Dre’s Race Review: F1’s 2024 Canadian Grand Prix

Max Verstappen keeps a cool head as chaos reigned around him in a changable conditions thriller in Montreal. Dre on that and the beef between Daniel Ricciardo and Jacques Villeneuve.

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Dre Harrison Reviews



Read time: 11 mins

“Slippery Wicket.”

Man, did F1 need this. After Monaco was universally and correctly shat on from a great height by its audience for being a cure for insomnia, the sport headed back over the Atlantic for the last of its early North American rounds – The Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal. And with it, Max Verstappen had to survive the chaos of changeable conditions, pit strategy and a surprising comeback from the Silver Arrows to take career win number… 60. Good lord. Let’s make some sense of this, and the obvious Villeneuve vs Ricciardo beef that spilled out over the weekend.

Let me make this point first and foremost – This race was wild. Rain an hour out from the green meant a wet standing start but a track that was drying up quickly… but the urge to change to slicks was largely resisted with another heavy shower passing over the track around the third distance mark. Polesitter George Russell held off the early threat of Max Verstappen, mostly because an overtake attempt meant putting at least two wheels on much wetter tarmac, rendering late braking virtually impossible. 

It took 20 laps of a drying track before we saw the incredible extra pace that Lando Norris had in his locker, passing Verstappen and Russell with ease, and then ripping off two seconds a lap of advantage, the Brit clearly saving his intermediate tyres than pouncing when the time came. 

But the racing gods decided to take their pound of flesh from Miami, because despite Norris having a 10 second lead after just four laps of open running, Logan Sargeant spun into the inside wall at Turn 5 and forced a Safety Car just 200 metres before Lando was set to turn for the final chicane. The train of Verstappen, Russell and Piastri behind all came in for fresh Inters, and Norris lost all 10 of those seconds running behind the Safety Car before finally being able to come in and losing track position to Max. 

The decision that for me, defined the race started on Lap 44. Lewis Hamilton was the first of the leaders to blink and change to slicks (likely using Pierre Gasly, the true first man to gamble), and a couple of laps later, Verstappen and Russell changed to slicks to cover off Lewis. That worked out for them, but Norris kept going for two laps longer, thinking his worn Inters were still quicker and he could build up a gap as the slick changers lost time getting their tyres up to temperature on a cold track.

It didn’t quite happen, with Norris squirming on pit exit in a desperate attempt to get back onto the dry part of the track, as Verstappen sailed past. 

A lot of people were debating the nature of the call here, and whether this was the right move. My two cents? I think like Sochi 2021 all over again, I think Norris ran it one lap too far. I think he was still quicker on that penultimate lap before the pitstop and the extra second to get back across and park his car on the racing line might have been enough to hold off Verstappen or at least make him take a gamble by coming off the racing line to try and force a pass.

I can see the argument made that he lost so much time in that tyre heating phase (Around three seconds), that it ultimately wouldn’t have mattered, but I do at least applaud McLaren for having the balls to try something different to try and beat the dominant Red Bull. I’m not sure I’d be giving Lando the final call on tire changes when his team has the numbers, but I respect just how much faith they have in their star driver. That’s how the big teams have always done it, even if it didn’t work out on this occasion1.

I can’t believe this is getting a full segment on a DRR post but it’s become one of the biggest stories of the weekend so let’s try to make some sense of these two outspoken characters engaging in beef and what makes sense and what doesn’t in F1 and internet discourse.

Jacques Villeneuve; the 1997 F1 World Champion was hired by Sky Sports this week to be an on-air pundit for the race this past weekend alongside the usual motley crew. After practice, Villeneuve went for the jugular on Ricciardo’s status in the sport starting with the simple yet scorching question: “Why is he still here?”, making remarks on his marketing ability over his driving, about how he’s getting babied by having cars that need to be catered to him, and even going into his overall career and that he only beat Sebastian Vettel because he was burnt out in 2014. 

It’s led to a lot of internet discourse (mission accomplished), that has blurred the lines between punditry, biases, Ricciardo then and Ricciardo now and the messenger himself. Here’s my perspective on a lot of those angles. 

Is Ricciardo now cooked? It’s complicated. His comeback to AlphaTauri, now RB, has been a nightmare, but not for the reasons you might think. Ricciardo didn’t do himself any favours by returning from nowhere upon replacing Nyck De Vries and immediately made it public that he was gunning for Sergio Perez’s seat for 2025. He already had the most discussions about a third driver ever seen (Which Red Bull entertained on and off track), and then to have such a publicly acknowledged target was asking for trouble if it didn’t work out.

