An engine failure for Red Bull-Renault’s Max Verstappen and front wing damage at the start for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel meant that Mercedes AMG F1’s Lewis Hamilton was untested in his successful bid to win the Canadian Grand Prix for the sixth time in his Formula 1 career.
After a storming pole position lap on Saturday at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Vettel was still expected to provide a stern challenge to Hamilton, who he was leading by 25 points in the world championship prior to the race. However, a storming start by Verstappen saw him blast to second from fifth place on the starting grid while Vettel even fell behind Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.
During the opening lap skirmish, Vettel ended up losing a part of his front wing, which forced an early pit stop, during which he also had the tyres on his Ferrari changed. Meanwhile, a coming together between Toro Rosso-Renault’s Carlos Sainz and Haas-Ferrari’s Romain Grosjean led to Sainz’s car being punted into the Williams-Mercedes of Felipe Massa, putting the two cars out of the race and forcing a full-course yellow along with the safety car being deployed.
Shortly after the debris was cleared and the safety car came in however, Verstappen’s bid to harry Hamilton came to an end as an engine failure forced the Dutch teenager to retire from the race. A virtual safety car ensued but there was no threat left for either Hamilton or Bottas to tackle for the remainder of the race.
THE REST BATTLE IT OUT
With Mercedes looking set to finish 1-2, the attention turned to the fight for third place with Daniel Ricciardo and the surprisingly fast Force India-Mercedes of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon being the contenders for the last spot on the podium.
Making full use of some engine upgrades, Perez and Ocon looked rapid and had a legitimate shot at besting Ricciardo, however the normally harmonious pairing went sour after Ocon went very long and came out just behind Perez after his stop on much fresher tyres.
When Vettel stopped for the second time, Force India knew they had been given breathing space to figure out an attack on Ricciardo and even decided to ask Perez to let Ocon past and give him a chance. The Mexican refused to do so, however, and the trio of Ricciardo and the two Force Indias stayed together with Perez forcefully resisting Ocon. Meanwhile Vettel emerged from his stop and put in some of the fastest laps of the race to catch up once more.
Eventually, with eight of the 70 laps left, the Ferrari driver was right behind the garishly pink cars and forcefully moved past Ocon, who was forced to go wide at turn one and then cede the place he inadvertently made up on Perez and Vettel.
The German then moved past Perez, whose tyres were too shot for him to resist, but somehow he managed to keep Ocon behind despite the Frenchman’s best efforts.
The fighting allowed Ricciardo to take his second straight podium finish, which he duly celebrated with his famous – albeit odious – ‘shoey’ on the rostrum.
Mercedes’ 1-2 finish helped countered Ferrari’s similar finishing order in Monaco to give them the lead in the constructors’ championship. And Vettel’s advantage of 25 points over Hamilton had been cut to 12.
It really looks difficult for either the silver or scarlet camp to make a break at the front at this stage and that bodes well for the remainder of the year.