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Vettel wins - and loses - Canadian Grand Prix

NEWS STORY
09/06/2019

Even if it means a return to 'the finger' and that annoying 'ringtone' celebration, it would be good to see Sebastian Vettel convert yesterday's pole into victory today.

That isn't an outright show of bias mind you, rather the desire to see somebody - other than another Mercedes driver - challenge Lewis Hamilton.

Of course, Seb did exactly that twelve months ago, but then came that second half of the season rollercoaster, the ghost train ride that must still give him nightmares.

Then again, haven't we been told all week that this race is Ferrari's to lose, that it is one of the few circuits on which the SF90 should have the advantage?

Of course, as we saw in Q3, Hamilton ignores such headlines, and never surrenders without a fight, which is why this could be the classic confrontation we have dreamed of all year.

Indeed, courtesy of the 'Q3 from Hell', Valtteri Bottas starts from sixth, leaving the world champion to battle the Ferrari pair, who are likely to be battling each other.

And then there's Daniel Ricciardo, who, having put teammate Nico Hulkenberg to bed in terms of qualifying - the Australian currently winning that particular fight 6-1, has now given Renault its best qualifying result since 2010.

On an afternoon of 'fingers crossed' moments, let's hope the ever-popular Aussie can give us all something to smile about. We're not expecting a Shoey on the podium, but a decent points haul would be good.

Of course, it won't be easy, for Ricciardo starts just ahead of Gasly and Bottas, with former teammate Verstappen just another couple of rows behind.

We could wax lyrical over the various mouth-watering prospects on offer this afternoon, but they could all come to nought if fears of tyre degradation prove correct.

We have already witnessed high tyre deg this weekend, this at a time teams are already considering calling on Pirelli to revert to the 2018-spec tyres with a thicker tread, and with increased temperatures this afternoon this could become even more of a problem.

The fastest strategy is going to be a one-stopper, but there are different ways that this could be approached. Theoretically, the quickest way is to start on the mediums and then switch to the hards after 35-40 laps. With Vettel, Leclerc, Hamilton and Bottas starting on the mediums, it's likely that we'll see this approach carried out by quite a few drivers.

The alternative strategy - though a bit slower - is to start on the softs and then go to the hards after five to eight laps: which obviously commits to an early pit stop and has led to claims of queues in the pitlane.

The anticipated warm conditions may force drivers to limit their running on the softs or even stop twice, but a two-stopper is definitely slowest on paper. The optimal two-stopper would be to start on the softs, switch to mediums after five laps for 32 laps, before running on another set of mediums to the end.

While in no way wanting to emulate the hyperbole of the broadcasters who insist every two weeks that this is THE race, that this is when the tables will turn, we do feel that something is in the air.

The mixed messages from Ferrari in recent weeks have been puzzling, and Mattia Binotto's claim that there was no immediate fix to the SF90s issues not only sounded too much like Toto Wolff's traditional underdog BS, it didn't fit in with the Maranello outfit's traditional 'Politburo' approach. Historically, the team has adopted the 'Comical Ali' approach to its issues, as opposed to holding its hands up and admitting "we're ******!"

Meanwhile, two hours before the start of the race, Mercedes reveals that it "discovered a hydraulic leak on Lewis' car late yesterday afternoon". "We have diagnosed the source and are now putting the car back together ready for the race," the German team adds.

Let's not forget that Mercedes is running its new engine this weekend, the same new engine that failed in Lance Stroll's car on Saturday morning.

While Carlos Sainz was handed a three-place grid penalty for impeding Alexander Albon, which means the Spaniard starts 12th, Kevin Magnussen will start from the pitlane after Haas elected to change his chassis following his Q2 crash yesterday.

An hour before the race, as many as 15 mechanics are working on Hamilton's car, including members of Bottas' crew, and while there is a clear sense of urgency, there is no sign of panic. German efficiency one might say, even though most of the guys are British.

Back from the drivers' parade, Hamilton surveys the scene in his garage, his poker face giving nothing away.

Of course, while we have considered the question mark concerning tyres there is also one other issue that could play a deciding factor today, strategy, and in particular Ferrari's.

The Italian team has a positive talent for shooting itself in the foot, and it remains to be seen whether it has learn from past mistakes, its complete and utter shambles in terms of Leclerc's qualifying in Monaco being a typical, and worryingly recent, example.

In the moments before half-past, as if by magic, Hamilton's W10 is fully assembled and the mechanics back in position as the Briton climbs in.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers head out. The air temperature is 28.3 degrees C, while the track temperature is 51.7 degrees.

"RPM's getting high," says Hamilton on one of his install laps, and as the car arrives on the grid his mechanics swarm over it.

