Monegasque Formula One driver Charles Leclerc and Ferrari face a bumpy ride over the weekend at the Canadian Grand Prix as the team continues to face reliability issues.
As Formula One returns to the challenging Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the first time in three years, it will be the 24-year-old under most pressure – and probably with much sympathy from a knowledgeable crowd – as he seeks to end a recent run of cruel luck.
Despite taking pole position at the last four races, Leclerc has not won since the third race of the season in Melbourne, six races ago.
Engine failures and strategy mistakes have been seen his early lead in the championship become a 34-point deficit.
World champion Max Verstappen, who led Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez home in a commanding one-two in Baku last Sunday, has five wins and 150 points.
He leads Perez, who won in Monaco, on 129 and the luckless Leclerc, winner of the two other races this year, on 116.
Leclerc is set to take a new power unit this Sunday.
After eight successive points finishes, Mercedes new boy George Russell is fourth ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who has also endured the Italian team’s reliability difficulties.
Another successful weekend for Red Bull could put it in a dominant position in both championships, but team chief Christian Horner warned against complacency and forecast that Ferrari will bounce back into contention.
“They have a very fast car,” he said. “Certainly on a Saturday. On Sundays, we have been their equal this year, at most races. And they will sort their problems out – I’ve no doubt about that.
“There is a long way to go and we’ve seen big swings in points over the last four or five races. It shows how quickly things can turn.”
‘Sore and bruised’
Like Leclerc, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton will also be seeking a revival at a circuit where he has won a record seven times, having claimed his maiden race victory at the Canadian Grand Prix in 2007.
He confirmed this week that despite the acute back pain he suffered on his way to fourth Sunday, he is ready to race again on another notoriously fast and often bumpy circuit.
The seven-time champion is sixth behind Sainz in the title race on 62 points and without a win this season, but has pledged to battle on.
“Sunday was tough and I had some problems sleeping, but have woken up feeling positive,” he said in a social media post.
“Back is a little sore and bruised, but nothing serious, thankfully.”
He added that he had had acupuncture and physio to ease the problem, exacerbated by the violent “porpoising” and bouncing of his car.
“We have to keep fighting,” he added. “I’ll be there this weekend – I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Hamilton’s complaints about “porpoising” were supported by many drivers following last Sunday’s contest, including Leclerc, Verstappen, Sainz, Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri, Russell and Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas.
All want to see action taken to reform the radical aerodynamic rules on health and safety grounds.
Horner risked much wrath and controversy by suggesting that Mercedes had sought to make a big issue of the problems as “part of the game” as quoted by The Race.
Russell responded by rejecting Horner’s claims.
“You’ve either got porpoising and the car is hitting the ground or you have to run the car millimeters above the ground and you’re smashing the bumps.
“So, whichever way you’ve got it, it’s not great for anyone. Something will happen. There’s no doubt about it.”