Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc (right) walks through the paddock of the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix on Thursday. Image Credit: AP

Montreal: Charles Leclerc is expecting another bumpy ride this weekend as he bids to put Ferrari’s reliability problems behind him and re-boot his title challenge at the Canadian Grand Prix.

As Formula One returns to the challenging Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the first time in three years, it will be the 24-year-old Monegasque 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.

Leclerc new
Ferrari engineers with Charles Leclerc's car ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix. Image Credit: Reuters

Engine failures and strategy mistakes have 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.

New power unit

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 them 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.

‘Sore and bruised’

“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.”

Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after winning the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku. The victory has enabled the world champion to increase his lead with 150 points. Image Credit: Reuters

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.”

Complaints of porpoising

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.

Part of the game

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 millimetres 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.”

FIA to intervene on safety

However, Formula One’s ruling body on Thursday said it has taken medical advice and will intervene on safety grounds, “taking steps” to reduce the ‘porpoising’ that has left many drivers in pain this season.

The International Motoring Federation (FIA) announced its intentions as teams and drivers arrived in Montreal ahead of this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, to be raced on another bumpy, fast and potentially dangerous hybrid street circuit.

While the statement is expected to be welcomed, it is unlikely to satisfy the teams and drivers or result in the overhaul being called for by those that have suffered pain and loss of performance most.

Physical impact

“The FIA has decided to intervene following consultation with its doctors in the interests of safety of the drivers,” said the statement.

“In a sport where the competitors are routinely driving at speeds in excess of 300km/h, it is considered that all of a driver’s concentration needs to be focused on that task and that excessive fatigue or pain experienced by a driver could have significant consequences should it result in a loss of concentration.

“In addition, the FIA has concerns in relation to the immediate physical impact on the health of the drivers, a number of whom have reported back pain following recent events.”