Alex Palmer Writes...

Since Monaco it would appear that someone at Mercedes has sat Hamilton down for a good talking to (or maybe a clip behind the ear, or something) as he appears to be "friends" with Rosberg again.  And there are a couple of grainy karting era photos to "prove" it is so.  But with this weekends Canadian circuit historically a good track for Hamilton, one wonders just how friendly the Merc garage will be on race morning if Rosberg out qualities Hamilton.  The word frenemy has always puzzled me, it seems to be one of those politically correct terms that it is ok to use when you really mean betrayer or traitor or selfish son of a gun .  Back in my school days, you either had friends (people who looked out for you) or enemies (the ones that took great delight in plotting your downfall).  But then, I guess no one payed me millions of dollars to stay at school.....

Merc-o-drama aside, this could be an interesting race with a few teams, including Ferrari, bringing significant upgrades to this round.  It is a fast circuit and providing the weather remains warm and dry as forecast it should be a race for third.  But for those not watching live (like us Aussies for whom coverage starts around 3am) dont forget to add extra time to your recording, I was one of those who missed the entire race a few years ago when the rain delayed the race by more than 2 hrs.

And a final thought to finish on.  My almost 10year old nephew and I were discussing our F1 tips this evening (for the record, he is beating me year to date) and has offered this advice to the hapless Maldonado :"do try and avoid those pesky walls which have a tendency to run out onto the track when they see a Lotus approaching".  Anyone game enough to pick Maldonado for a Canadian podium??

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Never mind the soap opera playing out up at Mercedes, history was made for Marussia today with Jules Bianchi finishing in ninth place and pushing Marussia up the Constructors Championship ladder over Sauber.  The Marussia social media director (who also wrangles the pen during media interviews post-race) was struggling to keep up with the media demand on a day those guys will never forget.  It was a lovely touch that the assembled French media (I believe all ten of them!) serenaded Bianchi with a rousing rendition of La Marseillaise when he arrived back in the garage - and Alsono (who did have a rather lonely race coming in fourth) acknowledged Bianchi with a pretty cool tweet post-race. Although I do have to say that four Renaults with mechanical issues (and one Mercedes - Williams) did give them a bit of a leg up....

I have to say that Im a bit over the Hamilton melodrama.  I dont believe Rosberg did anything improper with his qualifying, but even if he did he drove a better race than Hamilton today - even before Hamiltons vision was compromised.  And what was with that, anyway!  He certainly didnt want to talk about it on the podium, although Im sure a proper journalist (as opposed to a timid minor celebrity) wouldnt have let him off the hook so easily.  Id have even preferred Eddie Jordan to Benedict Cumberbatchs mild-mannered attempt at an interview.  The media has been buzzing since Hamilton and Nicole Scherzinger attended a pre-race function together this week with speculation they were back on - even a reference to that would have been more interesting than where the interview went.  And to see from post-race media clips Hamilton saying he and Rosberg "...are not friends..." then Rosberg saying "...weve always been friends..." is not a good look, the team certainly has its hands full.  I did hear a whisper that Hamilton had used a power setting he wasnt supposed to in order to maintain his race advantage in Spain, although Im sure Nikki Lauda (who, for those who are old enough to remember, had a few intra-team battles of his own back in the day) will work it out.  I guess its a small mercy Hamilton never caught up to Rosberg on the road, based on the team radio we heard between Hamilton and his engineer I doubt anything could have stopped Hamilton from taking Rosberg out if he got the chance.

In other news, after a very promising start Raikkonen had a bit of bad luck and ended up in the bottom three after looking like a podium challenger for much of the early part of the race - and Daniel Ricciardo was so close to grabbing second place at the end there.  A good result for Hulkenburg after the overtaking move of the race on Magnussen at Portier (look for it on youtube if you missed it!) to bring Force India home ahead of the McLarens and Williams who were rather disappointing in terms of pace and reliability.

