F1 2022 Canadian GP: 7 things we learnt in Montreal

Published: 20 June 2022

► Another Verstappen win
► Sainz chases him all the way
► A Hamilton podium

F1 last raced around the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve in 2019, and a lot has changed since then. It’s Red Bull –  not Mercedes in charge in 2022 – with Max taking yet another win and extending his championship lead to 49 points. He was chased throughout the race by the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz – the lead Ferrari after Leclerc’s engine penalties. Finally, there was also another flash of progress for Mercedes, with a 3rd and 4th from Hamilton and Russell. But what else happened, and what were the narratives from F1’s long overdue visit to Montreal.

1. Ferrari drops the ball again 

Aside from some poor risk management in Imola, Charles Leclerc hasn’t really put a foot wrong this season – but his team certainly has. The Monegasque retired from the lead in both Baku and Spain, and this week there was yet more pain; Ferrari had to replace components in PU, sending him to the back of the grid.

In the end, Leclerc was able to salvage an 5th place and 10 points from Canada (despite a terrible pit stop) but he saw the gap to Verstappen increase to 49 points.

Even without Verstappen’s performance this weekend, you can’t help but feel it’s Red Bull championship now – and Ferrari partly gave it to them. After all, Leclerc’s engine woes are only going to get worse; using this many components this early spells pain later in the season.

2. Alonso is still on fire

Fernando Alonso may be the oldest driver on the grid, but he’s still one of the most motivated. The double-world champion put it on P2 on Saturday, using all his experience to drag even more pace from his Alpine in drying conditions, and he fought hard in the race too. Too hard, according to the FIA. 

Alonso was handed a five second penalty after weaving several times on the straight when defending from Bottas. And after the race, he was shown to be smashing his steering wheel in frustration – partly because of an engine issue later in the race. Say what you want about Alonso, but the passion is still there. 

3. Mercedes is back (again) 

Mercedes came to Montreal with several possible fixes, including a huge cut in the floor and additional stays. None of the tweaks worked as expected on the Friday and things looked equally gloomy on Saturday – but changeable conditions meant Hamilton was able to drag the Mercedes up to fourth place.

In the race, despite differing setups, both Mercedes cars had good pace – even matching the top two cars at points. It looks as though the team is now more focused on learnings for the W14, but this season could still yield success. The W13’s bouncing – not porpoising – seems to stem from uneven street tracks; just about two thirds of the season so far. With Silverstone and other purpose-built tracks on the horizon, we could see the W13 back to Barcelona pace later in the year. 

4. Carlos Sainz so close, again

What do Carlos Sainz and Valterri Bottas have in common? Along with searing pace and consistency, they both seem to lack that last 0.05% that the likes of Verstappen, Hamilton and Leclerc have. It was evident on Saturday, when Carlos Sainz was jumped by Alonso in an inferior car, and more noticeable in the last ten laps of the race.

Despite a tyre advantage and good pace, Sainz never really looked menacing like a Leclerc, Hamilton or even a Ricciardo would. There were no lunges, no aborted overtakes, just a quiet constant pressure that a now battle-honed Verstappen was able to metronomically keep at bay. A full year of battling with Hamilton will make you impervious to challenges like Sainz’s on Sunday.

Still, Carlos Sainz played a better support role for Leclerc than Perez did for Verstappen.

5. Sergio’s weekend to forget

Perez seems to have made a step up in performance this year but he struggled in the wet qualifying. After locking up on a set of ambitiously-chosen Intermediate tyres, Perez buried it into the wall – only to venture through the undergrowth to get back to the grid. 

A hydraulic failure meant the Mexican wasn’t able to claw his way up the field on Sunday, and was also a reminder that it’s not just Ferrari that needs to keep an eye on reliability. Winning races is good, but finishing them is equally important

6. A false dawn for Aston Martin

Gaydon’s Red Bull 2.0 looked racy in Vettel’s hands throughout the first three practices, but somehow that pace disappeared when it mattered. The four-time world champion didn’t make it to Q2, and things weren’t better for his teammate Stroll – this week racing in front of a home crowd. It’ll be something to look at between now and Silverstone.

Still, the race provided a glimmer of hope, Stroll was able to keep several cars behind throughout the race, and keep his cool doing so. 

7. Russell the witch

George Russell has consistently proven why he was taken on by Mercedes this year, producing solid performances at every race. His consistency means he’s just 15 points behind Leclerc, and he remains the only driver to finish in the top 5 in every race. But some of that record, is down to his uncanny ability to benefit from a VSC. 

Let’s get one thing clear: George has been able to profit from VSCs and Safety Cars because he’s worked for the opportunity, constantly putting himself in the pound seats with strong race craft – but at this point you have to wonder if he’s got otherworldly abilities. 

The Englishman has consistently got the luck of the draw in 2022 (it’s even enabled him to finish ahead of Hamilton a few times throughout the year) and a VSC offered him yet another helping hand to keep Leclerc and the Alpines at bay.  

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast