Canadian Grand Prix 2024: As Formula 1 rolls into Montreal, here’s why you can’t miss the forgotten North America race

In the pecking order of North America’s Formula 1 calendar, it’s fair to say Canada has become the oft-forgotten little brother of the glitzy USA races.

In this era of the sport’s American ownership, much of the focus has been on the new arrivals – the celebrities of Miami and the madness of Las Vegas under the lights, coupled with the more traditional racing of Austin, Texas and the return – in 2015 – to Mexico City.

In Montreal, though, Formula 1 has a long-standing home on Notre Dame Island – the 2.7-mile Circuit Gilles Villeneuve – and such is its brilliance, it would be a mistake to rank it any lower than its rivals south of the border. In fact, a strong case could be made that this is the best race the sport has to offer this side of the Atlantic.

While it is true that all of the North American races have their unique selling point, Montreal has a little bit of everything… a long-standing heritage, wheel-to-wheel racing, and a sprinkling of the glamour that every F1 host city needs. Oh, and groundhogs – don’t forget the groundhogs.

The Formula 1 roadshow has been rolling into Canada’s second-largest city since 1978, after previously being held at Mosport Park in Ontario.

Montreal has become one of the most exciting destinations on the Formula One calendar

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Montreal has become one of the most exciting destinations on the Formula One calendar

Max Verstappen won the 2023 edition - but 2024 is set to be a much more dramatic affair
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Max Verstappen won the 2023 edition – but 2024 is set to be a much more dramatic affair

Jenson Button won the longest race in F1 history in Montreal in 2011
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Lewis Hamilton won his first ever race here in 2007
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Jenson Button won the longest race in F1 history in Montreal, and Lewis Hamilton won his first

The 2005 edition of the race, won by McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen, was the most-watched in Formula 1 history. That year, only the Super Bowl and the Champions League final garnered more viewers for a global sporting event.

It was here that Lewis Hamilton won his first ever race in 2007, and it was here that Jenson Button won the longest race in the sport’s storied history – a four-hour, rain-affected extravaganza in 2011 that saw him climb from seventh on the grid to the top step of the podium.

And so, while Miami, Vegas and the rest have plenty to offer, it is in Canada that the most exciting race of the North American calendar will take place this weekend. And this year, that sentiment rings truer than ever.

In 2023, Max Verstappen tied up his sixth win in eight races in Montreal – continuing Red Bull’s dominance and extending their streak of winning every race of the season. In fact, after Canada, the world champion won 13 of the final 14, only missing out on Singapore for the Red Bull clean sweep (thank you, Carlos Sainz).

Mexico is a popular destination, but it could be argued that Montreal is even better
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Mexico is a popular destination, but it could be argued that Montreal is even better

Much of the focus has been on the bright lights of Vegas (pictured) and Miami in recent years
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Much of the focus has been on the bright lights of Vegas (pictured) and Miami in recent years

Twelve months on, that is far from the case. The F1 championship arrives here having seen three drivers from three different teams win the last three races – the first time that’s happened since Sochi 2021.

While Verstappen is still the favorite to win the championship, McLaren and Ferrari are hot on Red Bull’s rear wing, with Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc recently experiencing the top step of the podium so often occupied by the Dutch phenom.

In the driver standings, Leclerc is just 31 points off the top, with Norris 25 points behind him. In a 24-race season, that is nothing – especially given the way the tide has been turning in recent weeks.

The constructors’ battle is even closer, with just 24 points separating reigning champions Red Bull and the Prancing Horse of Ferrari behind them.

This weekend, McLaren look quick, and the red cars will be right up there with them. Perhaps the biggest question mark sits with Red Bull, as we wait to see how they fare amid some topsy-turvy form.

And so, as rain and wind hammers the glass of the media center in Montreal’s F1 paddock, it could hardly be set up any better for one of the most action-packed weekends of the season.

It’s anyone’s guess who wins – especially if the rain continues to fall – but in a sport that has so often been predictable for the last few seasons, this weekend’s race is a must-watch. Long may the excitement of Montreal continue.

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