The shadow of the Bahrain Grand Prix continued to hang over Formula One even in Montreal this weekend, along with evidence of the underplayed war between Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt.
The governing body released a statement in which it alleged that the sport's ringmaster continued to make efforts to save the controversial race even after the Bahrainis themselves had abandoned their efforts to have it reinstated on the 2011 calendar. Even though a statement from the Gulf state in the late hours of Thursday night confirmed that they have withdrawn their application for reinstatement, a delegation from Bahrain attended their fourth grand prix in a row.
Earlier in the week Ecclestone bowed to an ultimatum from 11 of the 12 teams (HRT, which is not a member of the Formula One Teams Association, was the 12th), who stated unequivocally that they would not be sending their cars and crews to the race. The FIA say that despite that he still sought to have the race run on the weekend of 4 December, rather than cancel it altogether. The teams had previously made it clear that they did not approve of Bahrain taking India's scheduled 30 October date, and that race being slotted in on 11 December. The FIA claim that Ecclestone asked them as late as Thursday to accept Bahrain as the season finale.
The revelation appeared designed to show Ecclestone in a less than favourable light, and is thought to reflect the level of antipathy that currently insists between him and Todt, the man that Ecclestone first parachuted into the ailing Ferrari team in 1992.
Thankfully, Montreal is a city that totally embraces its race, and downtown hums every evening in the same way that the on-track action did when drivers such as Sebastian Vettel, Adrian Sutil, Kamui Kobayashi and Jérôme D'Ambrosio weren't interrupting proceedings by crashing their cars into the ever-present concrete walls which lie in wait for those who are less than inch perfect. In its own splendidly named way the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is like Monaco, but with places to overtake. And thanks to a double zone for the drag reducing rear wings (DRS), on the long straight after the hairpin, and again after the chicane by the pits which sends the imprecise into the so-called "Wall of Champions", we should avoid a Monégasque procession this afternoon.
In theory the track should favour McLaren, Ferrari and maybe even Mercedes, who have a very effective DRS, more than it does Red Bull.
It was Vettel, however, who claimed pole position in a dramatic qualifying session that was held under cloudy skies. The world champion lapped in 1min 13.014sec, just ahead of the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso (1:13.199) and Felipe Massa (1:13.217), and Mark Webber's Red Bull (1:13.429). There was better news for McLaren as Lewis Hamilton took fifth place with 1:13.565, with Nico Rosberg's Mercedes separating him from team-mate Jenson Button.