Vettel takes title lead with Montreal win


We try, we really, really, really try not to do hyperbole, but something tells us today is going be a thriller.

Of course, as fans of foreign movies and TV series we are hoping that today's race will live up to some of the better ones, be it a Scandi thriller, a German, Dutch or even German... and wasn't the original Mad Max an Australian production.

Of course, there are all different types of thriller, the slow brooding kind, those that explode into action over the opening credits, those that heve you guessing right up to the final shot and those that have you itching for a sequel.

FP3, where the top four were covered by just 0.107s set us up nicely, while Q2 and Q3 delivered in style.

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes appear to have learned the error of their ways in avoiding the hypersofts so carefully, though those mistakes at T10 clearly hurt the Briton when you consider that teammate Valtteri Bottas is on the front row.

While in Monaco Daniel Ricciardo talked of "redemption", how remarkable has Max Verstappen been this weekend, setting the pace in all three practice sessions, whilst having to fend off predictably dumb questions from tabloid journalists. While it is great to see the youngster answer his critics in the best possible way, let's hope he doesn't throw it all away in the opening moments of today's episode.

The ever cool Valtteri Bottas, who has had more than his fair share of bad luck this year, could easily spring a surprise, with a plot twist that would turn the title on its head and surely few would begrudge.

Then, of course, there's Sebastian Vettel, who following a slow start in Friday's episode burst into life just when it was needed, proving that he should never, ever be written off.

Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen might all look to be playing supporting parts today, but each could spring a surprise, the Australian, still on a high following his Monaco redemption, seeking, like his teammate, to capitalise on an aggressive tyre strategy that sees them start on the ultras.

While the sport's new owners will be looking for a Homeland style cliff-hanger that allows the series to run and run and run, will we get the full-on thriller we surely deserve after Monaco and maybe even a two-parter.

As if the main feature isn't enough, we have a support act that promises to be equally entertaining.

Renault, Force India, Haas and Toro Rosso are all in the mix, even if some teams appear to only have one lead, and who exactly forgot to tell Charles Leclerc that he is driving a Sauber.

As McLaren looks to spread out to Netflix or Amazon, let's not forget that on a day we celebrate the legend that was Gilles Villeneuve, he actually made his F1 debut with the Woking outfit. Though that was back in the days the team still had ambition and a common purpose.

A late decision to change Pierre Gasly's engine again means the Frenchman will start from the back alongside countryman Romain Grosjean, so expect some fun and games at the start and possibly some heavy use of the bleeper.

While much has been made of the fact that though the tyre compounds are the same as Monaco but the two tracks are entirely different, one thing they have in common in a notorious first corner. In the Principality it is Ste Devote, while here, though a little more prosaic in that it is called Turn 1, it is just as infamous, and could well see a few broken cars (and hearts) in the opening moments.

In terms of tyres, Pirelli suggests a number of possible strategies. Quickest is a one-stopper; starting on the hypersofts for 15 laps, then one stint on supersofts to the flag. An alternative one-stopper, and nearly as quick, is one stint on ultrasofts (20 to 25 laps) then one stint on supersofts to the flag.

With increased degradation, a two-stopper also works. Namely, two stints on hypersofts of 10 laps each, then one stint on supersofts to the flag.

Of course, having avoided the hypersofts like the plague, Mercedes brought very few sets of the pink-banded tyres here, a move the German outfit is already regretting.

Of course, like Ferrari, the Mercedes pair are starting on the ultras, while the Bulls are starting on the hypers, adding that extra bit of spice. With the hypers worth around a second a lap however, Verstappen, has to take full advantage of them at the start before they start to go off.

Of course, this means the Dutch youngster has to be aggressive, and as we know from experience that doesn't always end well.

While Grosjean starts from the back courtesy of an engine issue at the start of Q1, this being a circuit where much is demanded - and expected - of the brakes - it is likely that we are going to hear plenty from the excitable Haas driver this afternoon.

