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Poor qualifying hampers Mercedes performance at Canadian Grand Prix


Rosberg pleased with 6th place in Canada. Photo courtesy of Mercedes GP Petronas

The McLaren-Mercedes team dominated yesterday's Canadian Grand Prix with an emphatic 1-2 finish for Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, blasting the Championship wide open by out-racing the traditionally strong Red Bull team.

Further down the grid order it was Mercedes' Nico Rosberg who was probably wondering "what if?" given his fine performance, bringing home his car in 6th place despite starting 10th on the grid during Saturday's disastrous qualifying session for the team.

It was a dramatic race with the track brutal on the tires forcing numerous pits stops and intrigue as teams tries their best to manage the tires. While Rosberg did well to get to 6th, it was clear that Schumacher's car in particular was not on song and he struggled with it throughout the race thanks to a puncture and early damage.

(Michael Schumacher fought hard yesterday, tangling with the track and Robert Kubica at one point which forced a puncture and ultimately hindered his best race chances. Photo courtesy of Mercedes GP Petronas)

"At the start, everything went great and we made up places as we had been hoping for." said Schumacher post race. "The first stop was perfectly timed so it was looking quite promising. Then I had a puncture on the front right tire after my first pit stop, after I got together with Kubica, and that obviously decided my race. From there, I was stuck in traffic and there was nothing more to do because...our weapons were not very sharp. Towards the end, I was trying as hard as I could to defend myself but it was only possible to a certain degree and my tires were just ruined after having done more than half the race distance. I was fighting cars with a good top speed which was quite tough. Otherwise I would have been in a good position I think so we have something to take away to the next races."

Rosberg was caught up in the first lap incident and lost places. His overall performance however was excellent considering his grid position. "Sixth place was probably the best result that we could have achieved today so I'm pretty happy. It's been a difficult weekend with a poor qualifying performance yesterday due to the tires not working properly and I was unlucky on the first lap today to lose so many places from the chaos in front of me. But from there, I was able to do some good overtaking and push to make up the positions and our pace was quick.

(Rosberg had a strong race, but a poor qualifying performance by both Mercedes drivers made catching the race leaders difficult at best. Photo courtesy of Mercedes GP Petronas)

We had a great strategy but it was really difficult to manage the tires. I drove smoothly to control the graining but every time I looked in my mirrors, it was getting worse. Thankfully the primes held after my second stop so we were able to finish with sixth place and get some decent points moving me up to sixth in the Drivers' Championship."

Canada was a race in which Mercedes were expected to perform well, but the car it seems, did not fully live up to their expectations. The qualifying session on Saturday was nothing short of disastrous, with teams like Williams, Renault and Force-India, out-performing Mercedes leaving the team floundering in the mid-pack.

Certainly most of the teams struggled with tire degradation, but the qualifying session put Mercedes in a position from which it was always going to be difficult to make up places. Given the on track drama and the pace of the front runners, Lewis Hamilton averaging something like 120mph, despite pit stops, Mercedes were always going to be playing catch-up.

(Ross Brawn, Mercedes Team Principal, above, and CEO, Nick Fry, below, have the job of keeping it all together as the team reflect on Canada and prepare for the next race at Valencia. Photos courtesy of Mercedes GP Petronas)

Both Mercedes' bosses, Norbert Haug and Ross Brawn, were fairly philosophical about yesterday's race results. Haug point out that Nico produced a third fastest lap time indicating they had the pace and I noted early last week that Rosberg revealed his car had received some updates. Still, despite some terrible luck for Schumacher, his revelations about the sharpness of their weapons is probably indicative of the team's overall performance. One can't help but look back at their qualifying session and recognize that was not conducive to securing points in what was a fiercely contested race.

Mercedes sit comfortably at fourth place in the Championship, but are still 53 points behind third placed Ferrari. That means plenty of work is ahead of them if they are to catch their nearest rivals. Ferrari's Felipe Massa has been having an awful season thus far so it's interesting to compare the two teams given some of the similarities and their relative points positions.

Mercedes have been more reliable, given Ferrari's early engine problems, and both drivers have been closer in performance, possibly offering greater collective points hauls. Valencia in two weeks time will give Mercedes a chance to pour over their data and prepare for that event, hopefully with a better results.

Nathan can be contacted at pricklyhedgehog@yahoo.com and welcomes your comments and suggestions, or you may post below.

For more info: www.mercedes-gp.com www.formula1.com www.speedv.com www.bbc.co.uk www.ferrari.com www.mclaren.com www.redbullracing.com

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