What we learned from the 2024 Canadian GP

Max Verstappen send a clear message to his rivals about the standard they need to hit, whilst Mercedes send a clear message to Lewis Hamilton too...

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Max Verstappen returned to the top step of the podium after a terrible 2024 Monaco Grand Prix with an impressive victory at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Canada and as ever, many lessons were learned surrounding Ferrari and Mercedes in particular.

Red Bull only obtained the lead of the race in Montreal from Lap 26, although the defending world champion was never far away from the picture at all as he hounded George Russell and Lando Norris for much of the race.

However, when he took the lead after McLaren were caught out by the safety car’s location, in a sense of poetic justice from the Miami GP, he never relinquished it again proving the level he’s currently driving at on a weekend when Red Bull had the second fastest car.

He only had one hiccup throughout the entire 70 laps, which was when he locked up into Turn 1 but from that onwards, he was his usual, unrelenting self that doesn’t give any of his rivals a second to breathe on the track.

The 26-year-old used all of his talent to remain mistake-free and grind out his 60th career win in a drive that Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso became synonymous with through the 2000s and 2010s.

Mercedes are fighting back

A first pole position in over a year and a first podium since the 2023 Abu Dhabi GP meant that this was by far the best result of the season for Toto Wolff‘s Mercedes team after they introduced some upgrades over recent weeks.

After putting Mick Schumacher through the paces in a private test as they looked to get on top of simulation issues that have hamstringed their development plans since 2022, the Silver Arrows finally appeared to be putting an upgrade on the car and having it work as they expected it to.

That’s not a good sign for Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren, with Norris already saying it means their constructors’ championship bid would get significantly harder with eight cars in the mix at the front of the pack.

After seeming to be cautious with their upgrades until now, the team that won every constructors’ championship between 2014-2021 has already confirmed an aggressive upgrade plan is due to commence, which will start at the 2024 Spanish GP.

Mercedes are fighting back and that will be incredibly healthy for Formula 1, but just how long will it take for them to get genuinely into the mix for race wins once again? On traditional circuits, Red Bull still appear to have an advantage over the pack but at street tracks, Russell and Lewis Hamilton‘s team are close by…

Ferrari aren’t ready for titles… Yet.

It cannot be understated what an excellent job Fred Vasseur has done at Ferrari since inheriting the team from Mattia Binotto as they’re now really close to dragging Max Verstappen and Red Bull into a genuine title fight.

However, it’s one thing to dream of a title bid and another to actually be doing it and it seems as though it is one step too far at the moment. Charles Leclerc and his team came into the Canadian GP after winning his first and their second race of the season but it all went wrong in Montreal.

A shocking qualifying session, in which they could not get the tyres to work at all, saw Leclerc and Carlos Sainz both dumped out in Q2. On Sunday, they converted it into a double DNF, although their race pace wasn’t anywhere really.

DNFs do happen, that’s a part of the sport, but operationally they were not at the proverbial races from Friday through to Sunday. A poor set-up put their drivers on the backfoot and that was only made worse by reliability issues and baffling strategic decisions too.

For all of Vasseur‘s progress with them, that was more like the Ferrari of 2019-2022 that became ridiculed for failing to get the basics right, and it does mean they’re not ready to truly duel Verstappen just yet, who managed to win despite an imperfect weekend.

With Hamilton on the way from 2025, could the seven-time world champion give the Italians the crucial pointers they need in order to ensure they’re hitting every race weekend running, with nothing left on the table?

Carlos Sainz in action at the 2024 Canadian GP | Ferrari
Carlos Sainz in action at the 2024 Canadian GP | Ferrari

The passing of the guard has happened at Mercedes

When Russell got tangled up in an overtake with Oscar Piastri into the final chicane, had to bail out and dropped to fourth behind Lewis Hamilton, it seemed as though the 39-year-old would inherit Mercedes‘ first podium of the year.

But his younger rival, who will become team leader from 2025, had no plans to allow that as he came back at the 103-time race winner with a bold dive up the inside at Turn 12 and 13 on the penultimate lap before managing to fend him off to the chequered flag.

Whilst it was a brave move and certainly one for Russell‘s YouTube highlights reel, it was a far more symbolic moment at Mercedes too. It represented the changing of the guard. At last season’s Singapore GP, Toto Wolff did not want to risk swapping the cars with serious stakes on the line, even if one driver seemed to be vastly faster, but that was not the case in Canada.

All the 26-year-old 2022 Brazilian GP was told to do was to keep it clean when he decided to go past, proving it’s clear that Hamilton is no longer top dog in the Silver Arrows.

Ironically, the two of them fighting each other probably cost Mercedes a double-podium in the end as they finished just half a second and 1.1 seconds behind Lando Norris’ McLaren at the line.

Brandon Sutton
Brandon is an alumni of an NCTJ and BJTC Liverpool John Moores University course, and has been with Total-Motorsport.com for over a year now. He enjoys covering all forms of motorsport but particularly focuses on Formula 1, and Brandon loves to debate various topics of the sport and other interests, especially if that topic doesn't have an open/shut answer such as the GOAT debate.
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