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F1's Verstappen out to end 'M for misery' in Montreal

Staff WritersReuters
World champion Max Verstappen has experienced some rare reversals in recent grands prix.   (EPA PHOTO)
Camera IconWorld champion Max Verstappen has experienced some rare reversals in recent grands prix. (EPA PHOTO) Credit: AAP

Max Verstappen was utterly dominant in Montreal a year ago, leading every lap from pole, but he is likely to face a far fiercer fight  as he chases a third successive Canadian Grand Prix victory.

There have been three different winners in the last three races and, after taking the chequered flag in 19 of 22 in the most one-sided Formula One season last year, Red Bull's triple world champion has now failed to taste victory in three of the last six.

Street circuits in cities starting with the letter M are the ones to have brought no joy - Melbourne, Miami and Monaco - and Verstappen will be keen to end that curious sequence at this weekend's race.

Ferrari - winners in Australia with Carlos Sainz and Monaco with Charles Leclerc - will fancy their chances in Montreal at a circuit named after their late great Gilles Villeneuve.

Verstappen has not been beaten in two successive races since July 2022 - winning in Japan after Australia and at Imola after Miami - but he identified running over kerbs as a weakness in Monaco.

Race nine of the season in Montreal, where riding over the kerbs is a fast-track to gaining lap time, could bring more of the same.

"We've had this problem since 2022, but of course for the last two years we had a car advantage and it gets masked a little bit," Verstappen said in Monaco.

"But with everyone catching up, when you're not improving your weakest point you get found out."

Teammate Sergio Perez, who crashed out of the Monaco race, has something to celebrate already with Red Bull announcing his two-year contract extension earlier in the week.

Ferrari are now only 24 points behind Red Bull, and have scored with both cars in every race - unlike their rivals. 

Leclerc is 31 behind Verstappen.

"It's probably almost the opposite to Monaco in terms of speed but you also have the characteristics of the kerbs, with a lot of low-speed corners and chicanes," Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur told reporters in Monaco.

"It will be tight."

McLaren will also hope to continue in the mix after a run of four successive podium places, including Lando Norris's Miami victory and Australian driver Oscar Piastri's second place in Monaco.

"Our car has performed well at a few different types of circuits, but we know we might have our work cut out in Canada," Norris said.

As well as RB's Daniel Ricciardo, another Australian is set to join Piastri at the Canadian Grand Prix's first practice on Friday, with Alpine's reserve driver Jack Doohan to replace Esteban Ocon for the session. 

The 21-year-old Aussie has previously taken part in four F1 rookie free-practice sessions, most recently in Abu Dhabi at the end of last season.

Canada marks a return for Mercedes' seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton to the circuit where, in 2007 as a McLaren driver, he took the first of his 103 wins.

Aston Martin's Lance Stroll is the only Canadian in the race. He has yet to finish higher than ninth at his home-town circuit.

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