Formula 1: Lights Out - What to look for at the Canadian GP
Charles Leclerc's run of bad luck continued in Azerbaijan last week as his Ferrari suffered terminal engine issues while he was leading for the second time in three races. World Champion Max Verstappen took full advantage and will be looking to solidify his championship lead in this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix.
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve hosted its first race in 1978 and returns to the calendar for the first time since 2019. The circuit has proved something of a car breaker over the years and witnessed several surprise results. The incident-packed 2011 race won by Jenson Button, who had run last in the field at one point, is considered one of the most entertaining F1 races of all time.
Lewis Hamilton won the 2019 event in controversial circumstances after Sebastian Vettel, who crossed the line first for Ferrari, was handed a penalty.
What: Canadian Grand Prix
Where: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Ile Notre-Dame, Montreal
When: 19:00, Sunday, 19th June, 2022
How to watch: Sky Sports F1
Odds: Max Verstappen 1.36, Charles Leclerc 23.00, Sergio Perez 23.00
Leclerc in danger of getting detached
Leclerc led the championship by 34 points after the third round of the season in Australia, but following his Baku blow-up the Monegasque now trails Verstappen by 34.
Things could be very different. Leclerc has taken four straight pole positions, yet won none of those races. That dubious feat has not been recorded since Juan Pablo Montoya's run of woe in 2002, which extended to five poles without a win.
Leclerc was always going to struggle to convert his pole position in Miami to victory as the Red Bulls were much faster on the straights. However, in an upgraded Ferrari he held a huge lead in Spain before coasting to a halt and led comfortably in Monaco until the team made terrible strategy choices as the track dried out following a pre-race deluge.
It's not certain Leclerc would have won in Azerbaijan last week without his smoky exit, but he was certainly favourite to convert a healthy lead despite his tyres being older than the chasing Red Bulls.
Even more concerning for Ferrari is that Carlos Sainz had already retired in Baku with a different technical issue meaning both cars were out before half-distance in the race.
And with just days before this week's race, which takes place 9,000km away, the team will have had no opportunity to work on improving their reliability.
Red Bull on a roll
Verstappen's triumph in Azerbaijan made it five straight Red Bull race victories. And while they have effectively been a single-car team for much of the Verstappen era, Sergio Perez is proving a more-than-capable backup this season.
The Mexican has qualified ahead of Verstappen at both of the last two races - a fact which helped him to victory in Monaco - and while he was unable to match his teammate's race pace in Baku, second place there was enough to move him into second in the championship, 13 points ahead of Leclerc.
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Hamilton set for more pain
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton scored his first victory in F1 in Montreal in 2007, but he looks set for a much less enjoyable weekend this year.
Mercedes looked to have got on top of their 'porpoising' issue in Spain last month, but the car was bouncing violently in Baku and Hamilton was in obvious discomfort as he climbed gingerly out after finishing fourth, one place behind teammate George Russell.
Those results show there is plenty of potential in the defending constructors champions' latest creation, but the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve features a long back straight leading into a tricky final corner, and that is likely to be a very uncomfortable ride for the Mercedes drivers.
Mr Consistency looking to cash in again
For all their frustrations with their car, Mercedes are the only team to have seen both their cars finish every race in 2022, with Russell coming home in the top five in all of them.
Russell's consistency sees him lying fourth in the drivers' standings - ahead of Ferrari's Carlos Sainz - and the young Briton has picked up three podium finishes, including in two of the last three races.
Mercedes have benefitted from poor reliability ahead of them, and with the Montreal track being pretty punishing on machinery, that pattern could be repeated. Russell is 6.00 to pick up another podium.
Wily veteran Fernando Alonso is threatening a decent result for Alpine. The two-time World Champion has finished seventh in the last two races, and it's 1.44 that he breaks into the top six in Montreal.
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