Will Oscar Piastri pounce for a debut F1 victory in Canada?

F1

Red Bull's struggles set to continue; Piastri eyes maiden F1 victory; Ocon's 2025 options after Alpine exit; Doohan's FP1 entry; and a new track surface. Here's what to watch out for at the 2024 Canadian Grand Prix

2023 Canadian GP Piastri

Could the 2024 Canadian GP be the site of Piastri's first F1 win?

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Lando Norris in Miami. Max Verstappen at Imola. Charles Leclerc on the streets of Monte Carlo. For the first time since 2022, F1 has had three different race winners at three consecutive grands prix. What chance of a fourth in Canada?

Much may depend on Oscar Piastri who could have won all three of the last three races had fortune favoured him more kindly. In Canada, with a car that’s recently looked to have the edge in race pace, it’s not difficult to see that a smooth weekend could see him on the top step of the podium.

Believe Red Bull and his main obstacles will be his team-mate and the Ferraris. The championship leaders predict a struggle in Montreal, due to the high kerbs of the street circuit a factor that hobbled Red Bull’s Monaco performance.

Although the team expects to return to form at the following race in Spain, talk will inevitably turn to the championship should Red Bull’s 24-point constructors’ lead drops to single figures.

Elsewhere on the grid, questions will inevitably be asked about Esteban Ocon‘s recent fallout with Alpine. Was his Monte Carlo clash to blame? Where will the Frenchman end up next? Will Jack Doohan — who is scheduled to take part in FP1 — take his spot?

There’s also a first glimpse at the final draft of regulations for the 2026 season. Which team will make the most of the reset?

It’s unlikely any of those questions will be answered fully in Canada, but on a newly resurfaced track, and with the prospect of rain, the Grand Prix could provide Ocon and others the opportunity to lock down a seat for 2025 with a performance to remember.

Here’s what to watch out for at the 2024 Canadian GP:

 

Red Bull braced for another tough weekend

Red Bull 2024 Monaco grand prix

Could Red Bull tumble further in Montreal?

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Following on from a difficult weekend in Monaco where Max Verstappen finished sixth and Sergio Perez failed to finish entirely, Red Bull is preparing for another uphill battle in Montreal.

“It is probably not going to be our strongest weekend,” said Verstappen after Monaco. “There’s a new [track] surface that might give us some surprises. But probably a little bit better than [Monaco].

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“[We’ll be weaker at] any track that is bumpy or has kerbs, or you have to ride a lot of kerbs, so the street circuits will probably be a little bit tricky.”

According to Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko, the reason behind Red Bull’s struggles at circuits such as Monaco and Singapore in 2023 is due to a “correlation issue” between the virtual set-ups which are being created on the simulator at Milton Keynes are their application in the real world.

“In the simulator, we drive over the kerbs without any problems,” he said. “Here, let’s use the Verstappen expression, the car bounces like a kangaroo. That’s the problem, which was also evident in the set-up at Miami and partly in Imola.

“That’s where we need to start, but we believe that when we get to real circuits like Barcelona, for example, we’ll find our way back to our old form.”

Red Bull currently leads both championships — Verstappen ahead of Leclerc by 31 points; Red Bull ahead of Ferrari by 24 points — but further struggles in Montreal could mean the Milton Keynes outfit starts to feel the pressure in the title race.

 

Could Montreal be the site of Oscar Piastri’s first race win? 

Oscar Piastri McLaren 2024 Monaco grand prix

Is Oscar Piastri next in line to become an F1 race winner?

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Oscar Piastri climbed three places in the space of two corners at the Miami GP and later inherited the lead before tumbling down the order as he lost out during a safety car period. At the following race at Imola, he out-qualified team-mate Lando Norris and was set to start on the front row alongside Max Verstappen until a post-session penalty dropped him to fifth on the grid. Then in Monaco, he qualified second and remained an almost constant thorn in the side of Charles Leclerc all the way up to the chequered flag.

With McLaren’s MCL38 now capable of winning races on pure pace — as Norris demonstrated in Miami — the results of the last three grands prix suggest that Piastri could be on the cusp of his first F1 race win. With Red Bull vulnerable and both Ferrari drivers comfortably within his sights, the Aussie will be among the favourites to win in Montreal.

