Vettel wins - and loses - Canadian Grand Prix


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.

With Gasly pitting, Ricciardo is going to have to pit, tyre strategy having ruined the Australian's race in Monaco.

Indeed, next time around Ricciardo pits, as Norris slows to a halt after seemingly clouting the infamous Wall of Champions. He stops near the pitlane exit, his right-rear suspension clearly damaged and flames licking from under the car.

Ricciardo rejoined in 11th, ahead of Gasly.

Replay reveals that Norris didn't hit the wall, in fact he suffered a brake issue which effectively melted his suspension. The team apologises.

Perez pits at the end of lap 11.

On lap 12, Vettel laps Kubica, whose accident in 2007 led to the German making his F1 debut at the subsequent race.

Strangely there is no attempt to remove Norris' car, and the double yellows continue to be waved.

Verstappen closes on Bottas who is shadowing Hulkenberg who is doing a sterling job on his softs.

Perez passes Magnussen for 14th, the Dane not having the impact expected - no pun intended.

Hulkenberg pits at the end of lap 16, rejoining on hards in seventh behind his teammate.

Giovinazzi brushes the Wall of Champions, as Perez passes the Italian's teammate for 14th.

Lap 17 sees Leclerc post a new fastest lap (16.533).

Replay shows Hamilton taking a pummelling as he rides the kerbs at the chicane.

The top three are covered by 3.9s, with Bottas a further 16s behind.

"Plan B, Plan B," Vettel is told. "Now?" he asks. "Yes," comes the reply. Leclerc is given a similar message.

A couple of mistakes from Verstappen as he seeks to close the 2.1s gap to Bottas.

A new fastest lap from Leclerc (16.515), who is 3.1s behind Hamilton.

Bottas, who is now 17s down on Leclerc, reports that he is losing grip.

"Push now, push now," Vettel is told.

"Disturbing on the up shift, feels like it might blow up at any moment," reports Hulkenberg.

Vettel pits at the end of lap 25, as Hamilton reports that he doesn't have much left in his tyres. "I can't go any faster," he says, somewhat breathlessly.

Vettel rejoins in third on the hards.

"Hammer time!" is the cry from the Mercedes pit wall. In a follow up, the Briton is told: "We now have the gap so we're going to extend".

On fresh rubber, Vettel goes quickest in S1.

"These tyres are ******," reports Hamilton. The Briton subsequently pits. Switching to hards he rejoins in third 4.6s behind Vettel who posts a new fastest lap (15.333).

"We're going long, try to keep this pace," Leclerc is told.

After 30 laps (of 70), it's: Leclerc, Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Stroll, Gasly and Sainz.

A spin for Giovinazzi in Turn 1 as Bottas finally pits. The Finn rejoining in 6th behind Ricciardo.

Perez makes a bold move on Grosjean in T1, the pair touching as the Mexican barges his way through for 13th.

At the end of lap 32 Leclerc pits, thereby handing the lead back to his teammate. The Monegasque rejoins in fourth, just behind Verstappen.

Giovinazzi pits at the end of lap 34.

Bottas, with the aid of DRS, is all over Ricciardo, but the Australian is in no mood to surrender and holds off the Mercedes, causing the Finn to back off. They are side-by-side in the final chicane.

As Grosjean pits, Leclerc passes Verstappen for third.

Of the leading ten, after 36 laps, Verstappen (4th) and Stroll (8th) have yet to pit.

"Come on, take another go," Bottas is urged. He does as instructed and this time he pulls it off, despite the Renault driver's best efforts to break the tow.

Suddenly the gap between Vettel and Hamilton is down to 0.8s. Leclerc is a further 12s behind.

Magnussen pits at the end of lap 40, leaving Verstappen and Stroll as the only drivers still to stop.

As Vettel posts a new fastest lap (15.208), on successive laps Hamilton locks-up at the hairpin.

"My brake pedal is almost on the floor," reports Verstappen.

A new fastest lap from Bottas (15.046).

"The numbers on the steering wheel are correct, take actions" Vettel is told. Which could refer to fuel, brakes, all manner of things.

Stroll finally pits at the end of lap 45, the Canadian rejoining in 10th behind Perez.

The best time to fight Vettel is 1, 2 and 8," Hamilton is told.

