While the Canadian Grand Prix may have delivered another masterclass drive from Lewis Hamilton, the Englishman’s run to victory – challenged in particularly by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel – showed that Mercedes’ dominance at the front of the field is becoming less and less certain.
Sunday’s 70-lap race around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve won’t go down as one of the best of a season where we have been rather spoiled for choice, but it did deliver a host of winners and losers…
Race victory went to none other than Lewis Hamilton after a tremendously clean weekend. After his scintillating return to victory a fortnight ago at Monaco, he claimed back-to-back race wins at one of his strongest tracks, nine years on from his very first Formula 1 win as a McLaren rookie.
One of the starts of the season went to Sebastian Vettel, who rocketed off the line from third on the grid to lead the race by Turn 1. Hamilton would shadow Vettel until a Virtual Safety Car was called and that prompted Ferrari to call Vettel in for an early pit stop to try and gain advantage from the brief pause in the race. What could have been a masterstroke call would not pay off, however, as Vettel emerged behind the Red Bull Racing cars and was held up trying to pick his way past. Vettel’s decision to two-stop to Hamilton’s sole tour through the pits gave the race a fascinating strategic variance, but Hamilton would stay ahead.
Valtteri Bottas put Williams on the podium for the first time this season after what he later described as one of the best races of his career to take full advantage of the team’s one-stop strategy.
Force India left Canadia with a double-points finish to strengthen their Constructors’ Championship fight. Nico Hülkenberg claimed eighth place, two spots ahead of teammate Sergio Pérez, who ran a contra-strategy by starting on the Soft-compound tyres and running a long opening stint. Bottled up behind the McLarens for many laps, the Mexican was unable to demonstrate the potential of that call and claimed the final point on offer.
Carlos Sainz once again showed his credentials as a worthy candidate for a drive with a top team, recovering from starting twentieth after his qualifying crash. The Spanish youngster put in another fighting drive and worked his way up to ninth place by the chequered flag. It was a performance that went virtually unseen on the TV broadcasts, but a drive that will rightly earn many plaudits.
By contrast to his Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg (pictured above) had his second scrappy race in a row and suffered more in-roads into his championship points’ lead – down from 43 before Monaco to just 9 leaving Canada. The German found himself squeezed onto the Turn 1 run-off by his teammate after the start, losing a bundle of places while he rejoined the circuit. From there on, it was a race of recovery – he climbed up to fifth, but that put major strain on his fuel consumption and brakes, and he was forced to make a second pit stop with a slow puncture. A late lunge on fourth-placed Max Verstappen didn’t pay off, spinning him around at Turn 14.
Yet again, Daniel Ricciardo found himself on the receiving end of some below-par pit work and strategy calls from his Red Bull Racing team and suffered another bruising afternoon. The Australian was delayed by the recovering Rosberg on Lap 1 and fell behind teammate Max Verstappen, spending a frustrating first stint in the Dutchman’s wheeltracks but never close enough to pass. He flat-spotted his second tyre set and was forced to make a second pit stop, which was another slow one when the right wheel wouldn’t secure. Seventh place was a disappointing result.
Two of the field’s three Brits failed to see the chequered flag. Jolyon Palmer was forced to park his Renault with a water leak after just 16 laps, but he at least lasted longer than Jenson Button, who parked his McLaren on the tenth lap with a blown Honda engine.
Button’s teammate Fernando Alonso had a great scrap early on with Pérez, but dropped out of the points and uncharacteristically lost interest in the race. His calls over the pit-to-car radio to retire the car to save its engine mileage fell on deaf ears.
Felipe Massa had an appalling weekend, crashing his Williams heavily in FP1 and he was unable to match the pace of teammate Valtteri Bottas from there on. The Brazilian would retire with a failure in his Mercedes power unit.
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team