Should he accomplish the feat, Piastri will become the seventh driver to earn their first race win at the Canadian GP, following in the wheel tracks of Gilles Villeneuve (1978), Thierry Boutsen (1989), Jean Alesi (1995), Lewis Hamilton (2007), Robert Kubica (2008) and Daniel Ricciardo (2014).

 

F1’s new future

Grand prix racing is set for upheaval in 2026, when all-new cars will race with all-new engines — a situation that typically brings new teams fighting at the front and leaves others on the back foot.

Detail of the new regulations will be confirmed this weekend, finalising the specifications of the new cars, which have been tipped to include active aerodynamics to reduce drag on straights, and will rely increasingly on electrical power alongside the V6 power engine.

We should find out whether cars will shrink, after decades of bloating, and whether any of the teams fancies its chances.

 

Where’s Ocon off to?

Esteban Ocon

Ocon is leaving Enstone. Where will he end up next?

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Esteban Ocon and Alpine recently announced that they would be parting ways at the end of the 2024 season. Although a controversial clash with team-mate Pierre Gasly at the Monaco GP could be to blame for the Frenchman’s exit from the team, the F1 rumour mill suggests that the split has been coming for some time.

Although Alpine no longer resides at the very bottom of the constructors’ standings, the Enstone outfit has still only managed to score just two points from the first eight races of the season. Ocon is said to have been discussing his future with other teams  — Haas and Sauber are seen as potential options.

After Nico Hülkenberg announced his departure from his Haas seat earlier in the season, several names have been linked with the Banbury/Kannapolis/Maranello-based outfit, including F2 sensation Oliver Bearman, Valtteri Bottas, Pierre Gasly and Alpine junior Jack Doohan. But unlike many of the drivers in contention, Ocon could have additional trouble convincing team principal Ayao Komatsu that he would be a trustworthy addition, considering his volatile relationship with his team-mates of the past including Gasly, Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez.

“There is a long way to go this season and my focus and energy is 100% dedicated to this team and the work we need to do together to move forward and maximise our results on track,” said Ocon. “Like many drivers this season, a lot has been said about my future beyond 2024. News will be announced in due course.”

 

Jack Doohan to take part in FP1…in place of Ocon at Alpine

Jack Doohan in Alpine F1 top

Alpine junior Jack Doohan has already driven Alpine’s F1 car on a filming day earlier this year

Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ocon’s dissolved partnership with Alpine could benefit a number of drivers on the grid — perhaps none more so than Jack Doohan.

The young Aussie has featured and impressed in several FP1 sessions throughout his time as an Alpine junior driver, but his latest will now come this weekend in Canada at a critical moment in his career.

Following on from a semi-successful F2 campaign in 2023, in which he scored three feature race wins in Hungary, Belgium and Abu Dhabi, Doohan was named as the Enstone outfit’s reserve driver for 2024. He has got behind the wheel of the Alpine A524 before during a filming day earlier this year, but a 60-minute session among other drivers vying for the same seat could be his most high-pressured F1 moment yet.

A spokesperson for Alpine confirmed that the decision to run Doohan in place of Ocon during FP1 in Montreal “was not part of any disciplinary action” and although a free practice appearance for the Aussie wasn’t confirmed before Monaco, it was being planned.

 

Canada’s new track surface

2023 Canadian Grand Prix Track

Could a new track surface create new problems or new opportunities?

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The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has been entirely resurfaced for 2024 and the kerbs have been replaced — changes that, according to Pirelli, should have little effect on the track’s existing characteristics. Will that apply in the rain?

From Friday through to Sunday, scattered showers are set to coincide with running at the Canadian GP. In 2023, a wet weather qualifying session saw Haas’s Nico Hülkenberg qualify second — albeit over a second behind the pole-setting pace of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull. Similar conditions in 2022 saw Fernando Alonso’s Alpine take a front row grid spot — alongside Verstappen once again — while Haas’s Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher lined up in fifth and sixth respectively. On both occasions, the following day’s grand prix took place in optimal conditions, meaning that by race end, the running order had returned its mostly normal state.

But the same may not be said of 2024, with showers and low temperatures on Sunday possibly creating winning opportunities for those further down the field.