Ferrari's troubles show no sign of abating at Canadian Grand Prix

Charles Leclerc should expect more challenges on Montreal track that has the reputation of being a car wrecker

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Charles Leclerc must be preparing for Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix with a stomach churning mixture of elation and trepidation.

No one who has ever gone to Montreal at this time can fail to have a spring in their step.

The weather, the party atmosphere, the availability of quality hotels, restaurants and entertainment lifts the spirit along with the proximity of a throbbing city centre and its night life just 30 minutes from the island track.

Despite the fastest car, the 24-year-old has every reason to fear the next turn of the page in this season’s championship story.

Especially since the high speed street track has a frightening reputation as a car wrecker.

Recent chapters of the tale in Miami, Spain, Monaco and Baku have all bought the worst kind of news – defeat for Ferrari.

Losing has a special kind of agony when you know you (or more accurately your team) threw away a genuine chance to tuck away 25 valuable points. And did it four times in a row.

Ferrari are becoming experts at that. There’s the strategy error in Monaco, the woes of Barcelona, two engine failures in Baku all started off by Leclerc’s own mistake in Imola.

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Ferrari have established a pattern as being fast but fragile. Mechanically weak and tactically friable.

That four Ferrari-powered cars in three teams failed to make the finish in Baku made for grim reading in the aftermath.

One paddock theory speculates it’s down to pandemic stresses wrought on Maranello’s suppliers. A nice idea and Ferrari are always happy to spread the blame away from their own door.

It’s a brutal statistic but Max Verstappen has now won more times this season when Leclerc has been on pole than the Ferrari driver himself.

So there’s more chance the Dutchman will win if Leclerc is on top spot than if the Monegasque himself is.

Plus the Baku failures make for a double whammy. With engines limited, it may compromise Leclerc’s engine options later in the year. In fact almost certainly will.

But back to the here and now. If Azerbaijan and Monte Carlo required more than a degree of finesse, Canada is all about brutal extremes: heavy braking, heavy acceleration. Lap time is bludgeoned out of the car.

The circuit is little more than two flat out straights with minimal set-up tinkering needed for the two hairpins and four chicanes.

History suggests that this race is Ferrari’s to lose and that they’ll do just that – lose it. Throw in the unpredictable weather on the St Lawrence Seaway and a green track surface that will evolve at breakneck speed as rubber is laid down and you’ve got all the ingredients for increased jeopardy.

And Montreal has had its fair share of freak happenings. Nigel Mansell was so busy waving to the crowd he hit the cut off switch two corners from a commanding win. Jenson Button winning a four-hour, rain-sodden, epic despite six pit stops and a collision with his own teammate.

Lewis Hamilton threw away victory in 2008 by driving into the back of Kimi Raikkonen in the pit lane. Plus Robert Kubica then scoring Sauber’s only win 12 months on from escaping one of the biggest accidents you’ll ever see with little more than bruising and a sprained ankle.

Off track, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has waded into the mire of driver social activism increasingly evident in F1.

He felt the need to question whether they should be allowed to impose their beliefs on others. He mentioned specifically Sebastian Vettel’s “rainbow bicycle”, Hamilton’s passion for human rights and Lando Norris’ work for mental health.

To my mind Ben Sulayem had a point. There is a wider truth. Norris, Vettel and Hamilton's activism is laudable.

But the cajoling and what amounted to public pressuring of those who refused to take the knee over the BLM protests went too far.

Speaking up for those without a voice is only right. But isn’t using your position to force others to change their stance just replicating the inequality you are seeking to resolve?

Unlike so many, I believe sport is a place where these issues should be raised and valuable discourse is to be had. But the habit of the minority on the extremes shouting down anyone who has a contrary opinion has got to stop.

Progress won’t be won by those who scream the loudest but by those who are prepared to listen.

Updated: June 16, 2022, 11:43 AM
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