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Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix: Weekend Preview

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Formula 1

For the first time this season, Formula 1 heads to North America for Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix. The seventh of 21 rounds on the 2019 calendar, the annual visit to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal follows last month’s emotional Monaco Grand Prix, where defending World Driver’s Champion Lewis Hamilton dedicated his victory to the late Niki Lauda, who passed away days before the event.

Hamilton’s win in Monaco was also his fourth of the season, and enabled him to stretch his championship lead to 17 over Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. Bottas, who remedied a winless 2018 season with a torrid start that included wins in both Australia and Azerbaijan, finished third, as Ferrari cracked the second step of the podium for the first time all season with Sebastian Vettel.

But alongside Hamilton, the real stories of Monaco were Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Leclerc had been one of the fastest drivers in practice before Ferrari misjudged the cutoff time in the first round of qualifying; the Monaco native was forced to start 16th and attempted to charge through the field, but eventually suffered a DNF. Verstappen, meanwhile, pressured Hamilton with everything he had to try and take the lead, knowing that he’d be saddled with a five-second penalty for an unsafe pit stop release. Unable to take the lead, he crossed the line second, but was eventually scored fourth.

Despite a slow start to the season, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz is the “best of the rest” (non-Mercedes, Ferrari, or Red Bull drivers), sitting seventh in points thanks to three consecutive top-10 finishes. Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen sits eighth, while Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen are tied for ninth. The spread from Sainz to his teammate Lando Norris in 11th is just 6 points, coincidentally the difference between seventh and 11th place finishes in a race.

Montreal has the possibility to shake things up slightly in the championship, as Vettel enters the weekend as defending race winner and Leclerc is still waiting to pay off the promise he showed with a dominant performance in Bahrain. Ferrari is the winningest team in Canadian Grand Prix history with 14 victories, with McLaren and Williams the next two teams on the list but unlikely to add to their respective totals this weekend. After watching Mercedes win the first six races of the year, with 1-2 finishes in the first five, it’d be a huge morale booster for the team to finally score a race victory in Canada.

Following Canada, Formula 1 heads back to Europe in two weeks’ time for back-to-back races. The French Grand Prix returns to Circuit Paul Ricard for the second year in a row on June 23, after previously being absent since 1990. The week after, it’s off to Austria, where the Red Bull Ring will host the series. Hamilton is the defending French winner, while Verstappen triumphed in Austria last year.

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