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Leclerc confident but avoiding title talk

Charles Leclerc will seek to build on his flawless, if emotional, triumph for Ferrari at the Monaco Grand Prix with another valuable victory in this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix. 

But the 26-year-old Monegasque driver, who dominated in Monte Carlo by taking pole position and then controlling a processional race, has been quick to keep expectations under control and avoided talk of a title bid after only eight rounds of this year’s record 24-race season. 

“We shouldn’t get carried away,” he said, retaining his measured approach. “Obviously, Monaco is such a specific track and I think we had a really good car there. 

“It doesn’t mean it will stay that way until the end of the year, but looking back I think we have done a good job maximising the races we have done. 

“For now, 31 points is ok, but I don’t think about the championship. It’s too early in the season. We have more to improve and little by little we can get there.”

Leclerc’s Monaco win was Ferrari’s second this year, following Carlos Sainz’s success in Australia, and delighted the ‘tifosi’ who are desperate to see the Italian outfit enjoy sustained success again and end Max Verstappen and Red Bull’s run of supremacy. 

The three-time world champion struggled again in Monaco, particularly over the kerbs, and may face similar challenges at the fast and demanding Circuit Gilles Villeneve, which mixes street track characteristics with high-speed open circuit sections. 

“I have been with the team and in the simulator preparing for this race,” said Verstappen. “It is unique, has old-school kerbs and there are plenty of opportunities for overtaking. It is very important to have a good set-up and find a balance between straight-line speed and stability under braking.”

He added that he welcomed news that Red Bull had extended Sergio Perez’s contract to 2026. “We had a record-breaking season last year and the team is strong,” he said. “It’s a successful partnership.”

As Ferrari seek to beat Red Bull again, as McLaren did when Lando Norris won in Miami, Mercedes will continue their pursuit of the pace-setters with more upgrades in a bid to turn promise into results. Both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton will have the new front wing that only Russell had in Monaco.

For Aston Martin, owned by Lawrence Stroll, whose son Lance drives alongside two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, the race on the man-made island of Notre Dame in the middle of the St Lawrence river is a ‘home’ event. 

They will hope for an upturn in form and no scrapes with the ‘wall of champions’ at the final corner where many drivers have crashed. The forecast for changeable and possibly wet weather will ensure an unpredictable and closely-contested race is in prospect. 

It could also throw up an unexpected result as out-of-favour Esteban Ocon, who is set to leave Alpine at the end of the year following his collision with team-mate Pierre Gasly in Monaco, being replaced in opening practice by reserve Jack Doohan, 21, son of former motorcycling world champion Mick Doohan. 

History shows that the tricky track is enjoyed by champion drivers with seven-time champions Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher sharing the circuit records of seven wins apiece and six poles, but with Mercedes winless since the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix, Verstappen may remain the man to beat. 

He won from pole last year to claim his second Montreal victory and like his troubled Red Bull team needs to regain form and consistency if he is to stay clear of Leclerc and Norris in what in prospect appears to be a close fight for the drivers’ title this year.

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