it looked suspicious. When asked what he thought of the fine to McLaren for stopping on the in-lap, Mercedes boss Ross Brawn said '"it sounds cheap".

ANDREW BENSON'S BLOG

Sure enough, race director Charlie Whiting called a special team managers' meeting on Sunday morning where this incident was discussed. Following that meeting, Whiting issued a note to all teams.

It read: "Any team whose car stops on the slowing down lap after the race will be asked by the stewards to explain why this happened. If they [the stewards] are not satisfied that the reasons were beyond the control of the driver or team and feel that this has been done deliberately to gain a competitive advantage, appropriate action will be taken".

Whiting's phrase about any stoppage being 'beyond the control of the driver or team' is key.

In this case, he gave McLaren the benefit of the doubt.

This isn't the first time Whiting has warned teams off playing the 'don't carry the fuel for the in-lap' trick. I recall a similar note being issued at the 2002 Belgian Grand Prix, when he received a tip-off that some teams were considering completing their qualifying laps and then stopping at La Source, the first corner.

This would have been particularly advantageous as Spa carries the highest fuel effect on lap time on the calendar.

The memo back then sounded a near-identical warning it read: "Any team doing this will be reported to the stewards".

But as Whitmarsh told us on Saturday, a memo from the race director is not the same as a rule in the technical or sporting regulations. Even so, now Whiting is looking out for such instances, I wouldn't expect any team to be trying their luck for a while yet.

RED BULL

There may be a five-place grid penalty for Sebastian Vettel next week.

His gearbox problems occurred on the first weekend of a four-race cycle, so the team may face a grid drop in Valencia if they are unable to prove sufficient evident damage and change the broken parts in accordance with the rules.

His team-mate Mark Webber dropped five places on the grid after changing his gearbox in Canada and was told by the team to nurse the car to the finish for the last six laps of the race.

Red Bull drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber
Vettel and Webber kept a lid on any tension at Red Bull in Canada

He could easily have closed up on Vettel, but as his team-mate was also cruising, the German could have responded - he was capable of lapping in the one min, 18 secs bracket - but to do so would only have damaged his car further and punished Webber's engine, so the team decided to call off the hunt and bring the cars home.

After Turkey there will be suspicions about Webber being instructed not to challenge his team-mate, but to do that in Canada and push both cars, with reliability so fragile, would have been foolish.

In many ways, how the Red Bull team reacts to the events of the last fortnight will define it as an F1 team.

We saw earlier this season how quickly pressure built on the team for failing to capitalise on having the fastest car because of unreliability.

And we're seeing a similar picture now, as the drivers, management and technical staff face up to being in the public spotlight in the aftermath of the crash between Vettel and team-mate Mark Webber in Turkey and then being soundly beaten by McLaren in Canada.

It's unfortunate that the Montreal race came when it did, as what Red Bull needed was a race like Malaysia, on a track that played to their strengths, where they could bounce back with a one-two.

Instead the momentum has swung firmly away from Red Bull and towards McLaren. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said that the next race in Valencia may be another McLaren track, while Silverstone will be a little more to their liking.

If Red Bull cannot develop their car at the same pace as McLaren, it is very possible they could lose both championships.

TORO ROSSO

Toro Rosso jumped Williams and moved up to seventh in the constructors' championship with eighth place - and four points for the team - for Sebastien Buemi in Montreal.

Buemi had to drive most of the race with a broken exhaust, so to battle with Michael Schumacher's Mercedes and Fernando Alonso's Ferrari in a less-than-perfect car is an achievement.

The team even took a screen grab of the timing computer when Buemi was leading the race and put it on their press release.

Toro Rosso had a new rear wing that was specific to the lower downforce of the Montreal track, but a new front wing that was part of their development programme actually upset the balance and made the car go slower, so it was taken off after Friday practice.

LOTUS

As the current Malaysian-funded incarnation of Lotus Racing prepare to enter their ninth race, the next event in Valencia marks 500 races in Formula 1 for the Lotus name.

Something technical director Mike Gascoyne said in our interview on the BBC post-race forum stuck with me.

Lotus technical director Mike Gascoyne
Gascoyne already regards Lotus as a midfield team after just eight races

He said that the Canadian weekend marked a turning point for the team. He no longer regards Lotus as 'a new team', rather just a solid, midfield, F1 team.

That's probably stretching it a bit - you would think it would take a car scoring points or Heikki Kovalainen or Jarno Trulli getting out of first qualifying to fully establish Lotus as a midfield team.

Still, a few more car improvements at the British Grand Prix in four weeks' time and that achievement might not be too far off.

VIRGIN

A total of eight pit stops for Virgin Racing was the most of any team in Canada's pit lane.

Timo Glock lost 10% of his downforce after being hit by Hispania's Bruno Senna, which meant Glock's car moved around a lot more, wearing out his tyres faster.

Glock was running eight seconds behind Karun Chandhok's Hispania for much of the race before a leak in the power steering system eventually ended his race on lap 50.

In the other Virgin, Lucas Di Grassi suffered more hydraulic problems and had to complete the last six laps in fourth gear, much like Glock in Turkey.



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see also
Superb Hamilton wins in Montreal
13 Jun 10 |  Formula 1
Lotus keen to upset establishment
14 Jun 10 |  Formula 1
Behind the scenes at the Turkish GP
03 Jun 10 |  Formula 1


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