By Neil Leverett

  • Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo looking to build from win in Monaco a fortnight ago
  • Sebastian Vettel closed gap to 14 points behind Lewis Hamilton after finishing second in the principality ahead of Brit
  • Max Verstappen has much to prove after early-season woe
MONTREAL, CANADA – Can Daniel Riccardo keep pace with the lead pack, or will a simmering Max Verstappen or Sebastian Vettel give Drivers’ Championship leader Lewis Hamilton food for thought in Canada?

 

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Can Ricciardo keep hopes of three-horse race alive on Canadian tarmac?

Daniel Ricciardo’s drive to victory on the streets of Monaco last month was finally justice for the Red Bull driver, after a botched pit stop 12 months earlier had robbed the Australian of top spot on the podium in 2017.

With just six races down, the 28-year-old has now won a third of this season’s duels and hopes of more than a straight dogfight between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel for what would be an historic fifth World Drivers’ Championship, are now a realistic prospect.

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The Red Bull engine has performed consistently well in the early throes of the campaign and but for a some bloody-minded driving from team-mate Max Verstappen and little more in the way of Formula 1 favour, Ricciardo could be in the mirrors of both the Briton and German.

Having dodged an enforced grid penalty after being forced to change a component of his car’s hybrid system, a newly-matured Australian may be wondering if his fortune has began to swing, with McLaren admitting the weekend could be tough going on Canadian soil.

As it is, 38 points bridge first and third places and for that gap to reduce the Perth man will need to back up his performance of a few weeks ago onto the oft-dramatic backdrop of Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve this weekend.

 

Simmering Verstappen bent on proving point

For Ricciardo’s team-mate Verstappen however, the season thus far has been a tale of huge frustration. After misjudging a corner in the swimming pool complex in Monte Carlo last time out, the Dutchman hit a chicane and careered into a wall in qualifying, rendering his car irreparable in Q1 and unable register a time as Verstappen was forced to begin the race from the back of the grid.

After another stellar drive through the field a fortnight ago – on a track notorious for its’ lack of overtaking opportunities – Verstappen ended up with points in the top ten, however now after six rounds the 20-year-old has recorded just one podium in a season where much was expected of his huge talent.

After crashing out again not for the first time this season, Verstappen has been champing at the bit to get going again this weekend, but in a press conference earlier this week, the Dutchman was forced into strong words following repeated questions regarding his record this season.

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Asked why he kept crashing, the Red Bull driver bit back:

“[The situation] was not as dramatic as they say.

I get tired of the questions. If I get a few more, I might headbutt someone.”

Regardless of his sentiments, Verstappen has much to prove to himself and his team. Having clocked the fastest time in practice on Friday however, this could be the perfect opportunity for a Dutch riposte?

 

Will Montreal leave Monaco ‘procession’ a distant memory?

As the F1 circuit switches to Canadian turf, Montreal is once more set to prove its’ accolades as one the highlight of the motor racing calendar.

The Quebec track named after the great Gilles Villeneuve has been host to the race since 1996. In that time some of Formula 1’s most dramatic spectacles have taken place around the 4.361km of Canadian tarmac.

2007 saw one rookie driver from Stevenage in Hamilton take his first win, whilst Olivier Panis was involved a horrific crash which resulted in the Frenchman’s absence for nine races.

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2011 was perhaps the most spectacular event, indeed F1’s longest race in history after the start was delayed for a number of hours following apocalyptic rainstorms, that finally saw Jenson Button surge through the field on the eventual restart and claim a remarkable win from Vettel.

The Canadian weather often dictates proceedings but with dry weather forecast for the weekend, it may not play a huge factor this time around.

As Hamilton – despite his well-documented misgivings of McLaren’s chances – pursues Michael Schumacher’s record of seven wins in on the same circuit, his is but one narrative on what could yet again be an adrenaline-fueled Sunday afternoon.

The Canadian Grand Prix takes place this weekend, with the race on Sunday at 6pm UK time

 

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