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Could a home podium be on the cards for Canada’s Lance Stroll? And will Max Verstappen and Red Bull continue their recent peerless performances? Here’s what to watch out for and who to back in the 2023 Canadian Grand Prix!

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A century weekend for Red Bull?

Red Bull are in the midst of rarely paralleled success in Formula 1. The team have been victorious at all but one of the last 18 Grand Prix weekends, winning all of the first seven races of the 2023 season. Now, Red Bull stand on the brink of an historic 100th victory, which would make them only the fifth constructor to have won a century of Grands Prix.

Red Bull’s form and dominance so far in 2023 cannot be understated. The Australian Grand Prix – which finished behind the Safety Car – is the only race so far this year in which another team finished within 20 seconds of the winning Red Bull. All signs point to another victory this weekend.

Verstappen’s impressive recent run

Max Verstappen has been peerless in recent races, winning all of the last three Grands Prix; the last two from pole position. A Grand Slam win last time out at the Spanish Grand Prix saw Verstappen lead every lap for a second consecutive race weekend. A similar level of dominance this weekend would rocket Verstappen near to the top of the most consecutive laps led in Formula 1 history.

Verstappen is the defending Canadian Grand Prix winner, having resisted a late race charge by Carlos Sainz last year to take his first Montreal win. He’s the favourite to take victory once more in 2023.

Perez on the back foot

It has been a tricky few races for Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez. After finishing only 16th in the Monaco Grand Prix, Perez was eliminated in Q2 in Spain and recovered from 11th on the grid to fourth at the end of the race. The gap between the two Red Bull drivers in the championship is now a vast 53 points. Perez hasn’t had the best form in recent years in Canada either.

His 2012 podium with Sauber remains a standout result. He’s scored here only twice since then, most recently back in 2017. Perez needs a clean weekend to recover any slim hopes of a title challenge to his team-mate.

Are Mercedes back in the picture?

Of course, being the dominant team does not guarantee a win in Formula 1. Canada is, after all, the venue at which Mercedes’ complete domination at the start of the V6 hybrid era faltered in 2014, with mechanical issues allowing Daniel Ricciardo to take an unexpected maiden win.

Talking of Mercedes, the Silver Arrows recorded their first double podium result of the season at the Spanish Grand Prix. Their recent upgrade package looks like its delivering the goods on track. With Lewis Hamilton second and George Russell third in Barcelona, Mercedes toppled Aston Martin for second place in the Constructors’ standings.

The question is: have Mercedes made enough of a step to become consistently the second best team from here on in? At least one Mercedes driver has appeared on the podium in every season since 2013.

Their promising recent showing is likely to put them in podium contention again at the 2023 Canadian Grand Prix.

Stroll’s home race

Lance Stroll could become the Canadian driver with the most career Formula 1 points this weekend, overtaking Jacques Villeneuve – the country’s only World Champion. Stroll’s place at the top of that particular table would mean little, given that the F1 points system has inflated by 150% between the two drivers’ careers.

Nevertheless, Stroll could match Villeneuve in a more meaningful way at the Canadian Grand Prix: by becoming the first Canadian to finish on the podium at their home race since Villeneuve 27 years ago.

Villeneuve never had much luck on home soil. His second place on his maiden appearance in 1996 was one of only three occasions on which he reached the chequered flag in Montreal. Stroll, on the other hand, has failed to score only once on his four appearances. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is the track at which Stroll picked up the first points of his F1 career in 2017.

Given Aston Martin’s form so far in 2023, anything other than points for Stroll this weekend would be a bitter disappointment. After failing to finish on the podium for only the second time this year in Spain, Stroll’s team-mate Fernando Alonso vowed after the race that it would be “the last race without a podium” for the team this year. It’s an optimistic outlook.

Optimistic, too, is the view of team owner Lawrence Stroll, who is “extremely confident” that both of his drivers could appear on the Canadian Grand Prix podium. The team have scored points in every year at the Canadian Grand Prix since 2013, notably with Sergio Perez even in winning contention in 2014 before crashing out in the closing stages. Time will tell if Aston Martin’s package translates into podium-scoring pace.

McLaren point-less in Canada since 2014

It has been a lacklustre start to the 2023 season for McLaren, who’ve picked up only 17 points from the first seven races. Lando Norris impressed in qualifying for the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix, qualifying in an unlikely third place. However, he plummeted down the order in the race after first lap contact and the McLaren did not have the race pace to recover. Norris finished 17th, while rookie team-mate Oscar Piastri could finish no higher than 14th.

McLaren’s chances of adding to their points tally this weekend appear slim. The team has failed to pick up any points at the Canadian Grand Prix since 2014. Since then, they’ve recorded five DNFs at the track, with the highlights being three 11th place finishes – two of which have come in the last two years. Given their lack of race pace so far this year, it would be unexpected to see McLaren turn their Canadian fortunes around in 2023.

Ocon, Leclerc and Zhou looking for more Canada points

Three drivers are defending 100% points-scoring rates at the Canadian Grand Prix. Charles Leclerc has scored on all three appearances, including with top five finishes on his last two visits to Montreal. Esteban Ocon has also scored on his three appearances, with a best result of sixth place recorded in both 2017 and 2022.
Zhou Guanyu is the other current driver yet to miss out on points in Canada. On his first visit last year, Zhou finished in eighth place. It remains the best result of his career to date on a weekend where both Alfa Romeo drivers scored points.

The team would love to add some more points to their total. Zhou has recorded points twice so far this year, with ninth place finishes in Australia and last time out in Spain. Could Zhou replicate his 2022 Canadian Grand Prix success this weekend? The Chinese driver could be one to keep an eye out for in Sunday’s race.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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