Formula 1 is returning to Canada for the first time in three years – and it couldn’t have been a better time for Ferrari, whose championship challenge is in a spin that is spiraling out of control.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has been a happy hunting ground for the Scuderia, with the red team crossing the line first in each of the past two editions – albeit with an infamous twist in 2019 racing history – and oh, as they would desperately like to continue that streak this weekend.
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After three races into the season, Ferrari was flying high in the lead of the constructors’ championship, 49 points clear of Red Bull, with Charles Leclerc a clear 44 at the top of the drivers’ standings. But then it went downhill – and fast.
In the next five races, Ferrari only scored 59 points. Leclerc retired from the lead in two of the last three races and saw an 80-point negative swing towards Verstappen – leaving him 34 points behind the reigning world champion.
His teammate Carlos Sainz had shocking form. He was the first to give up three of the last six Grands Prix, having competed in 31 consecutive races – and the only driver to be classified in all races in 2021.
They are hoping to turn a page in Canada, where at least the new rear wing they introduced in Baku should, according to boss Mattia Binotto, help them reduce their straight-line speed deficit to Red Bull, which should be particularly advantageous in Montreal given the characteristics of the track.
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They put in place a short-term solution after examining the hydraulic components that failed on Sainz’s car in Baku, while examinations began on Leclerc’s engine, which failed and arrived in Maranello on Wednesday .
Their priority will be to get two cars to the finish after suffering their first double mechanical retirement in nearly 25 years (since the 1997 British Grand Prix) and score well to provide some stability.
Their qualifying form has been immense, with Leclerc taking pole in each of the last four races, but they are falling behind Red Bull on Sunday afternoon. We’ve seen in the data that their long-term pace based on Friday’s race has been better than Red Bull in three of the last four races (Spain were behind) but that hasn’t translated into the Grands Prix.
Red Bull, meanwhile, is on remarkable form. They have won each of the last five races and are now doubled in the Drivers’ Championship for the first time since the 2011 Belgian Grand Prix more than a decade ago. They were 47 points behind Ferrari ahead of Imola. They now lead by 80 points, in an incredible 127-point swing in five carries.
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Verstappen is not yet comfortable with the RB18, especially in qualifying, but he made up for it on Sunday afternoon, capitalizing on the team’s superior race pace, tire management and speed in straight line to win four out of five. Imagine what he’ll be like once he overcomes his one-lap struggles…
He is also being pushed hard by teammate Sergio Perez, with the Mexican having finished in the top two in each of the last three races, and five times this year. He drives at his highest level, having quickly unlocked the potential of the new generation of cars, and it is this speed and consistency that makes Red Bull the favorite for its first constructors’ championship since 2013.
Their Mercedes rivals have also had a kind of consistency, particularly with George Russell, who has finished every race this year in the top five – but they don’t yet have a car capable of challenging for race wins or even podiums (if the Red Bulls and Ferrari finish).
They continue to be hampered by rebounds, with their director of motorsport strategy James Vowles conceding this week that the team had taken its set-up direction to extremes in Baku, pushing “the package and our drivers too far”. in pursuit of performance.
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Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is expected to be another tough event for the reigning world champions, before moving on to smoother tracks like Silverstone. However, the team hopes their qualifying deficit will not be as high as it was in Baku (1.3s).
Lots of stories, then, to dig into this weekend at the pointed end of the pitch – and that’s not to mention an extraordinarily tight midfield, which has seen fluctuations in performance between teams within a track. to the other. Who will finish the best of the rest this weekend?