Vettel makes a mistake in Turn 4, and Hamilton is almost through. Replay shows that in fact the rear just stepped out. For a brief moment there appeared to be a gap, Hamilton was tempted but it quickly closed.

Hamilton is unhappy about the way Vettel rejoined the track.

Verstappen pits at the end of lap 48, rejoining in 7th behind Hulkenberg on mediums.

So, after 49 laps, with everyone having pitted, it's: Vettel, Hamilton, Leclerc, Bottas, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Verstappen, Gasly, Sainz and Stroll.

The stewards are investigating the Vettel incident.

Lap 52 sees a new fastest lap from Vettel (14.903) as he maintains a 1.5s lead.

Out of DRS range of Hamilton, Vettel is actually singing... "no DRS... no DRS..."

Verstappen, on his fresh rubber, has now passed both the Renaults and is up to 5th, 15s down on Bottas.

Magnussen goes full-on Comic Shop Guy as he reports that "this is the worst experience I've ever had in any race car, ever".

"For us also it is not a nice experience," responds Guenther Steiner, "enough is enough."

Vettel has been given a 5s time penalty, for an unsafe re-entry and forcing another driver off track.

He is not going to take that well.

"Vettel has a 5s penalty, we just have to stay in his gearbox," Hamilton is told.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Montreal, here.

"I had nowhere to go," says Vettel when told of the penalty. "I had nowhere to go, I did see him."

Meanwhile the two Renaults are battling for 6th.

Vettel currently has a 2.4s lead.

"Have we got any more power?" asks Hamilton.

Lap 69 sees Raikkonen make his second stop, the first driver to do so.

Told to remain focussed, Vettel responds: "I am focussed, but they are stealing the race from us."

Albon pits at the end of lap 62, but clearly it's something terminal as he is pushed back into his garage. That his first DNF of the season.

Sensing that second could be on offer,. Leclerc has upped his pace. He is currently 9.1s down on his teammate.

With three laps remaining, Stroll is all over Sainz as they battle for 9th.

"Box, box, box, box," Bottas is told, the Finn clearly targeting the point for fastest lap.

Stroll passes Sainz for 9th, with Kvyat following through moments later.

As they begin the final lap Hamilton is 0.517s own on Hamilton, on the road.

Elsewhere, Bottas goes quickest in S1.

"All you have, all you have," Vettel is told. Indeed, Leclerc has closed the gap to 6.338s.

Bottas posts 13.078 to take fastest lap.

Vettel takes the flag but Hamilton the win. With Leclerc 6.038s down on his teammate, Vettel keeps second.

"No, no no guys, no, no no, not like that. Seriously, you need to be an absolute blind man to think you can go through the grass and then control your car," says Vettel. "I was lucky not to hit the wall, where the hell am I supposed to go?"

"That's not the way I wanted to win it," admits Hamilton.

Vettel parks his Ferrari in parc ferme at the pitlane entrance and heads off to confront the stewards, seemingly swerving the trackside interviews

"Naturally that's not the way I wanted to win, I pushed to the end to try and pass," says Hamilton. "It's unfortunate, but this is motor racing. You aren't supposed to go straight back onto the racing line."

Meanwhile, the cameras show Vettel heading off into the Ferrari motorhome, slamming doors along the way.

"I'm happy about the performance, we were very quick which makes it a shame about yesterday that I made mistakes in qualifying," adds Leclerc, "I need to work on that but the team deserved a victory today. Hopefully the victory will come soon."

As Vettel remerges for the podium ceremony, the crowd rises to its feet in tribute.

Before heading up to the podium, the German removes the '2' marker in front of his car and places it in front of Hamilton's Mercedes.

In the cool-down room, Vettel shakes hands with both Leclerc and Hamilton. "You drove well today man," says the Briton. "Where was I supposed to go?" says the German.

On the podium, there are boos from Hamilton from the crowd, who has pulled Vettel on to the top step for the anthems. The booing is unfair as it was the stewards decision which has caused this.

The fall-out from this is sure to continue, but whatever the rights and wrongs, the fact is that today has shown that Ferrari can win, albeit on specific tracks. Whether what happened inspires Vettel and Ferrari to greater things remains to be seen.

Nonetheless, as the debate continues, most appear to be of the opinion that it was a racing incident.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Montreal, here.

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 09/06/2019
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