After a pause in Europe, Formula One’s flying circus arrives in Canada this weekend with controversy stirring in all areas of the paddock and pitlane ahead of a race that is usually one of the most unpredictable and entertaining of the season.
Two races, in Spain and Monaco, followed four early-season flyaways to set up the first trip of the year to North America, with a closely-contested championship creating tensions amid rumbling arguments over the performance of the fast-wearing Pirelli tyres.
The dramatic call, made late on Wednesday evening in Paris, for Mercedes to face the International Tribunal of the sport’s ruling body, the International Motoring Federation (FIA), to explain allegations of illegal secret in-season testing of Pirelli’s tyres, added more spice to an already heated atmosphere ahead of the 44th running of one of F1’s favourite events.
Stirred by the inconsistencies created by tyre performance, many teams and drivers have already felt emotional this season – and the sense of brooding conflict was intensified further by Mexican Sergio Perez’s ultra-aggressive racing for McLaren at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Criticised by a series of drivers, including his own teammate Briton Jenson Button, Ferrari’s Spaniard Fernando Alonso and Finn Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus, who suggested he deserved ‘a punch in the face’ for his actions and attitude, Perez has become the bad boy of this year’s grid.
Since Button, champion in 2009, Alonso (2005 and 2006) and Raikkonen (2007) have won four titles between them, it was expected that Perez, 23, and McLaren might apologise and smooth ruffled feathers before the race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.