2017 Canadian GP Preview: Who will stop the red rampage?

After a comfortable 1-2 in Monaco, Ferrari look to have the advantage going into the first North American round of the season. Here's your guide to this year's event in Montreal.

2017 Canadian GP Preview: Who will stop the red rampage?
Can Hamilton close the gap on Vettel? | Photo: Getty Images/Charles Coates

Whilst no one doubted that Ferrari had made performance gains over the winter, few scarcely believed that they would be this radical. In what was tipped to be another Mercedes favoured season, the Prancing Horse has broken into a gallop again and now hold the lead in both the Drivers' and Constructors' Championships as we approach the seventh round of the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship.

And so after a brief stint in Europe, the air miles rack up again as we move to Montreal, Canada for a visit to one of the calendar's most iconic and loved venues, the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve - named in memory of one of the country's favourite sporting idols.

A race here is always a wonderful spectacle, with shock results, drama and excitement often the case. Both Robert Kubica and Jean Alesi took their one-and-only victories here in 2008 and 1995 respectively; it's also the site of Lewis Hamilton's first ever win in F1, a year prior to Kubica's triumph. Additionally, the 2007 edition saw the Pole miraculously walk away from a monster accident relatively unscathed.

Kubica walked away from this 75G crash. | Photo: Getty Images/Paul Gilham
Kubica walked away from this 75G crash. | Photo: Getty Images/Paul Gilham

What to look out for

This weekend sees the return of Fernando Alonso after he snubbed the Monaco Grand Prix to make his debut at the Indy 500 in his pursuit for motorsport's fabled Triple Crown. He retakes his seat at the ailing McLaren team, with Jenson Button returning to grace various triathlons and beaches around the globe after his one-off return.

As far as team personnel goes, that's all the news, because Antonio Giovinazzi's Friday driver role with Haas doesn't start until the British Grand Prix next month.

As ever, we look towards the battle on track between Mercedes and Ferrari, Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. The two Finns in Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen have played parts in the story, but their title aspirations already look to be rapidly fading prospects, consigned to helping the big cheeses in their bid for the Drivers' title and their employers in the Constructors' battle.

Hamilton has usually done well here, he has never been off of the podium when finishing a race in Montreal. His five wins in 2007, 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2016 leaves him two behind Michael Schumacher's record tally of victories at this track.

Hamilton has a stellar record in Montreal. | Photo: Getty Images/Mark Thompson
Hamilton has a stellar record in Montreal. | Photo: Getty Images/Mark Thompson

In comparison, Vettel has never retired from the Canadian event in his career thus far, but only won the race once, in 2013. He famously spun on the final lap in 2011's mammoth edition, handing victory to Button and McLaren.

The track's layout suits Hamilton's aggressive style. The two heavy braking points compliment his supreme feel for the brake pedal, and the kerbs need to be attacked for a good lap time. Will this ring true in 2017? It needs to for the Brit's sake, he stands 25 points behind Vettel after a compromised Monaco weekend where he struggled with luck as well as car setup and balance.

The track

One of the few true racing tracks left on the calendar. Fast, bumpy and a real drivers and fans favourite, the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve offers a superb challenge for car and driver.

Tough on brakes and engines, reliability and top end speed are a necessity. But, don't discount the need for a good car in the corners, the mix of looping affairs and tough chicanes ask for a planted article in exchange for a good lap time.

In order to accommodate the added speed of the 2017 cars, sausage kerbs have been added on the inside of the final chicane to deter drivers from stealing an inch.

Where will the action be?

There are several overtaking spots on the track, which is the reason why fans love it so much. Turn 1 has seen plenty of moves before, or at least set up before being completed at Turn 2.

Alex Wurz showed in 1998 that Turn 1 can get crowded...| Photo: Getty Images/David Taylor
Alex Wurz showed in 1998 that Turn 1 can get crowded...| Photo: Getty Images/David Taylor

But the two main venues for overtakes will be into Turns 10 and 12 - otherwise known as the hairpin and the final chicane. Big braking zones that require precision, and in the case of the chicane, bravery.

The weather

It looks like a mixed bag. Storms are expected which'll put the two Practice sessions under threat; but bar some clouds, Saturday and Sunday currently look dry, with temperatures ranging in the mid to high 30s.

Where can I watch it?

As ever, Sky Sports F1 will be broadcasting the whole weekend.

You can follow via radio on BBC 5 Live and catch highlights on Channel 4.

Schedule:

Friday

Free Practice 1: 15:00
Free Practice 2: 19:00

Saturday

Free Practice 3: 15:00
Qualifying: 18:00

Sunday

Race: 19:00

All times in BST


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