MotorSportsTalk’s predictions: Canadian GP

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The Canadian Grand Prix usually throws up a surprise, with Jenson Button’s charge from last to first in 2011 remaining in the memory of many Formula One fans. Interestingly, wet weather is forecast for some of the sessions this weekend, making any predictions all the more difficult for the MotorSportsTalk team…

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Kimi Raikkonen. This is a hard race to pick as there hasn’t yet been a race on a primarily low-downforce setup track with this year’s Pirelli compounds. After a forgettable Monaco, this seems a good spot for the Iceman to bounce back.

Surprising finish: Paul di Resta. Force India’s been on a roll of late and maybe this is a weekend the team scores its first podium since 2009 at Spa. Di Resta’s driving well at the moment and seems primed to beat his teammate, Adrian Sutil, into the top three for the first time in his career.

Most to prove: Romain Grosjean. Erratic in Monaco, Grosjean needs a clean weekend to restore his confidence and keep Lotus in the game in the Constructor’s Championship. I doubt he’ll repeat his second place of a year ago, but a solid top-five would be a decent result.

 

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Kimi Raikkonen. Montreal’s rough surface and numerous hard-braking corners go through tires at a considerable rate. That may give the edge to Raikkonen, who needs a strong result to bounce back after Monaco and keep up in the title race.

Surprising finish: Jenson Button. Don’t expect a 14th McLaren triumph in Canada, but results have been better for the team as of late (three Top-6 results in the last four races). Throw in Montreal’s notorious unpredictability and we could see Button turn in another positive sign of progress for the group.

Most to prove: Romain Grosjean. Can it be anybody else after he crashed three times during the weekend in Monte Carlo? He won’t be done any favors either by his 10-spot grid penalty this weekend for colliding with Daniel Ricciardo two weeks ago.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. I’ll buck the trend. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is very hard on the tires, possibly ruling out Mercedes and giving Lotus the advantage. Last year though, tire management saw Perez and Grosjean make the podium, yet Hamilton won thanks to his raw pace. Same theory applies, only with Vettel driving.

Surprising finish: Sergio Perez. Checo’s performance in Monaco may have perturbed some, but he showed guts to make the moves he did. A repeat of his podium in 2012 may be a bit far off, yet somewhere in the top five or so would still be a good showing for McLaren.

Most to prove: Romain Grosjean. RoGro’s mistake in Monaco was silly, so he needs to prove to Lotus why they should keep a hold of him for the rest of the season. His performance in Canada last season was impressive, and, now more than ever, such a result is critical.

Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)

Race winner: Kimi Raikkonen. The tyre-nursing Lotuses were in great shape here last year. I think Raikkonen will bounce back from his Monaco disappointment with a win.

Surprising finish: Valtteri Bottas. Williams are edging their way forwards and I suspect Bottas rather than his accident-magnet team mate will be the first of them to crack the top ten this year.

Most to prove: Romain Grosjean. I picked him for this in Monaco as well and he duly gave his critics an armful of ammunition with a crash-strewn performance. We know he can do quick, but we need to know he can cut out the incidents.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”