A WALK IN THE PARK FOR LEWIS
Records were matched and broken, as Hamilton steered clear of trouble to serenely convert pole to victory in an incident-strewn Canadian Grand Prix
OCON BELIEVED HE WAS BETTER PLACED THAN HIS TEAM-MATE TO ATTACK RICCIARDO FOR P3, BUT PÉREZ HELD STEADFASTLY ON… ‘LET US RACE, PLEASE’ HE SAID
After the disappointment of Monaco, Lewis Hamilton made a return to form in Canada, with an utterly dominant weekend. A brilliant pole lap on Saturday, equalling the 65 poles of his hero Ayrton Senna, was followed by a lights-to-flag victory on Sunday – his sixth win from ten starts at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
He comfortably led all 70 laps, set the fastest lap of the race and finished nearly 20 seconds ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo P3. And with Sebastian Vettel running into trouble, Lewis halved his deficit to the Ferrari’s driver, reducing the gap from 25 to 12 points.
ALL EYES WERE on the rookies, but neither the Williams of local boy Lance Stroll nor McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne could escape Q1. The latter bruised the side of his McLaren when he swiped the concrete wall on the exit of Turn 7. He was behind Stroll, then put in a lap to net 15th and demote Stroll to the drop zone.
Their fate was sealed when Pascal Wehrlein lost control of his Sauber while braking for Turn 1 and hit the barriers backwards. The resultant yellow flags meant no one could improve their time and Stroll and Vandoorne were out of Q1.
The Toro Rossos made it into Q2, but suffered problems in the next qualifying period. Carlos Sainz made the same mistake as Wehrlein, spinning at Turn 1 when he put his right-rear wheel on the grass, while his team-mate Daniil Kvyat was less fortunate, clattering into the wall on the exit of Turn 9 and suffering a right-rear puncture after damaging his wheel.
Vettel was the first to set a time in the final segment of qualifying but, behind him, Hamilton was recording purple sectors and circulating faster. As he stopped the clocks with a 1m 11.791s lap, the crowd roared with delight.
Hamilton’s second run was even better than his first. It was one of those magical laps that had everyone spellbound. The 1m 11.459s lap was the fastest ever recorded here and worthy of equalling Ayrton Senna’s record of 65 poles.
FROM THE OFF, there was drama in the race and it all happened behind Hamilton, who led from the start. Fifth-on-the-grid Max Verstappen launched his Red Bull between Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari and Bottas’s Mercedes and braked late on the outside as the field began to turn left for the first corner. Vettel was aware that Bottas had locked up on his inside, but he was pincered by Verstappen on his outside. As Verstappen turned in, his left-rear wheel snapped off part of the front wing of Vettel’s Ferrari.
As the field entered the right-left kink of Turns 3 and 4, Romain Grosjean’s Haas tangled with Sainz, sending the Toro Rosso spinning and wiping out Felipe Massa who was just turning into the corner when he was struck from behind. The Williams was out on the spot, while Sainz was buried in the tyre wall. Cue the Safety Car.
On the restart, Verstappen challenged Hamilton into the final corner, but was easily repelled. It was the closest that anyone would get to Lewis for the rest of the afternoon. On his 11th lap, Verstappen’s strong start came to nothing. He pulled off to the side when, according to Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, he suffered a “shutdown of all electrical power”.
Bottas inherited second, Ricciardo third and both ran to the flag when they made early stops to change to the soft tyre. Meanwhile, Ferrari decided to bring in both Räikkönen and Vettel for second stops in a bid to overhaul the Force Indias running ahead of them. “You think we will get them [the Force Indias] at the end?” asked Vettel. “Yes,” responded his engineer Riccardo Adami. “Eight laps from the end…”
Sergio Pérez, P4 behind Ricciardo, was on tyres 13 laps older than those of his frustrated team-mate Esteban Ocon, who was snapping at his heels. Ocon believed he was better placed to attack and pass Ricciardo for P3. Force India gave Pérez the hurry-up and threatened to swap positions, but he steadfastly held on: “Let us race, please,” he said over the team radio.
As the end drew near, the faster Ferraris hunted down the Force Indias, and Vettel’s cause was helped on lap 59 when Räikkönen ran wide at the final chicane to hand him P6. Vettel pounced six laps from the end, passing Ocon into Turn 1, then passing Pérez with four laps to go. Ocon had one last attempt, on the final lap, to pass his team-mate Pérez for fourth, but to no avail. “This is not fair guys,” he said on the team radio, adding: “We’ll discuss this in the debrief…”
Points were a just reward for Lance Stroll, the local boy who has had such a difficult start to his grand prix career. He stayed out of trouble at his home circuit to claim two points for ninth.
The Force Indias fought hard behind Ricciardo, but lost out to Vettel’s Ferrari