Red Bull ‘on the backfoot’ as three ‘exciting’ Canadian GP dynamics identified

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen attacks the swimming pool chicane on a quick lap in Monaco

Max Verstappen in the Red Bull RB20

Former Aston Martin strategy chief turned pundit Bernie Collins believes Red Bull are “really on the backfoot”, with increased competition, weather and “a very different track” in its demands setting up a “very exciting” Canadian Grand Prix.

After winning four of the opening five races in F1 2024, it looked as though Max Verstappen could stroll to a fourth successive World title, but with the latest three grands prix producing three different winners, it seems the title battle could still be on.

Could rival teams and weather challenge Red Bull at Canadian GP?

McLaren’s Lando Norris claimed a shock first F1 victory in the upgraded MCL38 in Miami, but while Verstappen held the Brit off to strike back at Imola, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc reigned supreme in Monaco, where Verstappen was restricted to P6.

Next up is the Canadian Grand Prix, where the threat of rain looks set to linger throughout the race weekend, as Collins posed the question of whether Red Bull can keep their head above water in this brewing F1 2024 battle?

Speaking to Sky Sports News, Collins said: “I think the big thing for Canada is it’s a very, very different circuit to Monaco with a lot of long straights. It’s going to suit slightly different cars. It’s going to be more about straight-line speed.

“And one of the things looking ahead to Montreal at this stage is the weather looks very uncertain. So I think it’s going to be a lot of mixed up sessions. It’s going to be about learning when you can for the teams and potentially, either a wet qualifying or a wet race, will mix up the grid and lead to a very, very exciting race.

“As well as that, in the last three races, we have seen the gap to Red Bull really close and now we’ve seen Ferrari and McLaren both fit to take it to Red Bull at various points over the last few races.

“So we’re suddenly, from having started the year worried that we would have a repeat of the year before, we’re currently now in this position where the championship does look much, much tighter than we were expecting.

“And Red Bull are really on the backfoot. Can they learn enough? Can they bring upgrades to keep that car ahead?”

Will Red Bull return to winning ways in Canada?

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Ahead of the Canadian GP, Red Bull announced a two-year contract extension for Sergio Perez, who is looking to bounce back from a P8 at Imola and a DNF in Monaco, after being involved in a first-lap collision with the Haas drivers.

But, with Perez having fallen on hard times over the past couple of races – his deficit to Verstappen in the Drivers’ Championship up to 62 points – Collins believes Red Bull’s rivals “smell a bit of a opportunity”.

Asked if this is the most exciting that Formula 1 has been for a few years, Collins replied: “I think definitely, yeah.

“I was quite surprised even at the end of Monaco to look at the championship standings and see there’s not that many points, there’s 24 points between Red Bull and Ferrari for the Constructors’. Max isn’t blowing away with it all in the Drivers’ Championship either.

“So it is quite tight and it is going to be very small mistakes, reliability issues, upgrades that team’s bring. Are they going to work? Are they not?

“The [driver] pairings of Ferrari and McLaren are working a little bit better together at this stage it looks like than maybe Max and Checo have been previously in that there’s more of a points split between those two.

“So those teams are really trying to bring it to them. They smell a bit of opportunity here.”

Working in Red Bull’s favour though is that Verstappen knows exactly how to get the job done around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, as he chases a third successive win at the circuit.

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