Then he suffered the metacarpal injury at Zandvoort on his third weekend back after trading pretty evenly with teammate Yuki Tsunoda. That opened the door for Liam Lawson to come in and largely impress, also trading well against Tsunoda on track straight away with a strong five-race sample size. It didn’t help Ricciardo either that he suffered some really bad luck when he eventually returned, including losing a rear wing in Brazil and picking up debris damage at COTA, to go alongside an outstanding Mexico weekend. 

This season, on face value, it doesn’t look good – Tsunoda is 7-2 up against Ricciardo in qualifying, but the average gap between them is one of the closest in the field, barely a tenth of a second. It’s far closer than the straight-counting stat shows. It’s the races where the damage is being done with Tsunoda 6-2 up (Even if Ricciardo’s won both Sprints), and with 19 points already this season, the Japanese driver being arguably the best midfielder in F1 this year, and rightly earning a contract extension.

Once you factor in previous narratives regarding both men, Tsunoda taking three years to find his footing in an umbrella that normally cuts people for a lot less (And his struggles against Pierre Gasly), and Ricciardo’s inconsistent form and horror show at McLaren, I can see how we’ve gotten to this point. Yes, Tsunoda has definitely been better in 2024, but I don’t think Ricciardo is a million miles behind either. But with a young, exciting driver like Lawson waiting in the wings, and in a sport desperate for fresh talent after teams have gotten more conservative in recent years, I can see why many fans are pushing for Ricciardo to be sat down permanently. 

Has Ricciardo always been this way? No. And this is where I think Villeneuve was out-of-pocket. I think you can form a very reasonable argument about Ricciardo’s ability based on everything from McLaren until now. But to say that he’s never been that good, for me, is just wrong. Like I said on X, it’s like trying to get to France via England but choosing to ignore the Eurotunnel. 

He got the Red Bull gig in 2014 in the first place by being better than Jean-Eric Vergne, another really solid driver who’s gone on to become one of Formula E’s best. I was covering F1 in 2014, and trust me, no one was giving Sebastian Vettel back then a benefit of the doubt for his poor season2. He’d just won four straight Championships, but many more cynical fans at the time attributed that success to Adrian Newey just as much as Seb. So for Ricciardo to come in and immediately beat him was like chum for a lot of the people who doubted how good Seb was. By the end of the year, Ricciardo was seen as a future star and the best of the rest behind the dominant Mercs. 

His time at Red Bull was outstanding. Seven wins, was Top 3 in the Championship twice, and almost certainly never had the best car in the field when he did it. And he was a fair adversary for Max Verstappen – Who even as young as 18 in that camp, was already a very good driver, having dispatched a far more experienced Carlos Sainz on the junior ladder and was good enough to immediately vindicate by most accounts, an early promotion into the factory team. Not to mention, his 2020 season at Renault was outstanding and still doesn’t get the appreciation it should have gotten. Two podiums, fifth in the Championship, a beating of a normally excellent Esteban Ocon, and seven Top 5 finishes.

This is what makes Villeneuve’s words move from fair to… somewhat lazy. He didn’t have to mention Ricciardo’s stronger past to make the point about him not being good enough to be on the grid anymore but only weakened his argument by doing so. It’s that past and his strong track record in the hybrid era that MADE teams take chances on him because we know what he’s been capable of. 

And yes, the marketing prowess of Ricciardo is doing heavier lifting than it ever has in F1 due to the fair questions about his ability, but it also needs to be said that F1 is political warfare and not a true meritocracy. Ricciardo for me has been the biggest winner in terms of marketability since its Drive to Survive boom period. He’s been regularly featured in series from the very start and had constant storylines crafted for him. It led to him getting other TV work, and appearances on other Podcasts like the Barstool network3 and it made him one of the few drivers on the grid with genuine crossover appeal. 

I know from good sources that his presence in RB was part of the reason they scored the VISA deal, a huge brand partnership for a team. There’s a value in that, especially with a team that has to justify its existence way more now Dietrich Mateschitz has passed away. When the balance sheets determine everything and you don’t have car sales to back you up as a product to sell to offset the books, drivers like Ricciardo become more valuable. That’s just a fact.

What’s led to all this talk? Well, Ricciardo’s a popular driver and Jacques has always been a firestarter. It’s not the first time he’s been critical of Ricciardo’s career, he’s just never done it on a TV broadcast with access to a whole load more people. It’s not just Jacques’ personality here in a vacuum, it’s what he represents. I’ve seen the tweets and had the discussions, and I’ve seen how sports media and discourse have changed in recent years. 