Then again, will other drivers discover, like Gasly, that their engine upgrades have a down side, after all, this is a track that is power hungry.

A number of drivers need a good result today and none probably more so than Brendon Hartley, who cannot have failed to see the reports in the media earlier in the week. Having been dumped by Red Bull once before it would be cruel to see the kiwi's F1 career come to an end before he is given a proper chance.

While a number of drivers will be in the spotlight, so too will those stalwarts of Britain's heritage, Williams and McLaren, both of whom appear to be at sixes and sevens at present.

Of course, being in a team that doesn't seem to know whether it wants to be there or in IndyCar isn't the best way to approach a race mentally, so spare a thought for Fernando Alonso who today contests his 300th Grand Prix, though it will be his 297th start.

While he has those two titles to his credit, who would have predicted that the Spaniard wouldn't have added more. Indeed, who would have predicted that those years of frustration at Ferrari would be followed by even worse at Woking.

The pitlane opens and one by one the cars head out.

For a brief moments it looks as though Ricciardo has brushed the wall, but the Australian was merely only exploring the limits. Nonetheless, it is clear the circuit remains very dusty.

As the cars begin to arrive on the grid the air temperature is 19 degrees C, the track temperature is 37 degrees. It is bright and sunny, as it has been all weekend.

FOM's policy of an extra ten minutes grid time in order that the media - and celebrities - have more access to the drivers has clearly back-fired, for while the cars are in place the drivers have disappeared to the sanctuary of their garages.

A late scare has seen the intercooler on Raikkonen's car, Ferrari having checked the units on all the other Maranello-powered cars.

Just a quick reminder, like Melbourne there are three DRS zones.

Mercedes reports coolant from one of the classic cars used on the drivers parade in front of his grid slot.

The field heads off on the warm-up lap... all get away.

Behind the top ten, the Toro Rossos are on hypersofts, Sirotkin on supers and the rest on ultras.

A great start from Vettel, while Bottas and Verstappen are side by side through the first corners, with the Red Bull on the inside. However, the Mercedes is on the inside for T2, the pair side-by-side, wheel-to-wheel, neither giving an inch.

Further around the lap at T5 there is carnage as Hartley and Stroll collide. The Williams appears to lose control and move across on the Toro Ross which is on the outside.

Hartley is thrown into the air, his car riding on the front of the Williams, the two cars as one as they slither into the barriers at T6. Both are out on the spot, the worst possible conclusion to the Canadian's home race.

The VSC is deployed and then the full safety car... Ericsson and Vandoorne pit.

Behind the safety car it's: Vettel, Bottas, Verstappen, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Sainz and Perez.

"Well controlled at the start," Verstappen is told. Indeed it was.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Montreal, here.

The safety car is withdrawn at the end of lap 4, Vettel leads and Verstappen is all over Bottas. Perez runs wide in T1 after a clash with Sainz and is lucky not to collect Alonso and a Haas as he rejoins the track.

The Stroll/Hartley incident is under investigation. The Perez/Sainz incident also.

As Vettel extends his lead to 1.7s, Hulkenberg closes on Ocon.

No further action on the Stroll/Hartley clash.

"Sainz should be black-flagged," declares Perez.

"I'm having drop outs of power," warns Hamilton.

Verstappen continues to harry Bottas, as Hulkenberg shadows Ocon and Alonso hangs on to the tail of Leclerc.

Alonso makes a move on Leclerc in T1 but the youngster is having none of it and as a result the Spaniard runs wide.

Down in 12th, Gasly is setting an impressive pace.

Perez pits at the end of lap 9, switching to the supersofts he rejoins in last (18th).

Bottas' preoccupation with Verstappen, who has now dropped back a little, has allowed Vettel to build a 3.6s comfort cushion.

"I'm really being held up here," says Hulkenberg as though he expects Ocon to pull aside.

That said, the Frenchman pits and like his teammate switches supersofts. He rejoins in 15th, following an issue with the rear jack.

No further action to be taken on the Perez/Sainz incident.

