Button looks to repeat as Canadian GP champ in wide-open F1 season
Montreal: No one knows better than Jenson Button that wild, crazy things can happen at the Canadian Grand Prix.
The Englishman who won perhaps the zaniest of the 32 races held at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve since 1978 for McLaren Mercedes in the pouring rain last year is hoping to repeat that feat and get back into the Formula One drivers championship race at the same time.
Button won the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in March and placed second two races later in China, but since then has dropped to seventh in the standings as he failed to finish twice between a ninth place finish in Spain.
Happily for the 32-year-old, he`s still in the hunt as Formula One has been a wide open competition with six different winners in as many races so far.
``I don`t think anyone`s streaking ahead in the championship,`` Button said Thursday. ``It`s been a very mixed bag in the first six races.
``The last three haven`t been my finest weekends, so yes, I need to score some points this weekend to get it back on track. We all come here aiming for a victory, but as we`ve seen, just consistently being in the double figures in points (top five) is key to fighting at a front.
``I`m looking forward to the weekend. I`ve had some special memories here.``
This year`s hot topic is threats by protesters to disrupt Grand Prix events after weeks of demonstrations in the city that started with students opposed to a government plan to hike university tuition fees. Whether they will do anything to try to impede the race is unknown.
Last year, it was a torrential downpour that forced a more-than two-hour delay in mid-race. It took four hours four minutes and 39 seconds to complete.
Button started seventh on the grid and survived early contact as he bumped teammate Lewis Hamilton out of the race. He was given a stop-and-go penalty for speeding in pit lane which dropped him to last place. He made six stops, mostly for tire changes as the track got wetter or drier.
And then he passed series leader Sebastien Vettel`s Red Bull in a thrilling final lap to claim the victory.
``After any win, it`s a special feeling celebrating with your friends and family and the team, but that one was very different,`` Button recalled. ``I wouldn`t say it was shock victory, but it was unexpected at many points during the race.
``It really did mean a lot. The adrenaline was still pumping through my veins for many hours after. I`ve watched it back. With 10 laps to go, you`d think it was impossible that I won that Grand Prix.``
The year before, Button had finished second as Hamilton won his second Canadian Grand Prix, so it is a track where the McLaren Mercedes has done well.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a different test from most F1 layouts, with it`s long straightaways leading into slow chicanes and one hairpin. It punishes cars with high speeds and heavy braking. It can also be a slippery track, where crashes and other mishaps are common.
Which cars will do best is anyone`s guess in this season of surprises.
After Button`s win, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso won for Ferrari in Mayalsia, Mercedes AMG Petronas` Nico Rosberg took China, Vettel won for Red Bull in Bahrain, Pastor Maldonado got a surprise victory for Williams in Spain and Red Bull`s Mark Webber took Monaco two weeks ago.
Alonso leads driver standings with 76 points, three more than Vettel and Webber. Hamilton is fourth with 63 despite not yet winning this year, while Rosberg is fifth with 59 and Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus is sixth with 51. Button has 45 points.
``I don`t think there`s any top teams at the moment,`` said Webber, whose squad has dominated the championship with Vettel`s two titles in the last two years. ``It`s very tight.
``It looks quite sensitive to venue, to temperatures, to drivers. It`s quite open and that`s why we`re seeing different results, different podiums, different winners like we haven`t seen before. The teams that weren`t very good with the regulations last year, like Ferrari, Williams and Sauber, had a good step this year and came back very strong.``
Red Bull still leads the constructors championship ahead of McLaren Mercedes, with Ferrari and Lotus tied for third.
The possibility of a seventh different winner is strong.
Hamilton has won pole position three times along with his two wins in Montreal and is hungry. Raikkonen, the 2005 winner, is also seeking a first victory for a Lotus team with Frenchman Romain Grosjean that finished second and third in Bahrain and third and fourth in Spain.
And there is seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, who has a record seven Canadian Grand Prix wins, although the last was in 2004. Or Sergio Perez of Mexico, who grabbed a surprise second place at Malaysia for Sauber.
``There`s a chance for every driver to have a nice surprise,`` said Perez.
The Red Bull Renault cars have won 22 races over the last three seasons, but have never won in Montreal. Webber hopes to change that. He said the car didn`t suit the track well until last year, when they placed second and third.
``Seb was very close last year but lost concentration at the end and Jenson was there to capitalize,`` the Australian driver said. ``Judging by how the start of the season has gone there`s every reason we can do well here.
``We come here confident but not crazy on confidence. Renault hasn`t won here since Fernando (Alonso in 2006), so it`s a bit of a scalp that would be nice to get.``
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