"We're just bleeding the brakes at the moment," says Andy Shovlin, "the data showed the brake pedal was a bit soft."

We've seen a number of safety cars here over the years, and it goes without saying that at the end of the short run to the first corner, the tight, twisty complex that follows positively invites incident.

Ricciardo, Gasly, Hulkenberg and Norris are all on softs, Verstappen, Giovinazzi, Stroll and Magnussen on hards, the rest on mediums.

As the field heads off on the parade lap, Hamilton is slow getting away. The Briton reveals that the anti-stall kicked in. In the garage, Toto Wolff looks concerned.

"You don't have a problem," Hamilton is assured as he takes his place on the grid.

They're away! Great starts from Vettel and Hamilton, and as they head into Turn 1 the German has the advantage, while Hamilton has the inside in Turn 2 and thereby holds off a charging Leclerc. A slight wobble from Ricciardo in that first complex but he holds position.

Further back, Albon is the meat in a Perez and Giovinazzi sandwich, the Thai driver an innocent victim as he is hit by the Mexican.

Norris and Verstappen battle for eighth, the Red Bull driver passes the Briton on the approach to the hairpin, but the McLaren driver subsequently retakes the place heading into the final chicane

At the end of lap 1, it's: Vettel, Hamilton, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Gasly, Hulkenberg, Bottas, Norris, Verstappen and Kvyat. Albon pits for a new front wing, rejoining in last on the hards.

Hulkenberg reports a warning red light on his dash, not knowing what it is.

As Verstappen continues to shadow Norris, Sainz pits and rejoins in 19th on the hards.

After 4 laps Vettel leads Hamilton by 2.2s as Sainz is told that his early stop was due to having picked up debris.

"This is really good," Norris is told, "keep it up." The Red Bull catches the McLaren at the hairpin, but the papaya car has better traction at the exit. However, with the aid of DRS Verstappen sweeps by on the run to the final chicane.

Raikkonen pits at the end of lap 6.

Having passed Norris, Verstappen sets off after Bottas and Gasly, who conveniently pits.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Montreal, here.

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1. Posted by Cobra Racer, 11/06/2019 12:01

"RDFox
You seem to have some engineering experience and I defer to that expertise. While you question my racing background, have you ever turned a competitive wheel? My racing history includes 253 vintage events plus multiple races with CASC and SCCA. I have been on the receiving end of idiots who do not know how to re-enter a track safely. I have "been there and done that". Have you?

"

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2. Posted by RDFox, 10/06/2019 15:39

"@Cobra Racer: I see it completely differently. The "jink" to the right was not an attempt to close the door; Vettel clearly had a burst of oversteer due to his car bouncing over the curbing and edge of the track as it re-entered, and Vettel steered to the right to try and catch the car rather than spin in a highly dangerous location and likely hit either the inside or outside wall--which would have quite likely caught Hamiton's car up in the crash. He wasn't attempting to shut the door on Hamilton's somewhat overenthusiastic attempt to take advantage of his mistake; he was reacting instinctively to save the car and not crash.

Likewise the "unsafe return." If you have the racing experience you claim, you know how little traction there is on the grass; how was Vettel supposed to make any significant change to his course or speed in the very small area of grass he was on? Even if we supposed he could have turned his car, that location has almost no room to "straightline" the chicane and rejoin more gradually; turning would have simply resulted in a head-on impact with the butt-end of the wall on the left. About the only way to make a "safe return," given the geometry of the situation, would have been for Vettel to somehow magically shed 100 miles per hour in about 10-15 meters and then creep back onto the track. That works out to an acceleration required of somewhere between 131.7 and 197.5 g; that's not an acceleration a Formula One car can make even on asphalt. That's "crash into a concrete wall" acceleration.

The regulation is best suited to cases where there is sufficient space, time, and traction for the driver to stop his car and then make a controlled re-entry to the track; as Button pointed out, it's much more about someone who has spun off into runoff or down an escape road needing to be careful when they rejoin rather than just dropping the hammer and bulling back on, other drivers be damned. In this case, Vettel had no real control of the car until it had settled back onto its wheels after re-entering the track, and thus couldn't control his return. Indeed, if you look, after the instantaneous jerk to the right to correct for the obvious oversteer the car was showing, Vettel clearly turned *left* to try and leave Hamilton room. Not much room, but there was little room available in that location to begin with, and the rules don't say you have to leave any specific amount of clearance for another driver, merely that you have to leave him enough clearance to not be forced off the racing surface or into a barrier. The fact that Hamilton's car had no scuff marks from either Vettel's car or the wall prove that enough room was left to avoid contact; anything more is, under the regulations, a courtesy, not a requirement.