So - Canada in two weeks.......although Canada seems to favour Hamilton more than Rosberg, Ferrari are bringing major upgrades to Canada and might be the ones to watch for the minor placings.  Id love to see one or both Marussias actually beat a Sauber on the road (dont laugh, it might just happen!)

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A relatively uneventful (but cautious) FP1 on Thursday was quickly followed by a hailstorm and significant temperature drop before FP2.  As you might expect, FP2 turned into a standoff as teams waited someone else to head out and clear the track first!  In the end everyone had a go but it ended early for Kimi who has a gearbox problem, however he almost had a bigger problem when he walked in front of Vettel who was making a practice start from his pit box.  The incident would have been quite nasty except for a quick-thinking Red Bull mechanic who crash-tackled Kimi out of the way.  What is Finnish for "oomph"??

thursday night is party night, so Friday is typically quiet.  But then the action kicks off in earnest Saturday - can Hamilton take his first win since 2008 on the Monaco streets?  Or will we see a mighty performance from Ricciardo for his first race win?  And could this be the best chance for Alonso to take a race win this season?  No matter what the result, with the new squirrely cars and lower noise factor, the qualifying and race are sure to be worth watching.

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The return of the F1 circus to its natural environment - Europe - signals spring has sprung in Europe.  Although I would have thought that the clear signs of hayfever evident in many of the photos from Circuit de Catalunya are just as clear a signal, as are the impressive motorhomes that return to service as the paddock hospitality.  And then theres the rows of shiny trucks parked along the circuit which will be used to transport the paddock and garage structures across the continent.  For those who may be wondering - heres a picture tweeted by Williams of their new Martini-branded Williams paddock hospitality.  Theres a distinct drink flavour amongst the sponsors this season, with a couple of Vodka brands vying with a couple of energy drink brands and the usual sparking and still wine companies in an effort to keep the paddock followers hydrated.

A quick round-up of interesting news grabs - Lewis Hamilton (sans dogs) has been spotted out with Nicole Scherzinger (although hes been quick to squash rumors of a reconciliation), Bernie is in court again this week facing more bribery charges (although his private plane is standing by to whisk him off to Spain at the conclusion of Thursdays proceedings), Force India welcome Smirnoff as their side-pod sponsor from this round, and Susie Wolff is making the most of the media opportunities this weekend leading into her run in the Williams for in-season testing planned for Circuit de Catalunya next week.  Red Bull have been quick to point out that the new chassis theyve brought in for Vettel this weekend is in fact an old one, but the new chassis Toro Rosso have brought for Vergne this weekend is actually a new one and has a number of aero changes which they believe will improve their downforce at this circuit.  Alonso is doing his best to hose down the expectations of the Tifosi, which is a good enough reason for me to suggest Ferrari are confident of a good showing this weekend.  In other Ferrari news, Ross Brawn has been spotted visiting Maranello this week although both he and Ferrari have been at pains to point out it was a "...social..." visit.  Hmmmm.....

Should be an interesting round.  Can McLaren come back from their clutch dramas last round and grab a podium?  Will Force India be motivated to reward their new sponsor with a podium finish?  But the big question - can anyone knock Mercedes of their perch??

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With the circus on the move to the drizzly (well, for now at least!) streets of Monaco, we just have time to look back at the highlights from last weeks testing where we saw a number of potential stars of the future get track time.  Key among the runners were Stoffel Vandoorne who qualified for his super license in the McLaren, Suzie Wolff who had a reasonable day in the Williams after an early off, and Daniel Juncadella (Force India) and Danil Kyvat who spent the most time in the gravel traps of any driver.  Worth mentioning the strong running and good pace of the Lotus which - despite Maldonados best efforts to the contrary - managed to stay on the track the whole time and even topped the timesheets by a whole second on Wednesday.  Following on from Grosjeans good showing in the Spanish GP, are we about to see a mid-season charge from the Lotus??

