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Lewis Hamilton’s bad back and Mick Schumacher’s need for a point – things to look out for in Canada

Can anyone stop the runaway Red Bull train? 

That is the big question heading to Montreal as the Canadian Grand Prix rolls round this weekend.  

That and how bad is Lewis Hamilton’s back following a gruelling race in Baku, Azerbaijan, last time out. 

Red Bull have won the last five races and look to be running away with the constructors’ title

Many of the teams are quickly finding where they fall in the pack with their current cars and time is running out for certain drivers to make their mark.

With speculation in the paddock swirling and championship points vanishing quicker than a Ferrari engine in Baku, Montreal is another hugely important weekend on the calendar.

Sportsmail has picked out seven things to look out for ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix… 

Condition of Lewis’ back

This really feels like the million (Canadian dollar) question heading to Montreal.

It was quite the sight to see Hamilton ailing and needing help to get out of his car with his back said to be in agony after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The British driver is suffering physical issues more than ever before, with back pain caused by porpoising – a new phenomenon which sees cars bounce on their suspension at high speed – seeing him describe the race as the ‘most painful’ he has ever experienced. 

Mercedes have fronted up to take the blame with chief strategist James Vowles insisting they must ensure their drivers do not continue to suffer while competing, believing it is a mistake they cannot afford to repeat. 

‘On this occasion we pushed the package and our drivers too far,’ Vowles said, after confirming that Hamilton will race in Montreal this weekend. 

‘We are putting them into significant discomfort and we simply can’t do that again.’

All eyes will be on Lewis Hamilton and the condition of his back after the race in Azerbaijan

 All eyes will be on Lewis Hamilton and the condition of his back after the race in Azerbaijan

Hamilton has support of fellow driver Daniel Ricciardo, who insisted the Brit definitely isn’t exaggerating the back pain he is feeling. 

That is still not enough to convince Red Bull boss Christian Horner that all this is real pain, rather than a bid to get the FIA to change the regulations to combat porpoising. 

Horner went on record accusing Hamilton of following orders from Mercedes to ‘b***h’ about it as much as possible. 

On the eye test alone, it looks incredibly uncomfortable with Hamilton bouncing around in his cockpit. 

If that goes on it is impossible not to see a scenario in which he needs a race off – and F1 best hope it doesn’t come to that.  

Hamilton (left) was in physical pain as he did his media duties following the race in Baku

 Hamilton (left) was in physical pain as he did his media duties following the race in Baku

Ferrari engines get another serious examination

Along with Ferrari, the Maranello-based team’s power units rest in the cars of both Haas and Alfa Romeo.

And so when Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo) and Kevin Magnussen (Haas) joined both Ferrari drivers in retiring in Baku, an inquest was needed. 

Carlos Sainz suffered a hydraulics issue but the others all appeared to suffer engine problems, Leclerc and Magnussen in particular as smoke engulfed their cars. 

Zhou’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished outside the points in 11th and he was left bemoaning his lack of ‘pure pace’m leading to questions as to what exactly has happened to this Ferrari power unit? 

With an engine freeze in F1, there are only so many power components available and a lack of reliability will prove incredibly costly as the season wears on.

Consistent problems will bring about grid penalties and the slippery slope of sanctions. 

If Ferrari cannot get a grip on things in Montreal, this season could quickly descend into disaster.  

Guanyu Zhou was one of four drivers who retired in Baku in a car that holds a Ferrari power unit

Guanyu Zhou was one of four drivers who retired in Baku in a car that holds a Ferrari power unit

Leclerc NEEDS to stay in touch

When Charles Leclerc lifted his winner’s trophy on top of the Australian Grand Prix podium on raceday three, he had emerged victorious in two of the opening three races. 

The signs looked good. Very good. Ferrari, as many felt in pre-season, were not only challenging but also setting the standard. 

Only Red Bull have grown wiser to the Italian giant’s ways and both Ferrari and Leclerc have come up short in finding the answers to some tricky questions. 

Leclerc heads to Canada on the back of a double Ferrari retirement in Baku and with his title hopes, even at this stage, fading fast. 

He sits 34 points adrift of championship leader Verstappen and should Red Bull make it six wins in a row in Montreal, Leclerc’s title aspirations will be teetering on the brink. 

‘It’s the third disappointment in a row, and it’s not easy,’ Leclerc told Motorsport.com after his Azerbaijan retirement.

‘But yeah, overall, I’m confident that mentally I will be as strong as I was five races ago, when I was leading the championship, at the next race, and the motivation is still there.’

The Monegasque needs to lay down a marker – let’s just hope that engine of his holds out.  