As to Vettel's "immaturity" post-race, I honestly considered him to be *very* restrained, clearly having been "talked down" by his manager. I had forecast two possible actions for him post-race: either he heads straight to someplace where he could vent his understandable anger in private rather than risking sponsorships by displaying it publicly, or he heads directly into the stewards' office to start screaming at them (at a minimum). Vettel chose the first, more mature option that didn't see him have a visible temper tantrum. Hamilton pulling him onto the top step of the podium for the anthems clearly shows who Hamilton feels actually won the race; Vettel even showed much more grace than I believe I could have after the podium when he answered questions and defended Hamilton from the "boo birds" in the stands. (Personally, my response to Brundle would have been simply, "No comment. The rules require me to speak to you, so I have done so. That is all," and then walk away, having fulfilled the letter of the rule.)

I would very much like to know how the voting amongst the stewards went, and particularly what Emanuele Piro had to say in the investigation, because I can't imagine anyone who has actually raced at a high level would see this as anything but a racing incident."

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3. Posted by Cobra Racer, 10/06/2019 12:45

"Cutting through all of the clutter and claptrap emanating (mainly) from the three ex-F1 drivers was difficult. Brundle was especially vocal, if not unhinged. My racing experience was long but never at the level of F1, but I do recognize an "unsafe return" when I see one. I would never question the opinion of a driver such as Button, but perhaps his view of the incident was not completely neutral. As Vettel reached the middle of the track after re-entry you could clearly see his jink to the right by noting his hands and the right-front wheel. If it had been one of the new and relatively inexperienced kids in the series, I shudder to think of the result. As it unfolded, Lewis had the presence of mind to brake instead of trying for the hole. And Vettel shut the door. The regulation was designed to protect against stupidity, particularly on a section of the Canadian track where there is absolutely no room for runoff. Picture wheel-on-wheel contact in the confines of the right wall. By the way, the data feed should prove if Vettel accelerated as he was re-joining.
Finally, in my years of association with auto racing, I have never witnessed such an immature demonstration as we saw from Vettel during after-race coverage. My 10 year-old cart drivers show more class and restraint. Vettel deserves a "sit down" for the next race or two.
"

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4. Posted by Spindoctor, 10/06/2019 7:48

"A serious problem: to the extent that one can take F1 seriously in today's world!
The simple fact we all know is that Vettel made a mistake, largely one suspects as a result of unrelenting pressure from Hamilton. The only person who knows what it was possible to do after making that mistake is Seb. Looking at the video there's little evidence that he made any attempt to slow-down or avoid Hamilton, but he insists he was mostly a passenger, and could not avoid re-entering the track in a (very) dangerous manner. I'm not prepared to call him a cheat, and I accept his story.

I think (as a Hamilton fan) that under these circumstances the Stewards should have given him the benefit of the doubt. I agree with Seb that Drivers (& Teams) need a good lawyer almost as much as a fast car! This is not good for Formula 1.

"

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5. Posted by Spartacus, 10/06/2019 0:45

"I saw this in a few ways. I think it is more #3 than anything else.
#1 - VET was forced into a mistake missed the corner, re entered the track in an unsafe manner and gained a time advantage when he should have yielded to his immediate follower.
#2- VET was forced into a mistake missed the corner and regained the racing line in an uncontrollable manner causing HAM to avoid which is a racing incident.
#3-VET missed the corner and could not easily control his car back onto the track, HAM avoided. This would almost be very similar to loosing control on the racing line where HAM could not have overtaken the position. Racing incident."

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6. Posted by jasman, 09/06/2019 23:14

"I would like to hear comments from Nigel Mansell, J. Stewart, and if he were still with us, N. Lauda.

I caught a comment from Vettel, I guess from the post race conference, where he said that back in the day it was about the racing, but today it's all rules and regs. and we(the racers) all sound like a bunch of lawyers!

That might have the makings of a Max Noble missive. Was this an example of F1 shooting itself in the foot?"

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7. Posted by phantom, 09/06/2019 22:31

"That sound was Gilles Villeneuve turning over in his grave and vomiting."

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8. Posted by Tom2681, 09/06/2019 21:49

"Not much room to slow down when you're sliding uncontrollably across the grass.
Ferrari should make all the noise they can to try and reinstate Vettel. This decision was a complete joke.
You can forgive the race stewards for being incompetent in matters of racing, but aren't they supposed to have a racing driver there to explain to them what's going on?"

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9. Posted by GreenFlag, 09/06/2019 21:29

"VET was forced into a mistake and cut the corner, didn’t slow down but drove across the racing line into HAM’s path, not only keeping his position but forcing HAM to brake to avoid the collision. The 5 seconds penalty may have been too lenient."

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