This weekend sees the Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Canada always produces a good race so Crash.net takes a look to see who will be the movers and shakers come Sunday.

Half time!

Hard to believe, but this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix is the eighth of the season and therefore represents the halfway mark in the F1 2003 season.

So far this year there have been five different Grand Prix winners - David Coulthard, Kimi Raikkonen, Giancarlo Fisichella, Michael Schumacher and Monaco-man Juan Pablo Montoya. McLaren head both the constructors' and drivers' championships with Kimi Raikkonen having some forty-eight points to Michael Schumacher's forty-four, with Fernando Alonso, would you believe, in third place on twenty-nine points.

Canada seems to often bring an action-packed race. Frequent first lap fracas and a hard-on-cars track make for a challenge to teams and drivers alike, and a treat for fans watching the action unfold.

Team Talk

McLaren, Ferrari and Williams have been the teams in the headlines. McLaren as Canada was to see the debut of their 2003 challenger, the much-anticipated McLaren MP4-18, but reliability issues in testing has meant that McLaren has put back the debut of its radical challenger yet further. Current speculation says the British GP in July will be when the car first contends a GP.

Over at Ferrari the announcement has been made that all the big team players will be in place at Maranello until 2006, all except Rubens Barrichello that is, and the Brazilian hardly put on a strong showing at Monaco did he? Eddie Irvine used to say that being Michael Schumacher's team-mate was like being hit repeatedly over the head by a cricket bat, perhaps Rubens is feeling a little sore these days?

Williams scored their first win of 2003 and their first at Monte Carlo for some twenty years, which should go some way to allay BMW concerns about the constructors' competence. The team, with the considerable BMW power behind them, could well be a force once more this weekend.

Ferrari

After three wins in a row the Monaco GP didn't go quite how Monsieur Todt or Mr Brawn would have hoped, as Michael Schumacher came home in third place and Rubens Barrichello a lowly eighth.

Schumacher went straight from Monaco to a break in the US and therefore heads to the Canadian GP refreshed and full of energy. He also reckons the track is one that should play to the strengths of the F2003-GA: "We have a great car whose qualities should be evident in Montreal," he explains. "The circuit is one to which the F2003-GA should be perfectly suited; we only have to think back to our top speeds during the last race. The Canadian GP is one in which the performance of the engine counts a lot and this is one of our strengths."

McLaren-Mercedes

Leading the drivers' and constructors' championship at the halfway point in the season is McLaren, and they haven't even raced their new car yet! Things aren't looking too bad for Ron Dennis' squad, and beating Ferrari in Monte Carlo confirmed that they are still on the pace.

David Coulthard has had a few quiet races of late and he sits in sixth place in the drivers' championship that team-mate Kimi Raikkonen heads with Coulthard having just over half the amount of points that the flying Finn has scored. Though they'll still be running with the 'old' car it hasn't proved to be too much of a demerit so far this year and Finn Raikkonen will be one to watch once more.

BMW WilliamsF1

Juan Pablo buoyed both team and himself with his victory last time out, and the win was no fluke - both Montoya and Ralf Schumacher had looked strong all weekend in the principality.

Ralf Schumacher scored a win at the circuit in 2001 and looked very strong in Monaco, indeed save for balance problems which conspired towards an off. The younger Schumacher could well be a strong contender again this weekend. Ralf is also looking for an extension to his Williams contract and nothing goes better than a race win to cement your future. Juan Pablo, meanwhile, holds the lap record at the circuit and won last time out, so both Williams drivers could well be strong.

Renault F1

Jarno Trulli qualified well at Monte Carlo with a solid fourth place, and both Renault drivers finished in the points, but you'd expect a good performance from the nimble chassised car at the twisty confines of that track. Canada is rather different, featuring long fast straights which should highlight the Renault power deficit. The team's tech chief, Mike Gascoyne, doesn't expect too great things at the circuit.

"Montreal has a lot in common with Imola, where we were not very competitive, so we're expecting the same on this circuit," Gascoyne explains. "But we should be able to find a good aerodynamic set-up that'll allow us to fight with our immediate rivals. It'll be harder to get on the podium here than elsewhere, but we nevertheless think we'll have what it takes to get a good result.''

Fernando Alonso continued with his fine season last time out, even though it was Jarno Trulli that put on the fine qualifying performance in Monaco. Alonso lies in third place in the drivers' championship at the moment; not bad for a driver who didn't have a race seat last year.

Sauber-Petronas

Not the best of races for Sauber last time out, but Canada should provide the opportunity for a better showing from the Swiss concern. Heinz-Harald Frentzen didn't have the best time of it at Monaco but has impressed on occasion this year. ''Canada is a street circuit in some ways, but not in others,'' explains the German, ''It's a quite decent race track, but not particularly challenging. It has a combination of long straights and then heavy braking for slow corners."

Team-mate Nick Heidfeld hasn't the best history at the track, but reckons ''I like Canada,'' he said, ''it's a nice place and our car has always been quite competitive there in the past two years."

Toyota

It's trying times at Toyota, especially for Frenchman Olivier Panis who has suffered appalling reliability so far this year, and had an especially poor Monaco GP, which must have been all the more galling as it was the scene of his solitary GP victory as he won for Ligier there in 1996.

Memories of Montreal are not so good for Olivier however, as it was at the track in 1997 that the Frenchman broke both of his legs. Despite this, and his poor season so far, the Frenchman remains confident for this weekend. ''I think Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is one of the best tracks on the calendar,'' he said in the build-up. ''I really like the place and the people. I feel very confident driving the circuit and we normally have some very fun races."