Charles Leclerc won two of the first three races but has gone off the boil ever since Australia

Charles Leclerc won two of the first three races but has gone off the boil ever since Australia

Will Perez be allowed to fight Verstappen? 

‘No fighting!’ came the call over Sergio Perez’s radio as Verstappen whistled past him in Baku.

Verstappen was through into clean air against a slower Perez and the Dutchman stretched his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship. 

But with Perez second in the race, the real question is whether Red Bull will put team orders in play to make sure they don’t fight among themselves and open a door for a currently struggling Ferrari. 

Verstappen has won five of the opening eight races and clearly has the superior talent at this moment. 

But Perez, who won the Monaco Grand Prix, has only missed the top two once in the last six races, making him a constant thorn in his team-mate’s side. 

Not since Mercedes had Nico Rosberg and Hamilton jousting for supremacy in 2016 has a team navigated two title-worthy candidates. 

Let’s just hope they are allowed to fight and race to race, may the best man win! 

It will be fascinating if Red Bull let Max Verstappen (right) and Sergio Perez fight for the title

It will be fascinating if Red Bull let Max Verstappen (right) and Sergio Perez fight for the title

Mick needs results – and fast

Sooner or later, Mick Schumacher needs to score a point. 

Law of averages suggests his barren run cannot continue forever, and yet we head to Canada with questions swirling as to whether he is cut out for a long future in F1.

Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, a mentor for Schumacher, believes praise is never as forthcoming for the youngster as much as criticism. But, truth be told Seb, there’s been little to celebrate when it comes to the 23-year-old Haas driver. 

‘Criticism is also justified in this respect, but you can’t always just bash him,’ Vettel told German outlet BILD.

‘You also have to say when something has gone well.’

The issue facing Schumacher is that he is no longer a rookie in a car that had absolutely no hope of winning a single point. 

No. Now he’s in a car that has taken 15 points this season – all via Kevin Magnussen. 

And so Schumacher, who does not yet have a contract in F1 secured for 2023, is the centre of attention. Has he got what it takes?

Haas team boss Guenther Steiner has faith in his young stud but he also knows he cannot wait around forever to see progress. 

Speaking last month, Steiner said: ‘You don’t have forever in Formula 1. There is a queue of drivers who want to drive there.

‘I am sure he is aware nobody is waiting for him. He’s working very hard at it, but it’s very difficult. This formula is not an easy business.’

Since arriving in F1 last season, Mick Schumacher is still yet to record a single point for Haas

Since arriving in F1 last season, Mick Schumacher is still yet to record a single point for Haas

Vital homecoming could decide Latifi’s F1 future

We’re at that stage of the season where some drivers shift a little more uncomfortably in the cockpit, with talk of mid-season changes in the driver line-up.

If Schumacher is one who needs to buck his ideas up the same can be levelled against Williams F1’s Nicholas Latifi.

This should be the standout weekend for Latifi, a proud Canadian, and yet the build-up has been overshadowed by talk of his future in the sport. 

‘I definitely have to improve my performance,’ Latifi admitted to Le Journal de Montreal this week. ‘I would be lying if I told you that my place on the team is secure.

‘I am aware that the situation must change. I admit that I haven’t had a good feeling in the car since Jeddah.’

Alpine reserve driver Oscar Piastri, who won the F2 Championship last season, has seen his name circled and question marks now surround whether Latifi will finish the season in the Williams seat, never mind keep it for next season. 

Whether his lucrative backing by Sofina Foods – his father’s company – is enough to stave off talk of getting rid or not, Latifi needs to perform and he will hope there really is no place quite like home. 

Speculation is mounting around Nicholas Latifi and the Canadian needs a big homecoming

Speculation is mounting around Nicholas Latifi and the Canadian needs a big homecoming

And, finally, it’s good to be back! 

Amid the trials and tribulations of events on track, it is easy to forget that this will be our first return to Montreal in a post-pandemic world. 

The last time these 20 teams headed to Canada, Hamilton was on top and Sebastian Vettel was with Ferrari. How times change. 

It will be a day of celebration for race fans in the city, with a full-house expected at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve. 

The track normally makes for an intriguing race, not least because of the overtake possibilities heading down into Turn 1. 

Track lay-out means punishments can be brutal to those who take their eye off the ball and so three letters – ‘DNF’ – may attach themselves to a few come the chequered flag on Sunday. 

Regardless of who finishes where, F1’s Canadian homecoming has been long overdue. 

Not since 2019 have Canadian fans had the chance to catch a Formula One race in Montreal

Not since 2019 have Canadian fans had the chance to catch a Formula One race in Montreal

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