"Bottas' tyres are on the limit of overheating as well," Verstappen is advised.

Hulkenberg pits at the end of lap 13, the German also switching to the supers. He rejoins in thirteenth ahead of Ocon.

Sainz pits at the end of lap 14, the Spaniard rejoining in 13th behind his teammate on the supersofts.

"I'm struggling a little bit," reports Ricciardo, who, like his teammate and Gasly, is on the hypers. Nonetheless, the Red Bull is closing on Hamilton who is now 2.1s down on Verstappen and 11.8s down on Vettel.

At the end of lap 16, Verstappen and Hamilton both pit. The rejoin in 5th (Verstappen) and sixth, both on the supers. The Briton is lucky not to hit the wall as he gets a wheel on the grass in T2.

Ricciardo pits at the end of lap 17, the Australian rejoining behind his teammate but ahead of Hamilton. Disaster for the world champion.

"Well done mate, you are ahead of Hamilton," Ricciardo is told. In the Mercedes garage Toto Wolff looks less than impressed.

Alonso pits at the end of lap 18, the McLaren driver rejoining in 14th on supers.

"We are on Plan B," Vettel is told, the German currently 4.6s ahead of Bottas.

Leclerc pits and rejoins in 13th, ahead of his old sparring partner Alonso.

"Keep pushing, you are still half-a-second than cars which have changed tyres," Bottas is told. Vettel is given a similar assurance.

Magnussen pits at the end of lap 22, teammate Grosjean currently 8th.

"Still unsafe to Raikkonen," Hamilton is told. "Nothing I can do about it," is the response.

Gasly pits from 7th at the end of lap 23, the Frenchman rejoining in 13th on the supers.

As Vettel shows signs of struggling, Verstappen goes quickest in S2. The Red Bull driver is currently fourth, 13.9s down on third-placed Raikkonen and 31s down on the leader.

As Vettel ups his pace, Bottas and Raikkonen trade some fastest sectors.

Clearly struggling, Hass has dropped to 9th on his hypers, he really needs to pit. He is currently under pressure from Ocon.

Despite the earlier scare, Vettel posts a new fastest lap (15.059).

Grosjean making his car as wide as possible as he fends off Ocon.

At then end of lap 32 Raikkonen pits, switching to supers he rejoins in 6th just behind Hamilton who was in the process of lapping Sirotkin.

"It's hammer-time," the world champion is told.

"Fernando this pace is good, you are gaining on the Force Indias and the Renaults in front. Still Plan A, Plan A."

0.84s down on Hamilton, Raikkonen, on much fresher rubber, posts a new fastest lap (15.026).

"Box, box, box," Bottas is told and at the end of lap 36 he duly obliges. On fresh supers he rejoins still in second, 24.8s down on Vettel and 4.2s ahead of Verstappen.

"Box now, box now," Vettel is told, and a lap after Bottas he also pits. With no issues the German rejoins still leading, 6.5s ahead of Bottas.

After 37 of 70 laps, Grosjean is the only driver still to stop. The Haas driver is currently ninth and still holding off Ocon.

Bottas posts a new fastest lap (45.521) as Vettel continues to bring his tyres up to speed.

Indeed, Vettel bangs in a 14.163, as Raikkonen is told to ignore the brake temperature warning light on his dash.

In 16th, Vandoorne is told to take advantage of the upcoming blue flags as Magnussen has an issue with them.

After 41 laps, it's: Vettel, Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Sainz, Grosjean and Ocon.

As Alonso slows, reporting "no power", he is told, "we will retire, we will retire, drive straight to the garage". "Sorry mate, gutted," the Spaniard is told. A sad end to his 300th Grand Prix.

"Still doing an excellent job," Grosjean is told.

Perez makes his second stop at the end of lap 45, the Mexican sticking with the supers.

"Let's push, let's see what you can do, we're happy to stop again if you need to," Vandoorne is told.

As Leclerc is lapped, Vettel's next target is Ocon who is currently tenth.

