Who will the Wall of Champions claim next? What to watch for at the 2022 Canadian GP


Formula 1 returns to Montreal after three years: Max Verstappen is storming in his campaign for a second world championship, as Ferrari is beset by reliability woes in the build-up to the 2022 Canadian Grand Prix

Start of the 2019 Canadian Grand Prix

Antonin Vincent / DPPI

After storming to victory at last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Max Verstappen has now taken a firm hold of the 2022 Formula 1 title fight with a 21-point lead in the standings.

But there is no time to rest on his laurels as races come up thick and fast: Canada is up next, which hasn’t hosted a F1 race since 2019.

Ferrari‘s tally of 14 wins there is three more than any other F1 team and it will need that form to continue in Canada considering it now has an 80-point deficit to Red Bull.

More than half of that deficit is down to the disastrous Baku race where Ferrari endured a double DNF due to mechanical issues on its cars, while Red Bull celebrated a 1-2.

That result moved Sergio Perez into second place in the championship table behind his team-mate. Charles Leclerc now trails the leader by 34 points. That’s the same margin that he himself led by after the Australian GP (when George Russell was second).

If Ferrari wants to bounce back in Montreal, which has a combination of slow-speed corners added with bursts of high-speed straights, it won’t just need outperforming the Red Bull package. The Scuderia needs to make sure it gets to the end of the race which, after two retirements for Leclerc in three races, may prove a challenge.

Here is what to watch out for during the 2022 Canadian Grand Prix weekend.


Formula 1 finally returns to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

F1 Grand Prix of Canada

Tickets for the 2022 Canadian Grand Prix have almost sold out, therefore exceeding 100,000 people in attendance

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, with its semi-street track layout, has always been one of the most popular venues in F1 since its introduction to the calendar in 1982.

This is why it comes at no surprise that fans have sorely missed its participation on the F1 calendar due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Its most recent race, in 2019, provided a moment of high drama, ending in Sebastian Vettel switching the number 1 and 2 boards in Parc Ferme, after he lost victory to Lewis Hamilton due to a controversial five-second penalty.

It also hosted one of Formula 1’s greatest ever races in 2011 where Jenson Button came from last – via six pitstops – to win on the final lap in treacherous wet conditions.

There’s every possibility of another entertaining race as the grid heads into the relative unknown, having not raced there since 2019, with the frontrunners closely matched, and with the circuit’s natural unpredictability lying in wait.

“Canada will pose a number of questions marks for the teams,” said Mario Isola, Pirelli’s motorsport director.

“The weather is often variable, all previous data is three years old, and we have a completely different range of tyres with new compounds and structures on a track that is hardly ever used – which will lead to a very high degree of evolution.

“One interesting aspect to Montreal is that it has one of the lowest pitlane time loss penalties on the calendar, meaning that a car can be in and out of the pitlane in less than 20 seconds. This could open up a few options in terms of strategy.”

Tackling his home race for the first time will be Nicholas Latifi, in his third season of Formula 1. Both he and fellow Canadian Lance Stroll need as much support as they can get from their compatriots, given a run of disappointing performances.


Can anybody stop Verstappen from claiming back-to-back crowns?


Verstappen’s win at Baku makes him the youngest ever driver to reach 25 Grand Prix victories at the age of 24 years, 255 days

After the opening three races, Verstappen was 46 points off then-championship leader Charles Leclerc after his Red Bull had retired twice, which left the Dutchman rather downbeat.

“We are already miles behind, so I don’t really even want to think about the championship battle at the moment,” he said after his second retirement. “I think it’s more important to finish races.”

Five wins later for Verstappen, combined with two retirements for Leclerc, we’re presented with an entirely different picture that shows Red Bull as having the strongest race day package.

Once Verstappen passed Perez for the lead in Baku, nobody was really ever able to match his pace and he won by more than 20sec. “You could see Max was very motivated,” said his dad, Jos Verstappen.

“That had of course to do with the previous race in Monaco [where Perez won], but he doesn’t really let it get to him. I think that’s very beautiful, it only makes him better. A challenged Max is an even better Max.”

Should things go smoothly, Verstappen will hope to have the better of his team-mate in Canada and extend his title lead further, as questions hanging over Ferrari’s performance.

Leclerc needs a new engine after the smoky en to his Azerbaijan GP and with that he may get another turbocharger – his fourth of the season.

The maximum number of turbochargers for a year is three, so an additional unit will incur a ten-place grid penalty and see Verstappen given a much easier ride.

If he can extend his title lead to 52 points, he would effectively have two race wins in hand, approaching the halfway mark of he season.


Will Ferrari’s reliability woes continue?


In Baku, two of Ferrari’s customer teams also broke down with issues on the car

Ferrari has been investigating its Baku mechanical issues, with team principal Mattia Binotto labelling its reliability issues as a “concern.”

The double DNF was perhaps the Scuderia’s lowest point of the season considering their reliability at the start of the year seemed almost unquestionable.

At that time, it was Red Bull who had those problems but with the situation now flipped, Ferrari need to find a solution fast before the championship starts to slip away.

“Reliability is always a factor, a key factor in the [championship] battle along with performance,” said Binotto.

“I think as a team we pushed certainly a lot through the winter last year to develop the car. We proved we are not yet fully reliable, there is still some work to be done.”

Whatever the problem may be with its power unit, it appears to be no easy fix and a seven day-gap between Baku and Montreal is a very short window to get on top of the issue.


The porpoising saga continues


Mercedes have been one of the worst hit teams with porpoising

With the longest straight on the F1 calendar and the bumpy nature of the track surface, porpoising was at its most extreme in Baku.

Lewis Hamilton said he was “holding and biting down on my teeth due to the pain,” while Pierre Gasly complained: “I’m compromising my health for my performance.”

The porpoising saga is far from over and concerned drivers are calling on the FIA for a solution.

That won’t be found quickly enough for Canada, so drivers will be bracing themselves for more rattling spines, given the similarities to Azerbaijan.

Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ trackside engineering director, said: “The bumpier tracks seem to be a particular problem for us and Montreal is not especially smooth, so we’ve got one area there to work on over the next few days before we get running again.”

Expect similar comments this weekend, especially when the Azerbaijan Grand Prix showed that drivers are now prepared to publicly demand action be taken.


Extreme braking problems in Montreal

MONTREAL, CANADA: Canadian F-1 driver Jacques Villeneuve jumps out of his car after crashing at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve during the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal 13 June, 1999. This is the sixth race in a row this season that Villenueve has not completed. AFP PHOTO/Carlo ALLEGRI (Photo credit should read CARLO ALLEGRI/AFP via Getty Images)

‘Wall of Champions’ has claimed Jacques Villeneuve, Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill amongst many others

CARLO ALLEGRI/AFP via Getty Images

With a combination of slow-speed corners interconnected by bursts of high-speed straights, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is known to be heavy on the brakes.

The biggest and most important challenge is cooling the discs and managing the wear because brake suppliers, Brembo, define four of the braking zones as ‘hard’, while almost a quarter of the lap is spent slowing the car.

The discs are at their optimal best when they are between 400 – 800C and if the temperature exceeds 1000C, they start to disintegrate.

The biggest challenge is particularly in that final chicane which proves to be the most critical braking zone on the track.

This is because it exits at the ‘Wall of Champions,’ famous for many claiming many big-name drivers, and ready to punish this year’s understeer-prone cars.

Getting the braking points right and keeping the discs at their most optimal temperature will be crucial in Canada – those who do will reap the benefits.