As the 2024 Formula 1 season resumes with the prospect of a genuine title race to enjoy over the summer months, Sky Sports F1 analyse the major talking points ahead of this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.

After a couple of races in Europe, F1 briefly crosses the Atlantic Ocean once more before five races in six weeks follow on the continent ahead of the summer break.

With three drivers from different teams having shared victories over the last three races, it’s been a long time since an F1 weekend has been so hotly anticipated.

There have also been major developments within the driver market since the Monaco Grand Prix with the 2025 grid starting to take shape, but many questions remain ahead of Thursday’s media day in Canada.

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve provides the perfect venue, with some of the best and most passionate F1 fans in the world sure to create a brilliant atmosphere on a weekend where the weather appears likely to add to the drama.

Can Ferrari, McLaren maintain Red Bull challenge?

McLaren’s Lando Norris beat Max Verstappen in Miami to claim his maiden F1 victory, and then very nearly made it two in a row as the Red Bull driver just about held on for victory in Imola two weeks later.

Ferrari then hit back in Monaco as Charles Leclerc finally triumphed at his home race and ended a near two-year winless streak that had built amid Verstappen’s dominance.

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Charles Leclerc lifts the curse of winning in his home town of Monaco

Verstappen’s lead over Leclerc at the top of the drivers’ standings is down to 31 points, and Ferrari have closed to within 24 points of Red Bull at the top of the Constructors’ Championship.

Four wins in the first five races appeared to have set Verstappen on a straightforward path to a fourth successive title, but the narrowing of Red Bull’s advantage over recent weeks has created real jeopardy for the reigning champions.

While many expect Verstappen to still have the upper hand on some of the more traditional circuits coming up on the calendar, the kerbs and slow corners in Canada are expected to reveal the same weaknesses that saw Red Bull struggle in Monaco.

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Ferrari continue their celebrations by jumping in the harbour after their victory in the Monaco Grand Prix

McLaren have been extremely consistent since bringing a huge raft of upgrades to Miami and are almost certain to be in the mix, while it remains to be seen whether Ferrari have solved a battery deployment issue that hampered them in Imola but was never likely to harm their chances at relatively slow speeds of Monaco.

Unlike in the principality, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve also possesses long straights and overtaking opportunities that should ensure a hugely entertaining Sunday.

The competitive picture promises to be thrilling in dry conditions, but the weekend could be made even more unpredictable by a forecast currently suggesting rain could fall on all three days of track action.

Will Perez extension further calm Red Bull storm?

Despite having successively delivered two very poor weekends, the solid start Sergio Perez made to the season before that has proven enough to earn him a two-year contract extension at Red Bull.

The deal ends speculation over who will drive alongside Max Verstappen next year and closes off the final available seat in which a driver can reasonably expect to compete for the 2025 drivers’ title.

While commercial factors – as with any driver deal – were undoubtedly a consideration in Red Bull re-signing Perez, with the Mexican hugely popular in and beyond the Latin American market, the biggest factor in the decision is surely the happiness of Verstappen.

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Sky Sports News’ Craig Slater explains how the news of Sergio Perez’s two-year contract extension at Red Bull impacts the Formula One driver market

Despite being officially contracted to Red Bull until the end of 2028, Verstappen leaving before that date has become a realistic possibility amid unrest at the top of the team, rivals closing in on track, and a looming change of regulations in 2026.

While the relationship between Verstappen and Perez hasn’t always been perfect, there has been very minimal friction for a long period of time, and keeping him would appear unlikely to upset the Dutchman or his advisors.

The most realistic alternative was Carlos Sainz, but Red Bull would have risked irking the Verstappen re-forming a pairing that experienced tension when driving together for Toro Rosso in 2015 and 2016.

While keeping Perez ensures Red Bull remain with the weakest driver at any of the top teams, Christian Horner will hope that in doing so he is significantly boosting his chances of keeping the sport’s top driver for the foreseeable future.

As for Sainz, with Red Bull off the table, Williams and Sauber appear to be the only realistic 2025 options for the outgoing Ferrari driver.

