Ambient 12° Track 22° Humidity 58% Wind 2.8 m/s
Nasty cold threatening weather with occasional spits of rain overhung the start of the Canadian GP, with the prospect of a very entertaining race at the front and in the midfield thanks to the unusually unpleasant weather.
Also entertaining was the entirely believable prospect of a less than stellar start from Mercedes, allowing a Ferrari or Red Bull to dictate the early pace. A late ECU change for Rosberg would not have helped to settle Paddy Lowes’ nerves. Perhaps even more interesting would be the revelation of whether Ferrari’s stronger, but thirstier engine will triumph over Red Bull’s less grunty but beefier than previous PU combined with their superior chassis.
Williams was keen to show they belong at the top, but as always the Grove based team seem to be remarkably brilliant at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory lately. Points at the back were the aim of Force India, McLaren, and Toro Rosso and it was no doubt going to be a long afternoon for someone.
Perez and Magnussen on the Soft, and Button and Haryanto on the SuperSoft were the only deviants from UltraSoft dominance at the start of the race. Once again Hamilton covered Rosberg as they lined up on the grid.
Lights out and it was Vettel on the boil around the outside as Hamilton held P2 and Rosberg got shuffled off the track and all the way back to P9. Verstappen bounced Ricciardo and Raikkonen was already on him putting the pressure on the Red Bull man. Hulkenberg then moved Alonso aside as Rosberg followed suit a lap later.
Lap 6 saw a Nasr spin as Lewis started to set fast laps and reign Vettel into DRS range. Vettel saw it coming, however and upped his times accordingly. Red Bull clearly off the pace as Rosberg’s track re-entry opened the door for Verstappen to get by and the 2 drivers languished in their own little bubble as the race approached double digits.
Sauber started the stops lap 11 with Softs for Nasr. Grosjean got by Gutierrez and bang theres the VSC as Button retired with his car on fire. Apparently he felt bad that the fans were cold and properly British to the end he set his car alight.
Vettel took advantage of the VSC to pit for Supers and the VSC ended just as he rolled down the pitlane, somewhat spoiling Ferrari’s gambit. Supers also meaning a 2 stopper for sure as Soft was the mandated tyre for the race and ideal strategy was change lap 24 for Softs to end of race being quickest.
Sainz followed up boxing lap 14 to get him out from around his teammate, Kvyat being slower than the flash Spaniard. Gutierrez rolled in as his tyres gave it up and went to the Soft as the losing teammates started to hit the pits to try and save their races.
And one unhappy consequence of Ferrari’s strategy is that Vettel rocked up behind Ricciardo and became stuck around lap 17, getting close to the pass into T1 before finally making it work into T4. Ricciardo’s tyres definitely were off tho as Alonso made his way to the pits for the new boots. Bad stop for Fernando also meant Grosjean and Kvyat both got in front of Alonso which did not improve his demeanour.
As if that’s not bad enough, Team Britain went down yet another man as Jolyon Palmer was forced to retire his car with smoking brakes. Verstappen took to the pits lap 21 and Raikkonen, also on the Supers after his pitstop, rolled up on Max Verstappen trying to get his tyres switched on.
Ricciardo followed his teammate in the following lap and Rosberg and Hulkenberg as well came in. Danny was out behind Kimi, with Rosberg ahead of Hulkenberg but crucially behind Perez.
Vettel continued to close the gap down to 6s at the front once he was free of the Red Bulls. Rosberg managed a killer out lap and got himself ahead of Massa and Lewis’ tyres looked to be completely gone. Sure enough, he hit the mark directly on lap 24 for predicted optimum strategy. The stop left him 13s down but with a whole pit stop less needed. Time for the popcorn to get passed.
The Soft tyres seemed to suit Rosberg much better, as he dispatched Perez neatly under DRS the following lap and the race began to settle as the drivers on different strategies worked for their maximum result.
