The Canadian Grand Prix, a true highlight of the F1 calendar, has certainly provided plenty of action and extreme entertainment over the years, not to mention a few pesky ground-hogs. The passionate and diverse Montreal crowd enhance the upbeat atmosphere, with a large Italian community sure to be in high spirits with Ferrari’s form this year and Vettel’s win at Monaco. As ‘North America’s most European city’, Montreal is well placed to host its 34th Grand Prix at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit on the Île Notre Dame; in the heart of the European season. The circuit has played host to some crazy incidents down the years, generally with rain involved. From the debacle in 1973 where confusion reigned (and did it rain), to Button’s 2011 epic win from plumb last, in what turned out to be the longest World Championship Grand Prix ever due to a lengthy rain delay; and Hamilton’s maiden win in 2007 that included Kubica’s horror crash in a race with four safety cars. (Kubuica sat out the next race at Indianapolis, and was deputised by a young Sebastian Vettel no less.) I particularly like the footage of Gilles Villeneuve driving blind with half a front wing blocking his vision, in treacherous conditions in 1981. I didn’t start watching F1 until after that so don’t know much about Gilles Villeneuve himself, but it appears that the circuit has lived up to it’s legendary name. Ferrari and McLaren both have 13 victories here, with Schumacher and Hamilton providing 12 between them. For Ferrari to win they’ll have to reverse the result of last year where although Vettel leapfrogged both Mercs at the start, he was eventually beaten by a one-stopping Hamilton, with Arrivabene noting that the two-stop strategy was ‘the wrong decision’. The red team seem to have got on top of their strategy decisions in 2017, at least compared to last year so we can expect a competitive race at the very least. For McLaren to win they’ll need to... er, maybe not. With the top teams’ drivers performing to their potential we should have something to look forward to. Red Bull’s upgrades don’t seem to be getting them any closer to Mercedes or Ferrari this season – perhaps it’s simply a case of the competition being better. I don’t think for one minute that Adrian Newey has lost his ingenuity, or that Verstappen and Ricciardo aren’t wringing everything out of the car – that is a pairing and a half – if only the car was performing to their potential – cough, splutter, Renault engine, cough. Ricciardo’s maiden win was here in 2014, but a lock-up into turn 13 in 2016 cost him a podium and handed Bottas his first. With seven heavy braking zones and over 70% of the lap on the throttle, this circuit won’t favour Red Bull anyway, but if it’s wet then Max may have a chance to work his magic. If it’s dry, expect a huge number of lock-ups, leading to unhappy drivers who may be tiring more quickly than normal. Brembo, the Italian brake manufacturer for F1, said in 2015 that this circuit is “without a shadow of a doubt the most demanding test bench for single-seater braking systems”. Given the extra top-speed of the 2017 cars, this could be the heaviest workout for the drivers yet. Which leads back to Hamilton, a driver who’s known to be exceptional under braking, although he was clearly tired after the Spanish GP so if there are any fitness issues they’ll be exposed in Canada. His record round here is impressive to say the least. The first win was in 2007, he’s had four more since and a win this year will make it three in a row. I remember watching a practice session in Hamilton’s rookie year, he was coming through the last chicane and leaving only six inches between the wall and his rear right tyre. Every lap was the same, like a metronome, he looked so comfortable. Others were leaving twice the distance or grazing the ‘wall of champions’ itself. That infamous chicane is changing shape this year with a re-profiled wall for safety reasons, due to the extra width of the 2017 cars so we’re told. Also, tyre barriers around the circuit are being replaced with Tecpro barriers, and asphalt is replacing the gravel traps. Will it be ground-hog day for Hamilton with his third win here in a row, or will he need a cuddle from Roscoe to get over the disappointment? Either way, here’s hoping for an entertaining race.