F1 Preview – 2018 Canadian Grand Prix

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Round 7 of the 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship sees its first visit to North America for the Canadian Grand Prix.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton enters the Canadian Grand Prix leading Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by 14 points, hardly a comfortable margin at this point in the season.

Ranked third is Daniel Ricciardo. At 38 points out of the lead, his presence in the title picture makes for an intriguing prospect. He’ll need a little bit of luck to make some more headway, but far more strangers thing have happened…and Ricciardo did get his first career F1 win in Canada back in 2014, so he has a good history at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

The Monaco Grand Prix fit right into the wheelhouse of Ricciardo and the Red Bull Racing RB14 chassis – Ricciardo was fastest in all three practices, qualified on pole with a lap record, and overcame an MGU-K failure to score a dominant Monaco victory, his first on the streets of the principality.

But, with Mercedes and Ferrari appearing to have a pace advantage on other tracks, a repeat of Ricciardo’s Monaco triumph may not be as likely.

And yet, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is known to produce a few surprises, so who’s to say Ricciardo and Red Bull can’t find lightning in a bottle?

Talking points ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix are below.

Hamilton Looks to Add to Championship Lead

MONTREAL, QC – JUNE 11: Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates in parc ferme during the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 11, 2017 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton entered Monaco on the heels of back-to-back wins, yet he seemed almost consigned to the fact the Ricciardo and Red Bull just had the better package for Monaco.

“A big congratulations to Red Bull and Daniel, they did a great job this weekend and were quickest all weekend. It would have been nice to be second,” Hamilton said of the Monaco race in a story posted the U.K.’s The Express.

However, with Monaco expected to be an anomaly of sorts, expectations are that Hamilton and Mercedes should be the favorites again in Canada, which has been a playground of sorts for the four-time world champion.

Hamilton has six career wins in Canada, including his debut victory in 2007, and he has won the last three Canadian races in a row.

With Mercedes expecting to be back on top form after a slight dip in Monaco, don’t be surprised if Hamilton is his usual, dominant self.

Ferrari, Vettel Hope to Regain Early-Season Form

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO – MAY 27: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H on track during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 27, 2018 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

Since opening the season with back-to-back wins in Australia and Bahrain, Sebastian Vettel only has one podium – his second-place at Monaco.

Although he has shown pace to win at times, such as in China and Azerbaijan, the results have not been as forthcoming, and leave Vettel 16 points adrift of Hamilton entering Canada.

And given Hamilton’s aforementioned history at the track, this may be a weekend of damage control for Vettel and Ferrari.

Meanwhile, teammate Kimi Raikkonen, whose future with the team seems somewhat in doubt – his contract is up after this season – will aim to be back on the podium after finishing fourth in Monaco.

Ricciardo Set for Grid Penalty, Verstappen Looks to Right the Ship

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO – MAY 26: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB14 TAG Heuer on track during final practice for the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 26, 2018 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

As a result of the MGU-K failure in Monaco, Ricciardo’s RB14 will feature some new parts and pieces in Canada, which means he’ll be facing a grid penalty of some kind.

“(Ricciardo) will definitely be taking some penalties in Montreal, we haven’t heard at the moment just how many,” chief technical officer Adrian Newey was quoted as saying in a story posted on Formula1.com. “One of things there is whether the battery was damaged or not in Monaco, so until we know that from Renault we don’t know exactly what we’re facing.”

Newey added, “The [MGU-K] is definitely a penalty. I rather doubt it [can be reused], considering it caught fire and was a burnt out, charred wreck,” he said. “I would be somewhat surprised at that one.”

Teammate Max Verstappen, meanwhile, enters the weekend hoping to rebuild a reputation that has taken quite a few (literal) hits lately – he has had multiple on-track incidents and contact this year, which have combined to be a massive black mark on the 20-year-old’s still young F1 career.

Although several people have thrown rather scathing criticisms at Verstappen in recent weeks, the aforementioned Newey is confident that Verstappen can shake off his run of incidents and regain the form that saw him win twice at the end of 2017.

“He can try and shrug off everybody else’s comments and opinions but when you’ve had a run like that, you question yourself a bit. Of course you do. But I think he’s tough enough that he’ll come through that,” Newey asserted in a piece in the U.K.’s Daily Mail. “He’s had one of those bad runs. He’s a great driver, he’s very quick and at some point he’ll shed that (poor sequence) again and be on his way.”


  • Montreal native Lance Stroll scored points in his home race last year. Williams has struggled mightily in 2018, and has recently replaced lead aerodynamicist Dirk De Beer with Doug McKiernan. A repeat points-scoring effort from Stroll would be a massive shot in the arm for the entire team.
  • Fernando Alonso had a run of points finishes to start 2018 – five in a row in fact – before DNF’ing in Monaco. Although rumors are flying around about his status for 2019, Alonso nonetheless remains a full-time F1 driver, and he’ll look for more points, if not a podium, in Canada this weekend.
  • After debuting in Monaco, Pirelli’s hypersoft compound returns for its second consecutive event, which means qualifying could see more track records fall.

Qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix will be Saturday at 2:00 p.m. ET, with Sunday’s race also scheduled to roll off at 2:00 p.m. ET.


