Canadian GP: Preview & five predictions for Montreal

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Formula 1 hops across the pond to North America, more specifically to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix this weekend.

While the streak of one-two finishes may have come to an end in Monaco at the previous race, Mercedes' perfect win record remained intact thanks to a masterful drive by Lewis Hamilton.

Now the world champion, and his teammate Valtteri Bottas, head to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a venue at which both can be considered specialists.

Hamilton is a six-time winner in Montreal, one behind the record held by Michael Schumacher, while Bottas has scored a podium every year in Canada since 2015.

Despite that, expectations are for a Ferrari fightback on the Ile de Notre Dame as the long straights allow the Scuderia to stretch the legs of the SF90.

This was the case last year when Sebastian Vettel was victorious, and if the 2019 championship is to be more than just a Silver Arrow duel, the results must start coming in Montreal.

The Circuit

The host of the Canadian GP since 1978, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was created as part of the Olympic project which took place in the city two years earlier.

It wasn't until the death of Villeneuve in 1982 that the track was renamed in his honour, but over the years it has created a reputation befitting the F1 legend.

Set on an island in the St. Lawrence Seaway, the tight confines mean much of the layout is wall-lined, but the series of straights broken up by chicanes and a hairpin make it a very different challenge from the streets of Monte Carlo.

The most difficult corner is the final chicane at the end of the back straight with the infamous Wall of Champions looming on the exit.

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This got its name after Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve all crashed there in 1999, with Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button doing so in the years since.

The lack of space also means Safety Cars are pretty common, and some crazy races have taken place.

2011 is the year most of today's fans remember, a four-hour wet/dry epic which saw Button running last at one stage - after a collision with Hamilton - only to come through and pass Vettel on the final lap to take the win.

Many first-time F1 winners have also come at this race, including Jean Alesi in 1995, Hamilton in 2007, Robert Kubica in 2008 and Daniel Ricciardo in 2014.

Predictions

With a history of creating the unexpected in Canada, is there going to be a first big twist of this season on Sunday?

Here are our top five predictions:

Leclerc to score first F1 win:

Monaco GP 2019 - Saturday - Charles Leclerc - Monte Carlo 2019

Surely it's time, right? With the exception of Monza, if any circuit is designed for Ferrari to win on this year it is this one and I fully expect them to be in contention to win.

Mercedes do have an engine upgrade coming for Montreal, but the gains are not likely to be groundbreaking and, providing the Scuderia has some pace in the corners they have a strong chance for their best weekend of the year.

As for the reason for choosing Charles Leclerc it is simple, he has been better at adapting to this year's car than teammate Vettel and between them, he would be the guy you picked to take the fight to Hamilton and Bottas.

Don't discount Verstappen:

Canada has rarely been a happy hunting ground for Red Bull, mostly because their strength in aerodynamics doesn't really suit the demands of the circuit.

However, in a year where the car isn't perfect and they have a relatively good engine with Honda, perhaps Max Verstappen can be the dark horse no-one saw coming.

Certainly, a podium challenge shouldn't be ruled out for the Dutchman, who drove to a very strong third place 12 months ago.

Haas' tyres woes to return:

A word that will be heard a lot this weekend is tyres as teams struggle to generate temperature in the low energy corners and on the straights.

It is certainly a factor that could interfere with Ferrari at the front, but in the midfield, a big loser could well be Haas who have struggled more than most this year.

A big update package in Barcelona helped and Kevin Magnussen was 'best of the rest' in Monaco qualifying too, so this will be a big test of their potential for the rest of the season.

McLaren to shine:

Looking at the other teams, there is a strong likelihood of a midfield reshuffle as the emphasis on power benefits the likes of Alfa Romeo and Racing Point.

McLaren though has had a consistently strong car, particularly on rear-limited circuits and may well be the one to beat in the battle for seventh place.

Kubica returns to Montreal:

12 years ago, Kubica proved why he was seen as a star of the future as he emerged from the madness to win in Canada for BMW.

It was a truly remarkable performance, particularly considering how one year earlier he had his biggest F1 crash at the very same track.

This year, the Pole returns to Montreal with questions being asked of his ability as his comeback, eight years after the rally crash which ended the rise that began at this race, continues to disappoint.

Yet to beat teammate George Russell, if one race can inspire Kubica it may well be Canada, otherwise, it might be a Canadian, Nicholas Latifi, who'll be earning his seat sooner rather than later.

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