Formula 1 returns to Canada for the first time in three years – and it couldn’t have come at a better time for Ferrari, who is facing the championship challenge in a slipping out of control.
Gilles Villeneuve has been a happy hunting ground for Scuderia, the red team that crosses the line first in each of the last two editions – albeit with an infamous twist on the tale. in 2019 Sweat – and oh, how they’re going to love so much to continue that streak this weekend.
Three races per season, Ferrari was flying high in the constructors’ championship, 49 points ahead of Red BullWith Charles Leclerc 44 ahead of the drivers’ standings. But then it descended – and quickly.
In the next five races, Ferrari scored only 59 points. Leclerc retired from the lead in two of the last three races, and saw a negative 80-point swing to Verstappen – leaving him 34 Adrift World Champion.
His teammate Carlos Sainz gave a shocking performance. He was the first retired in three of the last six Grands Prix, having finished 31 consecutive races – and the only driver ranked in every race in 2021.
They are hoping to turn the page in Canada, where at least the new rear wing they introduced in Baku should, says President Mattia Binotto, help them cut the straight-line sprint deficit to Red Bull, which should be of particular benefit in Montreal given the Path properties.
They have a short-term fix after checking the hydraulics that failed on the Sainz car in Baku, while tests began on the Leclerc engine, which failed and arrived at Maranello on Wednesday.
Their priority will be to get two cars to finish after suffering from their first mechanic-related double retirement in nearly 25 years (since the 1997 British Grand Prix) and score well to secure some stability.
Their level of qualification has been phenomenal, with Leclerc taking the lead in each of the last four races, but they are far behind for Red Bull on Sunday afternoon. We’ve seen in the data that her long-term pace based on Friday’s run was better than Red Bull’s in three of the last four races (Spain were behind) but that didn’t translate into the Grand Prix.
Meanwhile, the Red Bull team is going great. They have won each of the last five races and are now one and two in the drivers’ championship for the first time since the 2011 Belgian Grand Prix, over a decade ago. They were 47 points behind Ferrari, ahead of Imola. They are now up by 80, in an amazing swing of five races and 127 points.
Verstappen has yet to feel comfortable with the RB18, particularly in qualifying, but he made up for it on Sunday afternoon, taking advantage of the team’s superb race pace, tire management and straight-line speed to score four wins in five. Imagine what he would be like once he got over his struggles in one lap…
He’s been pressured hard by teammate Sergio Perez as well, having finished first and second in each of the last three races, and five times this year. He is driving at an all-time high, having unleashed the potential of a new generation of cars at speed, and it is this speed and consistency that has made Red Bull the favorite for its first manufacturers’ championship since 2013.
Their rivals Mercedes had some sort of consistency too, particularly with George Russell, who finished every single race of the year in the top five – but they don’t yet have a car capable of challenging race victories or even podiums (if Red Bulls and Ferraris finish).
The rebound still held them back, with Motorsports Strategy Director James Fowles admitting this week that the team has taken its guidance to the extreme in Baku, pushing “our pack and drivers too far” in pursuit of performance.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is expected to be another challenging event for the world champions, before we hit smoother tracks like Silverstone. However, the team hopes that their qualifying deficit will not be quite as high as it was in Baku (1.3 seconds).
Lots of storylines, then, to look into this weekend at the end of the field — and that’s not to mention a very tight midfield, which has seen performance fluctuations between teams from one track to the next. Who will end up doing better than the rest this weekend?
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