Bob McMurray: Excess baggage weighs down F1
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There’s been a lot of baggage on flights going to this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.
Not only hand baggage with the usual bodywork updates, aero tweaks and assorted bits arriving in huge cardboard boxes but mental baggage carried by some teams and a good few drivers whose futures are already under threat.
The Canadian Grand Prix, on the Ile Notre-Dame in the middle of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in Montreal, is one of F1’s best kept secrets. The city is vibrant and a mix of French, American and English. The patois is antique French with its roots in the 17th century.
It is unusual enough that many native French visitors ask the locals to speak English to be understood.
The race usually throws up something out of the ordinary with “The Wall Of Champions” a concrete siren, enticing drivers to it with many a car floundering on its unforgiving face, and even the occasional groundhog meandering the track.
Carrying heavy mental baggage to Montreal is the Williams team. This team continues to be hopelessly outclassed and driver Robert Kubica, who had his first and only grand prix win in Canada in 2008, is under serious threat of losing his drive, perhaps even before season’s end.
The Alfa Romeo and Haas teams have been seriously underperforming as has the Racing Point team (nee Force India) with 2015 TRS Champion Lance Stroll continuing to struggle.
Despite his big smile, Daniel Riccardo must wonder what Renault F1 is going to deliver next as he lounges in eighth place in the championship.
He will be hoping that more horsepower is tucked somewhere in the engineers’ hand baggage.
The McLaren team will also be hoping some of those extra horses find their way along the pit lane to help them try to erase the memory of the North American humiliation of a couple of weeks ago.
The Honda-supplied teams of Red Bull and Toro Rosso seem to be making steady progress in direct contrast to the Ferrari team that has done nothing but find newer, more inventive ways to scupper any chance of winning a race.
The senior management will be frantically trying to rescue the campaign.
Rumours talk of Sebastian Vettel looking at retirement in a season that has been peppered with driver errors (plus a new young fast teammate to contend with) and, amazingly so soon after taking control, team principal Mattia Binotto’s position is being questioned.
Despite the problems. the Scuderia remains the main tangible threat to Mercedes but perhaps the only baggage it is taking to Montreal is mental. Binotto has said: “We know we're not competitive enough right now and, for the time being, we haven't got any more changes coming on the car that will have a significant effect on the problems we have encountered since the start of the season.”
The Mercedes team’s baggage arriving on the corporate jet will be in the form of the first major engine upgrade of the season.
With an exclusive stranglehold on the top step of the podium so far this season, that bit of baggage is not good news for the other teams.