Photo: Getty Images

F1 Preview – 2018 Canadian Grand Prix

Leave a comment

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.”

Misc.

  • 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.

Follow@KyleMLavigne

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

Leave a comment

Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).