For team-mate Cristiano da Matta, the circuit has the advantage that it is one he will not have to learn. ''I have previous racing experience at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve,'' he explained, ''having driven there at last year's CART event where I was runner-up." Coming after an impressive Monaco race for the Brazilian, da Matta could impress a few people this weekend.

B.A.R-Honda

For Jaques Villeneuve Canada is his home race, though it hasn't been too kind to him over the years. Whether through driver over-exuberance, or through reliability issues, Jacques Villeneuve hasn't had the best time of it at the circuit named after his father, and this season hasn't exactly given hope for anything spectacular.

Jenson Button missed the race at Monte Carlo and should be back in action in Canada, though BAR's reserve driver Takuma Sato waits in the wings in case anything goes wrong.

''We worked on the new engine for Montreal at our test in Monza,'' said Jacques in the build-up to the Grand Prix. ''The car looks good in low downforce trim, so we should be competitive in Canada. Although we have had a lot of reliability issues at most of the past races this season, I am looking forward to the race in Montreal. Hopefully we will have a more positive weekend compared to the ones we have already had."

Jordan Ford

Jordan are definitely a mid-field team this year, Brazilian win notwithstanding. The team can only hope for reliability woes from the front-runners or a set of unique circumstances, such as presented themselves in Brazil, to threaten the front end of the grid. Director of Race and Testing Engineering, Gary Anderson acknowledges as much. "Competition is tough at the moment but we are battling reasonably with the midfield behind the top four," he explains. "We are fighting to be ahead so that if anyone at the front suffers consequential losses, we'll be in a position to take advantage of it."

Giancarlo Fisichella reckons the circuit is one that suits his style. ''I don't know why but I always seem to go well at the Canadian Grand Prix,'' he explained. ''I feel very confident at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve because it is quite easy for me to find the limits of the car and the track each time I get there." In 1995 the Jordan team scored a double-podium at the circuit with Eddie Irvine and Rubens Barrichello on the podium. It is unlikely that Fisichella and Firman will replicate this.

Jaguar-Cosworth

Not the best of times for Jaguar last time out, but nevertheless Mark Webber continued to show his form by going quickest on the Thursday morning session. Reliability is still the teams biggest problem; both cars failed to finish at Monaco and the team can only look to five finishes out of a possible sixteen so far this year.

The R4 has certainly been quick on occasion this year, especially at the hands of Mark Webber and MD David Pitchforth reckons the circuit will suit the car: ''The circuit should actually suit the R4 because of the medium to low downforce required," he explained. "We have taken some good steps forward in the last twelve months on our aero-package but like everything we still have a long way to go before we will achieve what we know we are capable of."

Minardi-Cosworth

No points yet this year for Paul Stoddard's Minardi squad, but there has been more money coming on board of late so that could help things. Whether the money will help the team move forward, or merely prevent it from going under, remains to be seen. Reliability has certainly been an issue for the team this year but both Jos Verstappen and Justin Wilson are pushing hard to try to gain points for the squad. It's difficult to see them as anything other than slowest at Montreal however.

Tyred out?

Michelin won last time out, but the factors affecting tyres in Montreal are very different to those in Monaco. Bridgestone had a particularly good Grand Prix last time in Canada, their technical manager, Hisao Suganuma, explains what is required at the circuit. ''The smooth surface at the Canadian circuit provides low grip which means we need a compound from our softer range. Unlike other circuits, however, where degradation and wear are the important factors, heat resistance is our main priority in Montreal.

''The circuit's long straight and lack of corners means that we can expect high speeds and big braking," he continues. "In fact, Canada is the second fastest circuit on the F1 calendar (Monza is the fastest). Consequently, the tread construction hits the ground at a very high frequency due to the high revolution of the tyres and this causes high heat generation within the tyres."

Ferrari are using Bridgestones whilst the Michelin threat comes from two quarters now that Williams has joined McLaren as a 2003 race winner. The battle is sure to be an interesting one.

Track time
Canada, with its long straights and tight corners, is something of a car-breaker. Brakes, in particular, come in for some a lot of stick as drivers heave on the anchors from over 300 kph into the tight and twisty bits. Powering out of the corners and down the straight does mean the engines are at full throttle for over 60% of a lap, meaning that engines can also go bang rather frequently.

All this makes for a circuit that is pretty challenging especially when you figure into the equation the bumpy nature of certain sections of the track, and the fact that the circuit does lend itself for overtaking, a challenging race is sure to be had.

There's also the 'wall of champions' the wall at the outside of the final chicane that in 1999 saw Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher - all world champions - drive their car into it.

The circuit is only used once a year so it starts off dusty and with a low level of grip, but this soon gets better. Another issue that presents itself to drivers is the appearance of wildlife on the circuit, small fluffy creatures wanting to come and see close-up what all the noise is.

As for strategy, the tight corners followed by long straights means that the engines use a lot of fuel, deciding how many fuel stops to make should be an interesting one. Historically it has been a one-stop circuit, but with the new qualifying rules there could be some change to this.

Predictions

It's a high-speed, challenging circuit that allows overtaking, after their poor show in Monaco expect Michael Schumacher and Ferrari to be right back at the head of the fight. The only other current driver to have won at the circuit is Michael's brother Ralf and he is also a good bet for victory, especially with Williams' upturn of form and the power of the BMW powerplant.