Sebastian Vettel claimed a lights-to-flag victory at the Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix, and with Lewis Hamilton consigned to a lowly fifth the German moves back into the lead of the World Championship standings by a single point over the Mercedes driver.
The victory – Vettel’s 50th of his tremendous career and Ferrari’s first at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve since 2004 – meant a great deal to the driver and the team. While keen to play down the significance of returning to the slenderest of points leads, this weekend could prove a turning point in giving four-time World Champion a fifth crown.
After narrowly qualifying on pole on Saturday, Vettel looked set to have a tough fight with the Mercedes and Red Bull Racing runners. In reality, the race promised far more than it delivered.
He led the pack from pole position, blasting ahead of fellow front-row starter Valtteri Bottas to claim the lead into Turn 1. Bottas was left to fend off a faster starting Max Verstappen, who pulled alongside the Finn through Turns 1 and 2.
Bottas held his nerve and Verstappen, for once it seems, held his cool and dropped behind the Mercedes into third place.
The race’s most dramatic moment came a few corners later, when Brendon Hartley and local driver Lance Stroll collided through the fast Turn 5 sweeper. Stroll appeared to lose rear-end grip on his Williams and clipped Hartley, running on his left. Squeezed between the Williams and the tyre barrier, the luckless Hartley was launched into the air and slid off into the Turn 6 run-off at high speed.
Up front, Vettel was able to pull out a gap over Bottas and Verstappen, with Hamilton leading Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Räikkönen.
Having started on the Hypersoft tyres compared to the Ultrasoft-shod Ferraris and Mercedes’ both Red Bull Racing drivers were in the pits early to make their single pit stops.
Verstappen did enough to keep a theoretical third, while Ricciardo managed to get the jump on Hamilton after the Englishman was forced to pit much earlier than planned.
Running the same power unit with which he had started the season, Hamilton’s car had not had the pace to match the race leaders all weekend and after reporting momentary power cut-outs, he pulled into the pits early.
A slower stop meant he dropped behind Ricciardo into fifth place, and it looked as though he would fall down to sixth when Ferrari opted to delay Räikkönen’s pit stop in the hope he could emerge in front of the championship leader.
It almost worked, but he would emerge just inches behind the Briton. Despite having tyres that were almost twenty laps fresher than Hamilton, Räikkönen could not mount a challenge and fell back. Hamilton, meanwhile, pressed forward and closed up to Ricciardo. Despite getting within DRS range, he was unable to get close enough to mount a challenge on the Australian.
The top six finished in that order in what was a processional race for the frontrunners. The race ended bizarrely when the celebrity flag-waver, the supermodel Winnie Harlow, waved the chequered flag a lap too early after a mix-up with race officials. The race result was therefore declared at the end of Lap 68 of its scheduled 70 laps.
Despite a rather torrid Friday where each of its cars struck major trouble, the Renaults of Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. finished ‘best of the rest’ in seventh and eighth to give the Enstone team vital points in a tight midfield Constructors’ Championship battle.
Force India’s Esteban Ocon was ninth after a slow pit stop, while Sauber’s Charles Leclerc scored points for the third time in his rookie season with a fine drive to tenth place.
The Monégasque driver inherited the position when Fernando Alonso – celebrating his 300th Grand Prix appearance (but not his 300th start) – retired on Lap 43 when his Renault engine’s exhaust threatened to melt his McLaren’s engine cover.
|FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX HEINEKEN DU CANADA 2018 – FINAL CLASSIFICATION (68 LAPS*)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||68||1:28:31.377|
|2.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||68||+ 7.367|
|3.||Max Verstappen||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer RB14||68||+ 8.360|
|4.||Daniel Ricciardo||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer RB14||68||+ 20.892|
|5.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||68||+ 21.559|
|6.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||68||+ 27.184|
|7.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||67||1 lap behind|
|8.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||67||1 lap behind|
|9.||Esteban Ocon||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||67||1 lap behind|
|10.||Charles Leclerc||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||67||1 lap behind|
|11.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||67||1 lap behind|
|12.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||67||1 lap behind|
|13.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||67||1 lap behind|
|14.||Sergio Pérez||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||67||1 lap behind|
|15.||Marcus Ericsson||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||67||1 lap behind|
|16.||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||66||2 laps behind|
|17.||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||66||2 laps behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps|
|DNF.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||40||Exhaust|
|DNF.||Brendon Hartley||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||0||Collision|
|DNF.||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||0||Collision|
|Fastest Lap||Team / Entry||Lap||Time|
|Max Verstappen||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer RB14||65||1:13.864|
Image via Scuderia Ferrari