Max Verstappen can deliver Red Bull’s 100th Formula 1 victory at this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal and step up alongside the late Brazilian great Ayrton Senna with a career haul of 41 wins.
Whether anyone can prevent the dominant team and driver running away with the race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a subject of some debate.
Dutch double F1 World Champion Verstappen has won five of seven races so far this season and is chasing a fourth in a row to stretch his already yawning 53 point lead over Mexican teammate Sergio Perez. Red Bull have won 23 of the last 26 races, and 17 of the last 18, and will be only the fifth constructor to hit 100.
Verstappen won last year in Canada from pole position ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time F1 World Champion who has won a record-equalling seven times there, the other driver to do so being German Legend Michael Schumacher.
“Of course, last year’s win is still in my mind so hopefully we can do something similar this weekend,” said Verstappen.
Perez has only once stood on the podium in Montreal, a third place with Sauber in 2012. Last year the Mexican retired with a gearbox failure.
“I have been in Milton Keynes since the Spanish GP, working hard with my team and we have put in a lot of good work and had some very constructive conversations,” said Perez.
The Mexican’s form has suffered two big blows of late, with 16th in Monaco and fourth in Spain, after a strong start to the campaign: “I must be massively consistent in Montreal and have a complete weekend.”
Who can stop Verstappen’s quest for a F1 triple?
Beyond Red Bull, Hamilton has every chance of being on the podium at the circuit where he took his first win as a rookie in 2007 but team boss Toto Wolff has cautioned against expecting too much.
“With its long straights and low-speed corners, it’s not a track that we expect to suit our car as well as Barcelona did,” said the Austrian.
The circuit is hard on brakes but offers good overtaking possibilities.
Hamilton is also making headlines as fans wait for him to sign a new deal with Mercedes, something that appears to be imminent.
“It is going to happen soon, and we are talking more days than weeks,” Wolff told CNBC.
Mercedes overtook Aston Martin for second place in the F1 Constructors’ Standings after Spain, where they were Red Bull’s closest rivals. Aston Martin are bringing upgrades and sounding confident for what will be a home race for owner Lawrence Stroll and driver son Lance.
Stroll senior told Reuters in New York that he was hoping his son, who would be the first Canadian on the home podium since Jacques Villeneuve in 1996, and Fernando Alonso could both finish in the top three.
Alonso, with five podiums so far since joining Aston Martin at the end of last season is back on form and looking like the best of the rest.
Ferrari received a morale boost last weekend when they won the Le Mans 24 Hours and enjoyed a strong weekend in Montreal last year.
“Ferrari has always enjoyed plenty of support in Canada and we hope to deliver a strong performance for our tifosi this weekend,” said team boss Fred Vasseur. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)