With throaty roar, NASCAR Next Gen Camaro is taking Le Mans by storm on global stage

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

LE MANS, France — The V8 engine of the NASCAR Chevrolet Camaro has a distinct growl that cannot go unnoticed even among the most elite sports cars in the world at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

When the Hendrick Motorsports crew fired up the car inside Garage 56, NASCAR chairman Jim France broke into a huge grin and gave a thumbs up.

“The only guy who didn’t cover his ears,” laughed seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

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France has been waiting since 1962 – the year his father, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., brought him to his first 24 Hours of Le Mans – to hear the roar of a stock car at the most prestigious endurance race in the world.

A path finally opened when NASCAR developed its Next Gen car, which debuted last year. France worked out a deal to enter a car in a specialized “Innovative Car” class designed to showcase technology and development. The effort would be part of NASCAR’s 75th celebration and it comes as Le Mans marks its 100th.

Once he had the approval, France persuaded Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear – NASCAR’s winningest team, manufacturer and tire supplier – to build a car capable of running the twice-around-the-clock race.

The race doesn’t start until Saturday, but NASCAR’s arrival has already been wildly embraced and France could not be more thrilled.

“Dad’s vision, to be able to follow it, it took awhile to follow it up, and my goal was to outdo what he accomplished,” France told The Associated Press. “I just hope we don’t fall on our ass.”

The car is in a class of its own and not racing anyone else in the 62-car field. But the lineup of 2010 Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button and Johnson has been fast enough; Rockenfeller put down a qualifying lap that was faster than every car in the GTE AM class by a full three seconds.

The Hendrick Motorsports crew won its class in the pit stop competition and finished fifth overall as the only team using a manual jack against teams exclusively using air jacks. Rick Hendrick said he could not be prouder of the showing his organization has made even before race day.

“When we said we’re gonna do it, I said, ‘Look, we can’t do this half-assed. I want to be as sharp as anybody out there,” Hendrick told AP. “I don’t want to be any less than any other team here. And just to see the reaction from the crowd, people are so excited about this car. My granddaughter has been sending me all these TikTok things that fans are making about NASCAR being at Le Mans.”

This isn’t NASCAR’s first attempt to run Le Mans. The late France Sr. brokered a deal in 1976, as America celebrated its bicentennial, to bring two cars to compete in the Grand International class and NASCAR selected the teams. Herschel McGriff and his son, Doug, drove a Wedge-powered, Olympia Beer-sponsored Dodge Charger, and Junie Donlavey piloted a Ford Torino shared by Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson.

Neither car came close to finishing the race. McGriff, now 95 and inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame in January, is in Le Mans as France’s guest, clad head-to-toe in the noticeable Garage 56 uniforms.

“I threw a lot of hints that I would like to come. And I’ve been treated as royalty,” McGriff said. “This is unbelievable to me. I recognize nothing but I’m anxious to see everything. I’ve been watching and seeing pictures and I can certainly see the fans love their NASCAR.”

The goal is to finish the full race Sunday and, just maybe, beat cars from other classes. Should they pull off the feat, the driver trio wants its own podium celebration.

“I think people will talk about this car for a long, long time,” said Rockenfeller, who along with sports car driver Jordan Taylor did much of the development alongside crew chief Chad Knaus and Greg Ives, a former crew chief who stepped into a projects role at Hendrick this year.

“When we started with the Cup car, we felt already there was so much potential,” Rockenfeller said. “And then we tweaked it. And we go faster, and faster, at Le Mans on the SIM. But you never know until you hit the real track, and to be actually faster than the SIM. Everybody in the paddock, all the drivers, they come up and they are, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’ and they were impressed by the pit stops. We’ve overachieved, almost, and now of course the goal is to run for 24 hours.”

The car completed a full 24-hour test at Sebring, Florida, earlier this year, Knaus said, and is capable of finishing the race. Button believes NASCAR will leave a lasting impression no matter what happens.

“If you haven’t seen this car live yet, it’s an absolute beast,” Button said. “When you see and hear it go by, it just puts a massive smile on your face.”

For Hendrick, the effort is the first in his newfound embrace of racing outside NASCAR, the stock car series founded long ago in the American South. Aside from the Le Mans project, he will own the Indy car that Kyle Larson drives for Arrow McLaren in next year’s Indianapolis 500 and it will be sponsored by his automotive company.

“If you’d have told me I’d be racing at Le Mans and Indianapolis within the same year, I’d never have believed you,” Hendrick told AP. “But we’re doing both and we’re going to do it right.”

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Fans gather around the NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that is the Garage 56 entry for the 100th 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

General Motors is celebrating the achievement with a 2024 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Garage 56 Edition and only 56 will be available to collectors later this year.

“Even though Chevrolet has been racing since its inception in 1911, we’ve never done anything quite like Garage 56,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “A NASCAR stock car running at Le Mans is something fans doubted they would see again.”

The race hasn’t even started yet, but Hendrick has enjoyed it so much that he doesn’t want the project to end.

“It’s like a shame to go through all this and do all this, and then Sunday it’s done,” Hendrick said. “It’s just really special to be here.”