A mistake at the end of lap 48 sees Sainz miss the first chicane.

Moments later, Grosjean is lucky not to collect Ocon as he slows for the pit entrance. He rejoins in 12th on supers.

Vandoorne also pits rejoining in sixteenth.

The stewards have noted the Ocon/Grosjean incident.

As he is blue-flagged, Leclerc is advised that he is in the points.

Lap 51 sees a new fastest lap from Bottas (13.992) as he maintains a 4.4s gap to Vettel.

No further investigation necessary in terms of the Ocon/Grosjean incident.

Gasly is advised that Leclerc has a brake issue and he can catch him. Of course, the Frenchman has experience of the youngster's brakes issues, the two having failed to finish in Monaco as a result.

With 17 laps remaining, next to be lapped is 7th placed Hulkenberg.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Montreal, here.

Bottas cuts the gap to 3.7s as Vettel has a couple of weak laps. However, a mistake in T1 sees the Finn lose ground again. Indeed, the Mercedes is finding it harder to lap the backmarkers than the Ferrari.

Grosjean complains about the traffic.

Appearing to dash Bottas' hopes, Vettel bangs in a 13.967 as he extends his lead to 6.999s.

Elsewhere, Hamilton is within DRS range of Ricciardo.

If it remains as it is, Vettel will re-take the lead in the championship, while if the Briton passes the Red Bull he will lead the championship as we head to France.

Hamilton is told he can turn his power unit down if he needs to. "Not yet, I can still get that place," replies the Briton. "That's alright mate, you go for it."

Having finally found his way through the backmarkers, Verstappen is told that Bottas is catchable.

Ricciardo is warned that Hamilton is within DRS range.

Told to up his pace, Hulkenberg responds: "Leave me alone, too much radio!"

As he closes to within 2s of Bottas, Verstappen posts a new fastest lap (13.864).

Given a list of settings, Hamilton is told he has everything he needs for the overtake.

Ricciardo comes up behind some back markers as Hamilton closes in. However a slide in the hairpin costs the Briton.

"Bring it home," Vettel is told. Well duh!

While Bottas is the hunted, teammate Hamilton is the hunter, with just two laps remaining.

Vettel begins the final lap, and while the German is at T5 the chequered flag is already waving. "Tell them not to wave the chequered flag," warns the German.

Indeed, the flag having been waved early, seemingly because the model (Winnie Harlow) charged with waving it was more concerned with her hair, and as a result the race result is declared at the end of lap 68.

Vettel wins ahead of Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Sainz, Ocon and Leclerc.

Gasly is eleventh, ahead of Grosjean, Magnussen, Perez, Ericsson, Vandoorne and Sirotkin.

While Vettel's win and Hamilton's fifth sets us up nicely for the triple header that follows, one has to admit that this was a processional and boring as Monaco, possibly more so.

So much for that thriller...

Ironic that having made so much of banishing grid girls to the dark ages, FOM employs the services of a 'supermodel' who somehow manages to screw things up, worrying more about her hair than the one simple job she was asked to do.

Indeed, the whole thing has been thrown into confusion, the result initially declared at 69 laps and then 68. Oh well, if that's the price we pay for glamour and celebrity...

Today's win means that Vettel retakes the lead and head to France in two weeks' time with a one point lead in the championship... the best possible scenario ahead of the sport's first triple-header.

Let's just hope that over those three weeks, Paul Ricard, the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone can provide some racing and some overtaking.

It's not all doom and gloom though, today we saw that Red Bull really is a force to be reckoned with and the title is a three-way fight, while it was good to see Valtteri Bottas stick his elbows out at the start and not take any of young Max' nonsense.

On the other hand another miserable day for Fernando Alonso, Brendon Hartley and Williams.

Think we'll sign off early and watch the latest episode of The Bridge, after all we were promised a thriller today.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Montreal, here.

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 10/06/2018
Copyright © Pitpass 2002 - 2023. All rights reserved.