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F1 Preview: 2016 Canadian Grand Prix

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With the first six races of the 2016 Formula 1 season being spread over a somewhat leisurely 11-week period, this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix marks the beginning of a relentless run leading up to the summer break.

Following the race in Montreal on Sunday, the F1 paddock will face a swift pack-up ahead of the jaunt over to Azerbaijan for the returning European Grand Prix in Baku, forming the first back-to-back of the season.

Six races in the next eight weeks will leave the drivers in need of the summer break that then follows, but as we saw in Monaco, just one grand prix can be enough for the momentum to swing.

Lewis Hamilton arrives at the site of his first F1 victory back in 2008 riding high after winning in Monaco two weeks ago and cutting the deficit to championship leader Nico Rosberg by almost half.

However, the two Mercedes drivers may have more than just each other to contend with in Montreal, with Red Bull enjoying a resurgence in recent weeks.

Here are our talking points, track stats and TV times ahead of this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.

2016 Canadian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Can Lewis keep it going?

It may have taken six races for Hamilton to pick up his first win of the season and first victory over Rosberg since the 2015 US GP, but he could not have wished to do it in more emphatic fashion.

While Rosberg was made to look decidedly average, citing a lack of confidence in the car en route to a seventh-place finish, Hamilton excelled in the damp conditions Monaco offered to beat Daniel Ricciardo, who had been the fastest driver all weekend long.

Rosberg’s charge for the title in 2014 came apart after the Hungarian Grand Prix where the momentum swung dramatically in Hamilton’s favor. Could Monaco be where the tide turned in the 2016 race?

For Hamilton, Canada has been a very happy hunting ground over the years. He has won at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on four occasions, and rarely goes without being in the running for victory. The aim on Sunday will be to pick up where he left off in Monaco and whittle down Rosberg’s lead further.

Naturally, the challenge for Rosberg is to stop this from happening. We’re still yet to see a straight fight between them in dry conditions – and with rain on the horizon in Montreal, we may not for another week at least.

Ricciardo seeks redemption after Monaco blunder

Another driver whose first victory came in Canada is Daniel Ricciardo, who capitalized on a clash between Rosberg and Hamilton back in 2014 to score a popular win. Since then, he has won a further two races – but really, it should be four.

After a strategy error cost him the chance to win in Spain last month, Ricciardo stunned in Monaco by taking his first pole position, putting the newly-upgraded Renault power unit to very good use.

The race seemed to be Ricciardo’s to lose after forging a 13-second lead in the opening stages – only for Red Bull to lose it for him. A tire blunder in the pits left him a disgruntled second come the end of the race, knowing he should really have won the race.

The Red Bull RB12 is well-suited to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and with the upgraded Renault power unit now fitted to both cars, the team will be hopeful of a big result on Sunday.

Max Verstappen will hope to at least match Ricciardo, but it is the Australian who will be leading Red Bull’s bid to mix it with the Mercedes boys and make up for his Monaco disappointment.

Groundhog day for Ferrari

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is known for many things, but in particular: groundhogs, which are known to scamper across the track during the race and, as Anthony Davidson found out to his cost in 2007, occasionally get in the way of the cars.

It may be groundhog day for Ferrari once again this weekend. All season long, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen have spoken warmly of the SF16-H car, saying how it has the pace to battle at the front. And all season long, we’ve yet to see the Italian marque really take the fight to Mercedes.

With Red Bull on the rise, Ferrari risks becoming the third-fastest team once again. Another engine update has been promised for Canada, yet the previous incarnations have failed to offer the big step that had been hoped for.

So unless things change quickly this weekend, it could be another tough race for Ferrari.

Haas gets closer to home

This weekend’s race is set to be the first that Haas enjoys a sizeable amount of support at given the number of American fans that will be making the trip to Montreal.

Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez will be hope to make up for a difficult couple of races where the reality of racing in F1 has started to bite the American team.

Grosjean has ran well in Montreal before, finishing second in 2012 for Lotus, while Gutierrez’s long points drought desperately needs to end sooner rather than later.

Strangely enough, the Canadian Grand Prix is actually the closest race on the F1 calendar to Haas’ headquarters in Kannapolis, North Carolina.

By road, Google Maps estimates it would take 14 hours and 48 minutes to get from the team’s American base to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, compared to the 17 hours and 26 minutes it would take to drive to the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.

The reaction to Rossi

This weekend’s race is the first since Manor reserve driver Alexander Rossi claimed his stunning victory in the Indy 500 for Andretti Herta Autosport, coming hours after the Monaco Grand Prix had finished.

With Le Mans also on the horizon, it is likely that a few drivers will be asked about possible options to try something different in the future, perhaps to emulate Rossi or Nico Hulkenberg, who won the 24-hour race with Porsche last year.

Rossi won’t be in Montreal due to his racing commitments in Texas at the Firestone 600, but you can bet his name will be on many lips in the F1 paddock.

Given the Rio Haryanto’s Manor funding is only enough to get him to Hungary, could the American add some F1 races to his calendar once the F1 season is done?

2016 Canadian Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
Corners
: 14
Lap Record: Rubens Barrichello 1:13.622 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Soft/Super-Soft/Ultra-Soft
2015 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2015 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:14.393
2015 Fastest Lap: Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 1:16.987
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T14 to T1); T12 to T13

2016 Canadian Grand Prix – TV Times

Free Practice 1: NBC Sports Live Extra 10am ET 6/10
Free Practice 2: NBCSN 2pm ET 6/10
Free Practice 3: NBC Sports Live Extra 10am ET 6/11
Qualifying: NBCSN 1pm ET 6/11
Race: NBC 1pm ET 6/12

Barber IndyCar iRacing results

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Scott McLaughlin led the final six laps Saturday and finished 0.4241 seconds ahead of teammate Will Power to win the Honda IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.

Scott Speed finished third behind the Team Penske drivers. Alex Palou and Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top five.

Click here for the full boxscore from Saturday’s IndyCar iRacing event at Barber Motorsports Park.

WINNER: Scott McLaughlin holds off teammate Will Power

WHAT DRIVERS SAID: Postrace reactions on social media

Other notable finishers:

Colton Herta (seventh), Robert Wickens (eighth), Jimmie Johnson (12th), Graham Rahal (14th), Alexander Rossi (22nd).

Sage Karam led a race-high 24 laps but retired from the 45-lap event because of a crash and finished 27th of 29 drivers.