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Canadian GP: Max Verstappen seeks maiden Montreal victory as Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez target comebacks

Written by corres2



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Max Verstappen says he has a lot of respect for his front row partner Fernando Alonso, but says he will not be racing at the age of 40 like the Spaniard!

Max Verstappen says he has a lot of respect for his front row partner Fernando Alonso, but says he will not be racing at the age of 40 like the Spaniard!

As Max Verstappen seeks to claim a first Canadian GP victory, a jumbled grid behind him has ensured Montreal’s first race since 2019 will be action-packed.

A combination of a wet qualifying session and Charles Leclerc’s engine woes saw the usual pecking order change, with the Ferrari driver starting from the back row after taking a new power unit for the race.

The one unsurprising element to Saturday’s thrilling action was Max Verstappen’s supreme performance, which saw the world championship leader seal pole position.

Fernando Alonso joins Verstappen on the front row, but it is likely to be the Spaniard positioned directly behind him on the grid, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who poses the biggest threat to a fifth victory in six races for the Red Bull driver.

Sainz, who has struggled to match his team-mate Leclerc’s pace all season, has the perfect opportunity to prove his worth as he starts from third on Sunday.

Carlos Sainz was left to rue his final corner in qualifying as he was pipped to pole by Verstappen and had to settle for a third place start for Sunday.

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Carlos Sainz was left to rue his final corner in qualifying as he was pipped to pole by Verstappen and had to settle for a third place start for Sunday.

Carlos Sainz was left to rue his final corner in qualifying as he was pipped to pole by Verstappen and had to settle for a third place start for Sunday.

“Anything can happen,” he said. “P3 is still a good position to start and we can get to the top.

“It all depends how long it will take me to clear Fernando, if I clear him, because he’s been super-quick all weekend.

“The target is for sure to get behind Max as soon as possible and then apply pressure on the Red Bull.”

Sky F1's Ted Kravitz looks back at a dramatic qualifying session ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix.

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Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz looks back at a dramatic qualifying session ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix.

Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz looks back at a dramatic qualifying session ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix.

Verstappen is refusing to get ahead of himself, despite having a brilliant chance to extend his world championship leader over his nearest challengers.

“I think in the long runs it was very closely matched between us and Ferrari, so I still expect it to be a close battle,” he said.

“Of course Charles and Checo have to come from a bit further behind, but Carlos is close, so that will be a good battle for sure.”

Can Leclerc come through the field?

Armed with a brand-new power unit, Leclerc will be a man on a mission as he starts the race on the back row, with the goal of preventing Verstappen from significantly extending the 34-point gap between them.

The reason Ferrari chose this particular weekend to take a grid penalty for the use of a new engine was that they believe Leclerc can still deliver a strong haul of points. There are several overtaking opportunities at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and there is little doubt that the Monegasque will be using them.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc says he was braced for a painful weekend after it was confirmed he was taking a new power unit for the Canadian GP.

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Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc says he was braced for a painful weekend after it was confirmed he was taking a new power unit for the Canadian GP.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc says he was braced for a painful weekend after it was confirmed he was taking a new power unit for the Canadian GP.

Leclerc will need to find the right balance between risk and reward as he embarks on a new experience for the 2022 season: starting somewhere other than the front row. After four successive pole positions before this weekend failed to yield any victories, he will hope starting from the other end of the grid can bring him some much-needed fortune.

On what he describes as having been a “weird” weekend as he played bit-part role in practice and qualifying, Leclerc believes the limited running he has done was promising.

“I think we learned quite a lot on the long run, which is positive for tomorrow,” Leclerc said. “Now we just need to get on with our job, keep focusing on ourselves, and hopefully we can bring a great result home.”

Charles Leclerc suffered his second engine failure in three races, at last weekend's Azerbaijan GP.

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Charles Leclerc suffered his second engine failure in three races, at last weekend’s Azerbaijan GP.

Charles Leclerc suffered his second engine failure in three races, at last weekend’s Azerbaijan GP.

The need for a new engine followed two retirements – both from the lead – in the last three races with reliability issues, but Leclerc insists he’s confident in the team’s machinery.

“It’s a new engine,” he added. “Everything is new, so I’m confident.”

Perez on redemption mission

One of the cars Leclerc will likely need to pass if he wants to achieve a podium finish is the Red Bull of Sergio Perez, after a crash in Q2 left the Mexican starting 13th.

Perez went into last Sunday’s Azerbaijan GP having outqualified his team-mate in successive race weekends, and with plenty of talk about his world title credentials.

Sergio Perez ploughs his Red Bull into the wall at turn 3 to cause a red flag in the second session of qualifying at the Canadian GP.

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Sergio Perez ploughs his Red Bull into the wall at turn 3 to cause a red flag in the second session of qualifying at the Canadian GP.

Sergio Perez ploughs his Red Bull into the wall at turn 3 to cause a red flag in the second session of qualifying at the Canadian GP.

A poor showing on Sunday in Baku as he was dominated by Verstappen and his mishap in Montreal on Saturday will undoubtedly have left him with a point to prove.

Perez clearly struggled in the wet conditions, but after apologising to his team for “letting them down”, he will hope he can rediscover his groove in the dry.

“Hopefully I am able to recover and get into strong points,” Perez said after qualifying. “I will try to minimise the damage and just attack from lap one onwards and see where we end up.”

Hamilton looking for more Montreal magic

Looking to prevent Leclerc and Perez from advancing towards the front will be Lewis Hamilton, who will have designs on a first podium finish since the opening race of the season after qualifying fourth.

Hamilton was in a much-improved mood on Saturday evening after having appeared despondent when describing the Mercedes as “undriveable” during second practice on Friday.

Lewis Hamilton was in positive mood after qualifying fourth.

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Lewis Hamilton was in positive mood after qualifying fourth.

Lewis Hamilton was in positive mood after qualifying fourth.

“We did a lot of work overnight,” Hamilton explained. “We went two different directions yesterday just to try to get the information. George’s way just happened to be a lot better, so the car didn’t feel that great through the session, so I think tomorrow it should be in a much better position.”

Despite Mercedes’ continued problems with bouncing, which heavily contributed to the FIA’s release of a technical directive attempting to resolve the issue before this weekend, the car has generally shown superior pace in races compared to qualifying.

While he is highly unlucky to have the ability to threaten Verstappen and Sainz, the seven-time Canadian GP winner will undoubtedly be targeting a return to the rostrum.

“We’re in a great position,” he added. “So hopefully I can try to hold position at least.”

Canadian GP, Provisional Grid

1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
3) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
4) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
5) Kevin Magnussen, Haas
6) Mick Schumacher, Haas
7) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
8) George Russell, Mercedes
9) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
10) Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo
11) Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo
12) Alex Albon, Williams
13) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
14) Lando Norris, McLaren
15) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
16) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
17) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
18) Nicholas Latifi, Williams
19) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
20) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri

Watch all of the action from Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix live from 5.30pm on Sky Sports F1.




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