Hamilton gets new part after cryptic Monaco comments

Hoping to gatecrash the battle for race victories are Mercedes, but barring something very dramatic happening with the weather, Canada is likely coming too soon for such hopes to be realistic.

The new front wing that George Russell used in Monaco will now be on Lewis Hamilton’s car too, and Canada will provide a far better measuring stick for the part’s impact than Monaco could.

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Following the Monaco GP Qualifying, Lewis Hamilton expressed his confusion over his performance in qualifying compared to practice

The use of the part, of which only one was ready in time for Monaco, appeared to factor into some quite strange comments Hamilton made to Sky Sports F1 after Qualifying, when he said that he doesn’t anticipate beating Russell over one lap on any occasion for the remainder of the year.

The somewhat cryptic comments, which came with Hamilton 7-1 down to Russell in Qualifying this season, appeared to be the first real signs of tension growing between Hamilton and Mercedes during his final season before joining Ferrari.

Mercedes insisted that Hamilton had not wanted to run the new front wing and was happy for Russell to do so, but the seven-time world champion appears to be suspicious of Russell, who will remain with the team next season, receiving preferential treatment.

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Speaking on the Sky Sports F1 Podcast, David Croft and Simon Lazen discuss if discuss if Carlos Sainz is frustrated about losing his seat to Lewis Hamilton

With 16 races still to come, Mercedes remain hopeful of bringing upgrades that can enable them to close the gap to Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren, but any feuding within the team could stifle progress.

It will therefore be fascinating to see how Hamilton chooses to handle the situation when he is inevitably asked about his comments at some point on Thursday.

How will Ocon cope with Alpine exit?

The other big development in the driver market to have happened since Monaco was confirmation from Alpine that Esteban Ocon will leave the team at the end of the season.

The parting, presented as a mutual decision, follows Ocon crashing into team-mate Pierre Gasly on the opening lap of the Monaco Grand Prix, after which team boss Bruno Famin promised there would be “consequences”.

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A look back on all the times Alpine driver Esteban Ocon has been involved in a collision with his team-mate

Ocon retired as a result of the collision but was given a five-place grid penalty that he will serve in Canada, leaving him with little hope of scoring points.

It is therefore unsurprising that Alpine have chosen to use this weekend to allow reserve driver Jack Doohan to fulfil one of the team’s two obligated young driver practice sessions for the season.

While Ocon has apologised for causing the Monaco incident, the fact that he is now confirmed to be leaving at the end of the season is unlikely to totally diffuse the tension between him and Gasly.

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Speaking on the Sky Sports F1 Podcast, David Croft and Simon Lazenby explain the reasons for Esteban Ocon’s departure from Alpine at the end of the season

Ocon’s departure wasn’t the only news to emerge in what has been a catastrophic campaign for the Enstone squad, with veteran operations director Rob White becoming the latest senior figure at the team to be sacked.

Famin remains faced with a huge task to turn things around at Alpine, but merely keeping the peace for the rest of 2024 could prove challenging.

Sky Sports F1’s live Canadian GP schedule

Thursday June 6
7.30pm: Drivers’ Press Conference

Friday June 7
6pm: Canadian GP Practice One (session starts at 6.30pm)
8pm: The F1 Show
9.45pm: Canadian GP Practice Two (session starts at 10pm)

Montreal hosts the ninth round of the 2024 F1 season with the Canadian Grand Prix
Image:
Montreal hosts the ninth round of the 2024 F1 season with the Canadian Grand Prix

Saturday June 8
5.15pm: Canadian GP Practice Three (session starts at 5.30pm)
8pm: Canadian GP Qualifying build-up
9pm: Canadian GP Qualifying
11pm: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook

Sunday June 9
5.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday – Canadian GP build-up
7pm: THE CANADIAN GRAND PRIX
9pm: Chequered Flag – Canadian GP reaction
10pm: Ted’s Notebook

Formula 1 leaves Europe for the final time before the summer break as the championship moves on to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix. Watch every session at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve this weekend live on Sky Sports F1, with Sunday’s race at 7pm. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – No contract, cancel anytime