Race Weekend Central

Slipstream Saturday: The Canadian Grand Prix

The series was last on track at Monaco.  Daniel Ricciardo limped his hurting Red Bull home to the victory and celebrated with a shoey and a dip in the pool.  This weekend, Formula 1 returns to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix, where the track has no pool for belly-flops, and it’s not likely that anyone will jump in the St. Lawrence River.  The fun stuff aside, there’s racing to enjoy, and going into the weekend, Mercedes is the favorite as the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve allows the speed of their car to shine. But let’s look at what’s going on in F1.

Odds & Sods

– Daniel Ricciardo managed to avoid a grid-place penalty that had become anticipated.  After his MGU-K failed at Monaco, he had seemed a likely candidate to end up at the back of the grid with penalties for replacing the part.  The question then became whether or not he might do the nuclear option, like Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso did last year by replacing everything and incurring grid-place penalties that ranged in the 25-50 place range.  Instead, Red Bull are playing it safe and trying to give the ‘underpowered’ Red Bull a better chance of getting Ricciardo a solid finish.

– While questions had surrounded what Red Bull would do with Ricciardo, every driver who uses a Renault power unit took a new engine for the weekend.  Renault is said to be debuting an updated engine and the big question will be whether or not it can do a better job of keeping up with Mercedes and Ferrari.  None of the drivers taking the new engine will face a grid penalty but there will be a keen focus on their qualifying performance. Thus far, Max Verstappen has put on a good show using the engine, placing first in Free Practice 1 and 2, though there is the caveat that he was on hypersoft tires while the Mercedes drivers kept theirs stowed away.  

– Vijay Mallya has stood down as a director of the Force India Formula One team but plans to continue in his role as team principal. Mallya continues to live in the UK fighting extradition efforts by the Indian government to bring him home to trial on questionable business practices.  Leaving the director position at Force India does not seem like much of a move but everything Mallya does brings with it a question of angles.

Romain Grosjean hit a marmot.  

Hunting wildlife with a car has long been an issue with all forms of motorsport and Grosjean demonstrated that it can still be a concern.  While to some it may be funny, and to others a cause to curse modern life and the destruction of the natural world, the marmot will never be allowed to speak on the matter.  Perhaps the furry critter was a fan and just wanted a better seat. Consider this one of those goofball stories.

– The sport has made a change regarding the use of DRS, aka the drag reduction system.  Under the old guidelines, the DRS became inactive whenever yellow flags came out, local or full-course.  The change is that local yellows will no longer turn off the DRS system. The reason for this is that drivers who had been on the track and had already passed an area where the flag may fly were affected in a way that nullified any run the may have had going.  While there had yet to be an egregious instance of the DRS shutoff being an issue, it seems like it was only a matter of time.

Lewis Hamilton spoke out about the pay gap between men and women in sports and stated that society is still in the ‘stone age’ in that regard.  Hamilton noted how dominant Serena Williams has been in tennis but still remains an athlete listed in the lower half of the Forbes 100 Highest Paid Athletes.  In addition to his comments about the sexism in sports, Hamilton also noted how racism may play a part in these matters, especially for athletes who may be considered second-tier.

That Hamilton spoke out on such a matter is a bit intriguing.  He has frequently been guarded about making too much in the way of anything that might be considered controversial.  With these comments, Hamilton may be realizing that he has a pulpit from which he can speak and one that he might want to better utilize.  One also must wonder why it is has taken him so long, as the only Black driver on the grid, to speak his mind.

Brandon Hartley received official notice that his career with Toro Rosso might be a short one.  The Red Bull junior team reached out to McLaren to ask about the availability of their reserve driver Lando Norris.  Hartley, who rejoined the F1 program in 2017 after being dropped in 2010, had become a successful driver in the sports car series but has yet to find the results needed to demonstrate that he has the skills to be an elite driver.

So far this season, Hartley has scored just one of the 19 points that Toro Rosso have accumulated.  With that being noted, it’s not like Hartley has been given a car that can race its way up the grid and he has suffered a couple of DNFs while driving a car that seems to underperform.  Attempting to pilfer Norris to replace Hartley is an interesting move by Toro Rosso/Red Bull.

There is a sense that Norris is the heir to the British throne after Lewis Hamilton and there is much reason for McLaren to hold on to their protege.  Still, loaning out Norris for the rest of the year may have been an interesting way to gauge his performance on the F1 stage and done so with little cost to the McLaren organization.  There is speculation, however, the Toro Rosso was looking to keep Norris on board for next season as well.

The Race

The Canadian Grand Prix began in 1961 and has been held at three different tracks.  Since 1978, the series has used the Circuit Ile Notre Dame – Gilles Villenueve course, though there have been some modifications over the years.  The 2.7-mile long track features 13 or 14 turns, depending on who you talk to, while also having long straights where drivers pass the 200 MPH mark. Michael Schumacher, no surprise here, holds the all-time wins record with seven, while Lewis Hamilton’s six wins lead active drivers.  Hamilton won last year’s race and there seems to be no reason why he isn’t the favorite and won’t win again this year.

About the author

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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