Sky knew what it was doing by having Jacques on its panel, it’s a direct clapback to the nature of having so many of the same pundits on their coverage for years. He’s not got to worry about who he’s going to piss off by being honest. We saw the consequences of that in 2022 when Red Bull boycotted Sky for the Mexico weekend when Ted Kravitz took a crack at them for saying Newey was the only reason they won4

Jacques represents the fans on X who dedicate their socials to debating the quality of drivers. The sports fan who’s fed up with the status quo, where it’s all gotten a bit too safe lately. It’s no coincidence that TV networks have gone down a more personality-led, debatable format in recent years. Roy Keane, Gary Neville, Micah Richards and Jamie Carragher in football, stateside with Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith, Shannon Sharpe and a FLEET of former athletes breaking into media and podcasts like Draymond Green, the Manning Brothers, Paul George and now even LeBron James is a podcaster. The athletes are changing the rules of engagement in real-time.

In an F1 sporting environment where stagnation is quickly being shunned on and off the track, is it any wonder that Jacques giving it the big one has incited an emotional response from so many people? For many, this is what they want sports discourse to be. The divisive former World Champion turned media personality fired a torpedo at the divisive driver and personality. This is how sports are played on and off the field these days. It’s been that way for a while. Better get used to it.

PS: I saw Daniel’s response after qualifying fifth in Canada. As much as I understand the urge to respond to someone you think is shit-talking you… talking about the man potentially having head injuries as sports only now has just begun to scratch that surface in terms of the potential damage involved, isn’t cool with me. But again, sports be like that sometimes. 

It won’t get the credit it deserves, but Verstappen’s final restart lap was sensational to get that second and a half in hand. It looked like Red Bull was just better on the mediums late on anyway, but to just take any chance of a Norris counter-attack off the table immediately was superb. 

You missed it. You love it. The Honse is back and he’s alive and well. Ferrari were nowhere this weekend. Even discounting all the wet weather chaos, they had a horrible weekend. Talks of another braking imbalance after FP3, trying to make it into Q3 on used slicks and failing miserably as both cars finished outside the Top 10. Then Charles Leclerc has an engine issue that effectively ends his race, and Carlos Sainz makes nearly zero ground in the midfield before spinning out and taking Alex Albon with him5. Unacceptable for a team in genuine contention and is now 50 points back in both Championships.

Consider this a bold statement – Red Bull do not care about the Constructors Championship. Because if they did, they wouldn’t have signed Sergio Perez to another two year extension off the back of his third horrible weekend in a row. This is 2023 all over again, only this time the stakes are much higher because the opposition are a LOT closer. I get the argument that you want to keep things consistent and Checo is a known quantity, but last year proved that he was your biggest weakness by a mile and left your team ripe for exploitation due to the cars he was leaving between himself and Max. Max is brilliant, easily the best driver in the world right now and he continues to make the difference. Perez will cost Red Bull a constructor’s title if this keeps up, like he did in 2021. 

I love that even on Alpine’s best result of the year, a double points finish with P9 and 10, there’s more team orders drama as Pierre Gasly didn’t give a place back to Esteban Ocon after the latter stepped aside with a small power-unit issue. Having seen the post-race interviews, it looks like the internal politics are getting rather ugly over there. 

How can you not appreciate Kevin Magnussen, F1’s agent of chaos? That Extreme Wet start and him carving through the field early on and getting into the Top 5 before being yanked out for Inters at the wrong time was incredibly fun to watch. Gets Haas some good screen time too. Shame they weren’t rewarded for it as more points were just a few feet away at the line. I do wonder though if Esteban’s about to take his seat…

Alex Albon just wrapped up F1’s overtake of the year. To find the gap between Ricciardo and Ocon like Edo Mortara did in Formula E in Diriyah a few years back was absolutely sensational racecraft. 

That’s Max’s 50th win since 2021 started, 75 starts ago. That’s a two-thirds wins rate. And he’s had fair competition for 2021, half of 2022 and a fair bit this year too. It’s outrageous.

  1. Where was this “shouldawouldacoulda” when Max was arguably robbed in Miami I wonder? ↩︎
  2. The only person who’s getting that benefit of the doubt for a departing season is Lewis, and having an enormous fanbase gives off a more defensive impression about him. Seb never had that privlege in 2014. ↩︎
  3. Reminder: Barstool is owned by a racist. Fuck Barstool and those who are fans of them. ↩︎
  4. And yes, I’m one of the minority journos here that completely understood why Red Bull didn’t want to talk to Sky that weekend. It was an insult to the 1,000+ members of that team and Kravitz knew exactly what he was doing. F1 Twitter twerked for a Matthew Syed column that weekend. Ew. ↩︎
  5. Poor James Vowles, finally letting the cat out of the bag and admitting Carlos Sainz is a World Class driver and #1 target… as the man himself spins out from outside of the points and takes Albon with him. In the words of Killmonger, is this your king? ↩︎

About the Author:

Dre Harrison

Somehow can now call himself a Production Coordinator at the Motorsport Network, coming off the back of being part of the awkward Johto Era at WTF1. All off a University Project that went massively out of hand. Weird huh?

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