After an eventful Azerbaijan race, Formula One returns to Canada for the first time since 2019.
The storylines this time are very different, however: Red Bull now are looking likely as the clear and runaway championship leaders, while Ferrari’s reliability issues have all but for certain put their championship hopes deep in the ground. The Montreal race will most likely be the litmus test for the Scuderia: perform now or perish. Will the Italian team step up to the pressure?
Alpine and Aston Martin come to the party
Aston Martin had a tough start to the season, with their star driver Sebastian Vettel missing the opening two races and the team failing to score points up until the Imola race. However, with Vettel back and the car getting a major upgrade in Spain, the team seem to now have almost a different car. Vettel, who has been one of the strongest drivers of the season apart from the front-runners, has regularly taken his Aston Martin in Q3 and had two solid weekends in Monaco and Baku. The Aston Martin car looks like it has finally unlocked some potential and after showcasing some stellar race pace, especially straight-line speed in Baku. Expect Vettel to do well in Canada as well.
Along with Aston Martin, another team that had a slow start to the season but have picked up are Alpine. After scoring points in the opening race, Alpine were on the end of some bad luck for a couple of races, but since the Spanish race, they have been on an upward trajectory.
The wily-old double World Champion Fernando Alonso, even at 40, is still one of the better drivers on the grid and has been regularly making sure that the Alpine is in points places throughout the race. Alpine were looking like a different beast in Baku, with their car being extremely hard to overtake. Double points in Baku means Alpine are slowly creeping up on McLaren in the midfield battle in the Constructors’ Standings, and another strong weekend with some incidents could well see them in a podium position.
Alpine will also be looking forward to heading to Montreal along with Aston Martin. Alpine and Aston Martin are favourites for scoring big at the Montreal race and maybe even more, should there be drama.
Dark horse for podium: Aston Martin / Alpine
Ferrari in serious trouble
Pole in Baku meant Charles Leclerc had taken four consecutive poles, but surprisingly, the Ferrari driver has converted none of them. To make matters worse, his DNF in Baku was his second in three races. Technical issues and strategic errors have seen him and Ferrari lose their lead in both the Drivers’ and the Constructors’ Standings. Leclerc, who led Max Verstappen by more than 30 points, is now not only behind Verstappen but also his teammate Sergio Pérez. After conceding their lead in the championship standings, further retirements or error-prone races can see even Mercedes overtake the Italian team in the Constructors’ Standings. Ferrari now have absolutely zero scope for any sort of errors, mishaps and technical or mechanical issues. Another retirement or poor race will almost certainly put them out of the championship fight.
What will worry the Scuderia more is the fact that it’s not only Ferrari who are suffering but also their customer teams. The likes of Haas and Alfa Romeo, who have Ferrari engines, also suffered retirements related to the engine in Baku, and Ferrari have some serious reliability issues on hand which they need to address and fix at the earliest.
Returning to Canada after three years, Ferrari can’t only be content with a pole on Saturday; they have to convert it. It’s a track that should see a two-way fight between themselves and Red Bull once again, and the Scuderia, should they get on top of their reliability issues, could prove to be a handful for the Austrian team.
Pole prediction: Max Verstappen / Charles Leclerc / Sergio Pérez
Win prediction: Red Bull / Ferrari
Mercedes will struggle
Mercedes enjoyed one of their best weekends of the season so far in Baku, taking home third- and fourth-place finishes. However, they know they have been lucky. They clearly didn’t have the pace to keep up with the Ferraris and Red Bulls, and had Ferrari not suffered a double DNF, it would’ve been unlikely that Mercedes finished in the top three.
The porpoising issue that had plagued them throughout the year was evident once again in Baku, a circuit with long straights. The bouncing was so prominent that Lewis Hamilton complained of physical pain during the race on the team radio. George Russell might have knicked a podium in Baku, but the young Brit knows he was fortunate as well. Even the likes of Alpine and Aston Martin seemed to have better straight-line speed than Mercedes, and heading to another similar track, if there are no incidents up ahead, Mercedes will most definitely struggle in Canada and will be lucky to even finish in the top five.
Race details: When and where to watch (India)
Circuit: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
Venue: Montreal, Canada
Practice Session 1 time: 23:30 (IST), 17 June 2022
Practice Session 2 time: 02:30 (IST), 17 June 2022
Practice Session 3 time: 22:30 (IST), 18 June 2022
Qualifying time: 01:30 (IST), 18 June 2022
Main race time: 23:30 (IST), 19 June 2022
Where to watch: Star Sports Network | Disney+ Hotstar