(Reuters) - Nico Rosberg seized the Formula One championship lead from aggrieved Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton in Monaco but he may have to hand it straight back in Montreal this weekend.
With their rivalry sure to be as fierce as ever, despite both drivers playing down talk of feuding in recent days, Hamilton can be expected to hit back hard at one of his favorite circuits.
The 2008 world champion has won three times in Canada and took the first grand prix victory of his career at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, with McLaren in 2007.
Until last year, when he started on the front row and ended up third behind Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, the 29-year-old Briton could boast of winning every Canadian Grand Prix he had finished.
“Canada is a very good circuit for me,” Hamilton said after Rosberg ended his run of four wins in a row with victory in Monaco on May 25.
“We were both quite quick there last year but with this car it should be better. It is a late-braking circuit and I am better on the brakes, so it should be a good one for us.
“This one is really important. It’s where I won my first grand prix, so I want to make sure I keep doing that,” he added after driving the layout on a simulator this week.
Even if Rosberg rates Montreal as a favorite venue, with the city’s nightlife making it a great place to celebrate a good result, the German has never finished higher than fifth there.
That must surely change this time, with Mercedes chasing their sixth one-two finish in a row and seventh successive pole and victory, but Hamilton will have the bit between his teeth after falling four points behind his rival.
“I always remember with Lewis that when we had a tussle in a race, or there was an issue between us ... the next race he would destroy me. He would come there and be stronger than ever,” recalled his former McLaren team mate Jenson Button.
“He’s very good at turning it around and coming back because he is a superb driver. He is very fast and he can wrestle a car around a circuit. He won’t have any issues going into the next race with Nico.”
Champions Red Bull are unlikely to repeat last year’s win even if engine partners Renault say Vettel will finally have full power at his fingertips after a difficult start to the season.
“In the last four races we’ve introduced several new upgrades and we will complete the process in Montreal, effectively giving us the first full opportunity to see where we are versus the competition,” said Remi Taffin, Renault F1’s head of track operations.
Taffin said Renault had fixed the power-unit problem that forced Vettel to retire in Monaco, as well as the exhaust issues that hit both Toro Rosso drivers.
Canada, with long straights and cars hitting top speeds in excess of 330kph as well as brushing the infamous ‘Wall of Champions’, will be the toughest challenge so far for the new V6 power units and energy-recovery systems, and should favor Mercedes.
“You go from one extreme to the other,” said Red Bull principal Christian Horner, of the challenge of Montreal after Monaco. “The next event is straight-line performance so it’s going to be very interesting to see how we fare against Mercedes-powered teams.”
Ferrari hope to be more competitive, with Alonso - winner in Canada in 2006 with Renault - spending time at the factory in Maranello since Monaco.
"We have been improving the car on the aero side, while in the simulator we have done a lot of work on the set-up," the Spaniard told the Ferrari website (formula1.ferrari.com/).
“We can’t make any predictions because our improvement has to be seen in relation to what our competitors come up with. We need to match them and then find a plus.”
McLaren, who have gone well in Montreal in the past, are also hoping to step up after ending a three-race run without points.
“It should suit our car and we should be in better shape than we were in Monaco,” said racing director Eric Boullier.
Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Neville Dalton