Five Canadian GP questions: Red Bull to struggle, McLaren’s bogey circuit and what next for Esteban Ocon?

Sam Cooper
Lando Norris, Max Verstappen and Esteban Ocon

Esteban Ocon's future will be one of the main talking points this weekend.

F1 is back in North America for the second time this season but the Montreal circuit provides a tougher challenge.

While it is not Monaco levels of tight, the Canadian circuit has claimed many a driver’s pride and the Wall of Champions is always hungry to add another name to its hitlist. With that in mind, here are five questions heading into the grand prix weekend.

Red Bull’s kerb problem to haunt them again in Montreal?

Max Verstappen’s assessment of Red Bull’s chances in Monaco was the only thing less positive than his prediction of what is to come in Canada.

The main issue in Monte Carlo was the RB20’s inability to ride the kerbs, something Verstappen suggested has been there since the start of the 2022 season, but with the rest of the grid closing up, it is only now that their limitations are being exposed.

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is similar to Monaco in that it is a bumpy track which could cause the same issues for the Red Bull car.

Verstappen said the only positive from Monaco is they now understand their weakness and where they have to work on but it will be hard to produce a quick fix in time for this weekend’s race.

Can McLaren break their Canada curse?

Denny Hulme’s rise from six to P1 for McLaren’s second F1 win, Lewis Hamilton’s maiden F1 win, Jenson Button’s incredible drive in 2011.

Canada has been the home of some historic McLaren moments but lately the Woking team’s fortunes at the track could hardly have been worse.

The fact that Kevin Magnussen and Button were the last McLaren drivers to score points for the team in Canada says everything you need to know but Montreal has also been a circuit where reliability has been a real issue.

Since 2014, McLaren have suffered six DNFs which is three times the points they have scored in the same period. Last year’s result saw Lando Norris finish P13 having started seventh while Oscar Piastri slipped from P8 to outside the points in 11th.

The McLaren car is arguably as competitive as it has been for years – so is 2024 the season things change for the Woking side?

What happens next after Esteban Ocon’s confirmed Alpine exit?

The main news in the F1 world this week was confirmation that Esteban Ocon would depart Alpine after five seasons with the French constructor.

The team insisted it was nothing to do with the incident at Monaco which saw Ocon dive bomb his own team-mate heading towards the tunnel but that dynamic will be interesting to observe over the course of the weekend.

Bruno Famin’s hint that Ocon may be dropped for Jack Doohan in Canada ultimately came to nothing but with Ocon’s future now to be decided, he will presumably be on his best behaviour in order to win over any potential future suitors.

For Pierre Gasly meanwhile, it would seem likely he will stay with Alpine but he is also out of contract this year, so the team’s recovery from their poor start will be key to his desire to stay in Enstone.

More ahead of the Montreal race

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Have we really got a title fight on our hands?

For the first time since the start of the 2022 season, Red Bull do not look the unstoppable force that they have been.

Monaco was the latest sign of trouble but Miami was another indication that Red Bull could be beaten.

Christian Horner has long hinted that Red Bull’s time at the top will not be forever but even he may be surprised by just how quick the likes of McLaren and Ferrari seem to be this year.

Canada is a circuit that provides a unique challenge and it will not be until F1 goes to a more traditional track in Barcelona that we get a true reading of the teams’ competitiveness but, with Red Bull’s gap down to 24 points, their rivals may be smelling blood in the water.

Could the completely resurfaced Montreal track play a big role?

There is an element of the unknown heading into this weekend’s race as the circuit has been completely resurfaced since the last F1 race there.

Pirelli say that on paper, the track’s existing characteristics of low abrasiveness and reduced grip should remain the same but even they admit they cannot be sure until their engineers have carried out their first measurement tests on Wednesday.

With it being a street circuit and one that is used by pedestrians and cyclists, you can expect lap times to drop significantly as the cars rubber in the surface, so going out as late as possible in qualifying will be key to a good grid spot.

As for the race, Pirelli say graining may occur with the softer compounds but in general, Montreal is one of the easiest tracks of the season on tyres.

As for their kerbs, the turn 4 and 5 chicane has seen the tarmac replaced with grass so will be more costly should drivers have an off there.

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