The 2023 Formula 1 World Championship returns to North America this weekend for the annual Canadian Grand Prix, which serves as round nine on the calendar.

As usual, the Canadian race is taking place at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The 2.71-mile track is made up of the perimeter roads on the artificial island of Notre-Dame, in the Saint Lawrence river, and tends to deliver action-packed races. Overtaking is relatively straightforward, speeds are high, and the cars are pushed to their limits.

The layout consists of long straights interrupted by a series of chicanes and slow corners, making it similar to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix's Baku City Circuit. As a result, the right setup involves finding a good compromise that delivers stability under braking and excellent traction, without ignoring what is an important detail at this track, namely the need to be able to ride the relatively tall curbs.

The cars tend to run in low downforce aero configurations to favor straight-line speed that can exceed 186 mph at the end of the straights. This lack of downforce leads to some instability in the corners, of which there are 14 all up, and therefore, mechanical grip going through the tires is even more important than usual.

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, home of the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, home of the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix

Although the track surface is traditionally quite smooth, tire degradation runs on the high side due to the constant cycle of heavy braking and heavy acceleration, which is something teams need to be aware of. Pirelli has nominated its softest compounds in the range: the C3 as the White hard, the C4 as the Yellow medium and the C5 as the Red soft.

The weather is something else to look out for as it can be quite changeable, with cool temperatures and rain quite common, even in the summer. As a result of the cool weather and track conditions, there's some degree of graining of the tires, which hurts grip, especially at the start of the weekend. Looking at the current forecast, we may see light showers during Saturday's qualifying but Sunday's race should be dry.

Several teams are expected to add upgrades to their cars in Montreal, including Aston Martin which at present is the biggest threat to championship leader Red Bull Racing.

Going into Saturday's qualifying session and Sunday's race, Red Bull's Max Verstappen leads the 2023 Drivers' Championship with 170 points. Fellow Red Bull driver Sergio Perez is second with 117 points and Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso is third with 99 points. In the Constructors' Championship, Red Bull leads with 287 points versus the 152 of Mercedes-Benz AMG in second and 134 of Aston Martin in third. Last year's winner in Canada was Verstappen, driving for Red Bull.