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Canadian GP takeaways: Safety car costs Norris, Ferrari's momentum halted

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We offer our takeaways following each race weekend this year and continue the 2024 schedule with the Canadian GP.

Moments that decided the race 👀

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Norris on opposite end of safety car luck

"What goes around comes around."

Those are the words Red Bull race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase told Max Verstappen as the reigning world champion came out ahead of Lando Norris during a safety car on Lap 27. While the safety car in Miami helped Norris secure his first Formula 1 victory, the McLaren driver had no such luck in Montreal.

Prior to the safety car's arrival, which was triggered by Logan Sargeant, Norris found himself with a seven-plus second advantage over Verstappen for the race lead. Like in recent races, the McLaren looked quick, especially in the crossover period between a wet and dry track. Norris not only cleared Verstappen on merit but also George Russell, the then-race leader.

But in the blink of an eye, Norris' lead was wiped away with a terribly timed safety car. While his rivals were able to pit on Lap 26, Norris had to wait until Lap 27. By catching the safety car, his window to come out ahead shrunk. The British driver was roughly 30 seconds ahead of his Red Bull rival, but that decreased to just over 17 seconds after he caught the back of the safety car. That simply wasn't enough to pit and keep his lead. He exited out of the pits behind both Verstappen and Russell.

Whether that cost Norris a surefire victory is impossible to say. The 2024 Canadian Grand Prix produced many unexpected twists and turns, including five retirements, multiple off-track excursions by drivers, and a thrilling strategy battle between the front-running teams. The McLaren also didn't seem to have the same pace in the final stages of the race on the medium tire as it did earlier on the intermediates.

At the conclusion, it was Verstappen who took the checkered flag with Norris just 3.8 seconds behind him. Still, McLaren should hang its head high after recording three straight second-place finishes since its Miami win.

"It helped me out in Miami, so I'm not going to be the one to complain. It happens - that's racing sometimes," Norris said after the race.

Russell loses his focus

Montreal was starting to look like the light at the end of the tunnel for Mercedes. Both Russell and Lewis Hamilton had all the car upgrades implemented, including a new front wing. Russell was starting from pole position and managed to fend off Verstappen in the opening 20 laps amid heavy rain. Even after losing P1, Russell continued to put pressure on both Norris and Verstappen, with the top three constantly swapping positions.

It all went downhill during Lap 51. At Turn 9, Russell took the curb too wide and ended up in runoff area, allowing Norris to fly by. He then got overly ambitious hunting down Oscar Piastri on Lap 63, causing contact and dropping him down to P5. While Russell ultimately finished P3, it was only the second time in the last eight Canadian GPs that the driver who took pole didn't win the race.

While the Silver Arrows' upgrades have shown the cars' upward development, Russell's mental lapse proved to be a wasted opportunity. His overtake on Hamilton to regain a podium position on Lap 68 demonstrated his skill, but Russell shouldn't have been in that low of a position to make the move necessary. To continue Mercedes' upward trajectory, Russell needs to stay even-keeled and minimize late race mistakes.

Ferrari's Montreal nightmare


After helping Charles Leclerc obtain his first Monaco victory, Ferrari grabbed a few more firsts in Canada, though none of the kind any team would want.

The trip to Canada resulted in the first time both Ferrari drivers failed to make Q3 since Spa in 2021. It was also the first time the team went pointless in a race since Australia 2023, and the first time both drivers retired in a race since Baku in 2022.

It was a disappointing effort from the Scuderia, who came to the circuit Gilles Villeneuve with momentum on its side. Just 24 points off Red Bull and with Leclerc only 31 off Verstappen, optimism brewed that the team's Imola upgrade package could deliver a constructors' championship fight.

While Ferrari is no stranger to disappointment, no one could have expected what happened in Montreal. The SF-24 never looked comfortable on the repaved track, leading to a shocking Q2 exit for both drivers. Leclerc was then in for a race straight out of his nightmares as he struggled with a serious engine issue at the start before the team attempted to solve the issue by resetting his car in a pit stop. At the same time, Ferrari elected to gamble by equipping Leclerc with hard tires despite rain being forecast.

The good news? The reset seemed to have worked. The bad news? The tire decision went as well as one could imagine as Leclerc tiptoed around the circuit, even getting lapped by Verstappen in the process.

Eventually, the pit wall made the decision to pitifully let Leclerc off the hook and retire the car. Carlos Sainz would follow his teammate into the garage after spinning out later in the race.

Chalk this one up as a weekend to forget for Ferrari.

Driver of the Day 🙌

Bryn Lennon - Formula 1 / Formula 1 / Getty

Lewis Hamilton: It's not been an easy season for Hamilton. For the first time in his 18-year career, he hasn't been in the top five in the opening eight Grand Prix. After qualifying P7, Hamilton took advantage of Mercedes' upgrades and successfully battled both his competitors and the elements to move up three spots to P4. It's his highest finish since his second-place podium in Mexico last season.

Although Hamilton said this iteration of the Canadian GP was "one of the worst races (he'd) driven," he's an expert on staying collected and not making major tactical errors. The Brit still managed to snag the fastest lap and consistently showed throughout the weekend that he was one of the fastest on the grid.

What were they thinking? 🤔

Ferrari made this easy on us with its decision to fit a set of hard, slick tires on Leclerc's car with rain all around the circuit. While the Maranello-based team had essentially nothing to lose with Leclerc running in the bottom half of the field due to an engine issue, it still seemed like a bit of an ill-advised gamble in the cost-cap era. Any collision or impact with the wall could have been very costly, thus potentially threatening Ferrari's budget in what is shaping up to be a very competitive fight with McLaren and Red Bull in the standings.

They said what? 🗣️

Ocon on Alpine team orders to let Gasly overtake him to pursue Ricciardo: "The orders should be reversed on that occasion. I got the instructions to let Pierre pass with two laps to go to catch Daniel, who was two-and-a-half seconds in front and too fast for us, so the call made no sense. I've done my part of the job which is to be a team player. I've always respected the instructions I've been given. It's always been the case, and I've never done anything different in my career. But I've done my part of the job, but not the team. It is very sad."

Toto Wolff on teams closing gap to Red Bull: "The last few races were more difficult for them. I think everybody has been making good steps forward. Today, there was two or three teams that could have potentially won the race - maybe (us) not quite. I don't know that they've made a step backwards, but the most important thing is (the gap is) shrinking."

Christian Horner on Sergio Perez's DNF: "It was a horrible weekend for Checo, and obviously, he picked up some damage. He'll need to come back strong in Barcelona. Thankfully, Ferrari had a shocker today and didn't get any points, and that let us off the hook somewhat. We need both cars scoring. We got away with it today."

What's next?

F1 takes the next week off to travel back to Europe ahead of the Spanish GP on June 23 at 9 a.m. ET.

Hamilton won five straight races at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya before Verstappen claimed the last two. Mercedes and Red Bull have combined to win the last 10 Spanish GPs.

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