Cape Town – Lewis Hamilton can make history this evening as he fights for his seventh Canadian GP victory, and the honour of being only the second driver to claim more than six wins at a single event.
Michael Schumacher did it in Canada with seven victories, and even went one better in France. Hamilton stands a good chance today of getting his name up there with the legends – the only difference is he would do it with a fourth Canadian win on the trot.
Montreal has been kind to the British driver, who claimed his maiden F1 win at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2007. His tally includes six pole positions and six wins, and he has not finished off the podium when he has seen the chequered flag.
It is difficult to see anybody, even Valtteri Bottas in the same machinery, beating Hamilton. Last year he dominated the grand prix, starting from pole and leading every lap on his way to the win, while behind him there was plenty of drama.
Romain Grosjean squeezed Carlos Sainz and Felipe Massa paid the price, and Sebastian Vettel dropped out of contention when he broke his front wing but used a two-stopper to race his way back up the field to fourth. Max Verstappen made a flying start that came to naught when he retired later in the race, and Fernando Alonso retired on the penultimate lap, preventing him from scoring McLaren’s first point of the season. Sergio Pérez did all he could to stop his Force India team-mate Esteban Ocon from finishing on the podium.
This power-hungry, hard-braking circuit suits Mercedes and their V6 engine, with the last non-Mercedes win being Daniel Ricciardo’s triumph in 2014 in the Red Bull car. While the driver and the team would like to add another win to their tally, there’s a lot more than just that riding on today’s result.
Red Bull would have spent the weekend evaluating the upgrades from engine suppliers Renault and Honda with an eye to perhaps swapping to the latter next season.
Ricciardo will be looking at those updates and also Red Bull’s decision before signing a new deal.
But while the Aussie is dreaming of a third win for this season, confirmed grid penalties for changing elements of his power unit mean most are predicting the battle will be between Mercedes and Ferrari or, most notably, Hamilton and Vettel.
The Ferrari driver has just one Montreal victory on his board, winning in 2013 with Red Bull. While he has three other podiums, his record in Montreal is by no means up there with Hamilton’s. He is, however, the Brit’s biggest threat – at least outside of Mercedes – this weekend.
Further down the grid, Haas will be looking to recover from a wretched Monaco Grand Prix in which they lacked pace, but face a stiff challenge from McLaren, Renault and Force India to be the best of the rest.
Alonso has said he expected a “tough” weekend for McLaren, but reckoned a “little bit of drama” and some changing weather conditions would open a few opportunities.
Changing weather is one thing Montreal does well, with the 2011 Canadian GP holding the record for the longest F1 race to date as storms delayed the race for hours.
The sport has since brought in a time limit, but one man who won’t care about that, or the expected safety cars or gophers, is Montreal favourite Hamilton.