Many media outlets over the race weekend made mention of the gaggle of race promoters who had turned up to hassle Bernie Ecclestone about the damage being done to gate receipts with the quieter cars this season.  All promoters that is, except the Chinese - maybe they have other ways to get people to the event rather than having to rely on it being a noisy spectacle!  But for the rest of the world, all eyes - and ears - were on the back-end of the Mercedes when it came out for its first run, complete with the noise amplification device that had been touted by the team as the potential answer to making the cars sound exciting.  I have to say, I was rather underwhelmed to see what looked like an 1800s nautical bull-horn shoved up the tailpipe of the car.  Seriously!  I have to wonder whether the Mercs were just having a giant joke on the world, especially when the offending device was removed after only a couple of laps.  However, the damage was done and the internet went into overdrive with various memes (some funny, some crass) appearing within an hour or two.  I have a soft spot for jazz, so this one is my favorite.......

To close off this week, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the sudden passing of Sir Jack Brabham at his home on the Gold Coast (QLD, Australia) yesterday.  Sir Jack is remarkable because he was a three-time F1 world champion, but more remarkable still in that he is still the only constructor / driver to win a world championship.  I look forward to seeing how his life and contribution to modern F1 is remembered during this weekends events.

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Poor Vettel, not only did he get told to let Ricciardo through again, even when he responded "Tough luck!" to the team orders he did eventually do the right thing and let him through.  Only to then be passed a few laps later by Kobayashi in the Caterham who at that point was on fresher tyres!  Although it was quite wise of Caterham to pit Kobayashi a little later in the race when Vettel was closing in......

Once again the Mercs were just too good, although Rosberg did have to make his way through the field.  Nice to see Ferrari on the podium again heading into the European summer, with their new team boss in the hot seat things are looking up.  Different story at McLaren with both cars outside the points after a double DNF last round, Ron Dennis has quite the job ahead of him to save their season - although the rumour mill suggests they have a major aero upgrade heading to Barcelona.  A big shoutout to Maldonado for an uneventful race bringing his Lotus from the back to almost make the points.

Three weeks until the next round, the longest break so far - and allowing time for the team bosses to discuss potential changes to the exhaust (to increase the noise) and the potential for cost caps in coming seasons.  And has anyone else notices the shrinking noses?  Will be interesting to see how many other cars take a more Ferrari / Mercedes approach over coming rounds......

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2017 Calendar

RaceGrand PrixRace Day
1AustraliaSunday 26 March
2ChinaSunday 9 April
3BahrainSunday 16 April
4RussiaSunday 30 April
5SpainSunday 14 May
6MonacoSunday 28 May
7CanadaSunday 11 June
8AzerbaijanSunday 25 June
9AustriaSunday 9 July
10Great BritainSunday 16 July
11HungarySunday 30 July
12BelgiumSunday 27 August
13ItalySunday 3 September
14SingaporeSunday 17 September
15MalaysiaSunday 1 October
16JapanSunday 8 October
17United StatesSunday 22 October
18MexicoSunday 29 October
19BrazilSunday 12 November
20Abu DhabiSunday 26 November

2017 Driver Leaderboard

PlaceDriverTeamPoints
1HamiltonMercedes363
2VettelFerrari317
3BottasMercedes305
4RäikkönenFerrari205
5RicciardoRed Bull200
6VerstappenRed Bull168
7PerezForce India100
8OconForce India87
9SainzToro Rosso54
10HulkenbergRenault43
11MassaWilliams43
12StrollWilliams40
13GrosjeanHaas28
14MagnussenHaas19
15AlonsoMcLaren17
16VandoorneMcLaren13
17PalmerRenault8
18KvyatToro Rosso5
19WehrleinSauber5
20ButtonMcLaren0
21EricssonSauber0
22GaslyToro Rosso0
23GiovinazziSauber0
24HartleyToro Rosso0

2017 Constructor Leaderboard

PlaceTeamPoints
1Mercedes668
2Ferrari522
3Red Bull368
4Force India187
5Williams83
6Renault57
7Toro Rosso53
8Haas47
9McLaren30
10Sauber5