Improved engines boost Button hopes of maiden win

One glorious afternoon on the Ile Notre Dame in this city's St Lawrence River, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve finally surrendered one of the sport's greatest prizes to an emotional Jean Alesi. When Michael Schumacher's Benetton-Renault encountered an electronic problem, the mercurial Frenchman swept into the lead with his Ferrari. And for once he was the first man home when the chequered flag fell.

One glorious afternoon on the Ile Notre Dame in this city's St Lawrence River, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve finally surrendered one of the sport's greatest prizes to an emotional Jean Alesi. When Michael Schumacher's Benetton-Renault encountered an electronic problem, the mercurial Frenchman swept into the lead with his Ferrari. And for once he was the first man home when the chequered flag fell.

A decade later, Jenson Button is hoping that a race with a history of unusual results will cast him in the Alesi role. All season his BAR-Honda team have been showing a turn of speed that is the envy of their rivals as they chase Renault for second place behind the indomitable Ferrari team. Five podium finishes in seven races bode well, and Button is putting great store by the latest version of the Honda V10 engine that is already the most powerful in the sport.

"We were very strong in free practice at the Nürburgring recently, but it showed how important it is to qualify well," Button says. "I didn't get a very good lap in qualifying and this made it very difficult for me in the race. To not have a good race and still get a podium shows our strength. The performance of our Michelin tyres should be good at this track and I think the car will work well. We also have another step with the engine which will help us, as this is a power circuit.

"The track also demands a car which, mechanically, is very strong and our car is. There are a lot of very slow chicanes in addition to the long straights. The step with the engine should be an improvement for us. My aim is to get on the podium and this is a race I would love to win."

But Giancarlo Fisichella, of Sauber-Petronas, sounded a warning about the ability of many cars to handle the circuit, which is renowned for heavy brake wear. "It is very critical this year for the brakes, especially because we run with very high temperatures front and rear, and it is quite difficult to find good brake ducts for the cooling," the Italian driver said. "Formula One is now maybe a bit too quick."

McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen echoed that concern, saying: "It's going to be harder for brakes and for all the other parts also, because we're going three or four seconds quicker than the year before."

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