June 21st, 2024

Five things to get you up to speed for the Canadian Grand Prix


By Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press on June 7, 2024.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, from the Netherlands, speaks to reporters at the Canadian Grand Prix Thursday, June 6, 2024 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL – Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is aiming for a three-peat at the Canadian Grand Prix this weekend in Montreal.

The Formula One race goes Sunday afternoon after qualifying Saturday at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on the city’s Notre Dame Island.

Here are five things to get you up to speed for the race:

MAX SEEKS THREE

Verstappen can join some elite company with a win. Only seven-time world champions Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher crossed the finish line first in three consecutive years at the Canadian GP.

The 26-year-old Verstappen, a three-time defending world champion, edged Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz during a tight race in 2022 before winning the 2023 edition by nearly 10 seconds amid a historically dominant season.

A victory Sunday would also be the 60th of Verstappen’s career. Only Hamilton (103) and Schumacher (91) have more.

Verstappen, however, faces a stiffer test this season.

TITLE RACE IGNITED

Red Bull cruised to the F1 constructors’ championship last year with 21 wins – a record 19 from Verstappen alone – in 22 races.

Eight races into 2024, opponents have closed the gap. Red Bull has already dropped three races, including two of the last three. Charles Leclerc won the Monaco GP two weeks ago to bring Ferrari 24 points behind Red Bull, meaning we could see a new leader once this weekend is over.

McLaren is a distant but competitive third, 68 points back of Ferrari. The feeling around the paddock is that each of the three teams could finish on top in Montreal.

Verstappen has five victories this season and is 31 points clear of Leclerc to lead the drivers’ standings. After eight races last year, he had a 69-point margin over second-place Sergio Perez, his Red Bull teammate.

HOMETOWN RACE

Montreal’s Lance Stroll arrives in his hometown amid a difficult season.

The lone Canadian on the grid is ranked 11th with 11 points for Aston Martin, which has fallen off after being one of the most competitive teams last year. Stroll’s father, multibillionaire Lawrence Stroll, is a part-owner of the team.

Stroll placed ninth in a solid car last season, tying his best result at the Canadian GP. The 25-year-old says his goal for this weekend is a top-10 finish, something he’s done in four of five races on home soil.

MUSICAL CHAIRS

Off the track, there’s a game of musical chairs in full swing with nine of 20 pilots still seeking a seat for 2025.

Hamilton kicked it off in February by announcing a shock move to Ferrari from Mercedes next season. Niko Hulkenberg was the next domino to fall with a contract to leave Haas for Sauber.

Alpine revealed Monday that Esteban Ocon won’t be back with the French outfit a couple of weeks after he crashed into teammate Pierre Gasly in Monaco. Red Bull signed Perez to a two-year extension Tuesday, taking that coveted chair out of the picture.

Sainz is the market’s prized possession as the odd man out with Hamilton’s move to Ferrari. The Spanish driver has been linked with teams across the grid but is still weighing his options.

RAINY DAYS

This weekend’s forecast in Montreal calls for rain and possible thunderstorms, adding another layer of unpredictability to the race and qualifying.

F1 teams should be used to breaking out their wet tires at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with precipitation often a factor in Montreal.

In 2011, McLaren’s Jenson Button famously climbed from last to first place despite making six pit stops and bumping three other drivers amid heavy downpours. The race remains the longest in F1 history at four hours four minutes 39 seconds.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2024.

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