Ricciardo was the first to encounter the moveable wall of Raikkonen as he worked to get back up to the gearbox of his teammate. With Kimi lolling 4 seconds back and Bottas approaching from behind Danny Boy’s day looked grimmer and grimmer. No matter how close he got, he was unable to get past under DRS.
Up at the sharp end Vettel’s tyres began to give it up and the lead he was preserving began to trickle away around lap 32, as Lewis had knocked nearly 3s off the gap to the Ferrari.
The Mercedes not driven by Hamilton continued to engage in damage limitation, but having finally gotten onto the back of Bottas’ gearbox, the non-Hamiltonian was continually frustrated by the Finn driven Williams.
Raikkonen, job done holding up the entire rest of the race, rocked in lap 35 for Softs, and back out P8 to roll around with the Williams and dream of ice cream and vodka shakes. Massa came in lap 35 and never departed, high engine temps being the prime mover in his demise.
Ricciardo finally lost out to Bottas lap 37, his race thouroughly compromised by the Kimster, and to make it worse he missed the final chicane setting up the pass. Vettel brought it in for Softs lap 38 as the final act at the front got ready to hit the stage.
A slow pit for Red Bull compounded the Aussie’s woes and he found himself out behind Raikkonen yet again. A fast outlap for Vettel found him around 7s back of Hamilton with 30 laps to go. Back in the midfield some of the faster runners began to come in as they switched strategies to a 2 stop.
At the front, though, Lewis continued to hold Vettel to a 7s gap as the race continued at a slow simmer waiting to see the tyre strategies play out at the end of the race. Rosberg continued to not quite get close enough on DRS to pass Bottas as Rosberg complained of multiple warnings on his wheel. The pitwall helpfully confirmed they were all real.
Lap 47 and onto the Ultra’s went Verstappen, and back out into P5, promoting Bottas into the podium places. Sainz gave in lap 47 for a new set of tyres, also the Ultras, matching the choice that HAAS had made when they came in earlier.
But it was Young Max setting fast times that must have put the scare into Rosberg as he got it into gear yet again to have a go at Bottas, and then at the end of lap 51 it was into the pits with a slow puncture for him, wrecking both his race and his championship lead. Back out P7 with Softs and into serious damage limitation mode.
And immediately fast lap into the 1:15’s went Rosberg as he set about getting as much back as he could. Hulkenberg and Perez also gave up the chase of a 1 stop leaving just Hamilton, Bottas, Alonso and Magnussen to play the long game.
Rosberg crushed Ricciardo with his new tyres lap 56 and set about reeling in Raikkonen. Vettel had a lock up into the final chicane and lost almost 2 seconds, which was no help at all to his cause.
And then Rosberg made everyone sit up and pay attention with a killer move on Kimi taking the inside into the final chicane lap 58 and showing just how much more grip those new tyres had.
And not happy with that Rosberg went on to set brutal times, dropping well into the mid 1:15’s as he tracked down Verstappen at more than 2 seconds a lap. Adding to the drama, Vettel AGAIN booted the final chicane lap 62, giving even more time to his rival and giving Lewis the opportunity to Snapchat some to his followers.
By that point, Nico was less than half a second off Verstappen and it looked to be just a matter of laps before the young driver would succumb. But superb defending from Verstappen kept it from happening lap 64 and moved Bottas into the safe zone with his podium spot.
Nico did seem to have it in the bag the following lap, but again Verstappen kept the more experienced driver at bay, as this evolved into the battle at the end of the race. Alonso briefly requested permission to come in only to have it firmly denied on the off chance a point might fall off the table and into Macca’s lap.
Rosberg smoked his tyres into the final chicane the following lap as he tried to get close to Verstappen yet again, and perhaps it was one of those warning lights for the brakes finally coming due as the cause.
It wasn’t till lap 69 that the Mercedes driver regained DRS and at the same moment, as if to make a point, Hamilton put in a lap into the 1:15s just to say, see, ya never really had a chance.
And into the last lap Rosberg went round the outside for a final shot at glory and wound up spinning the car under braking, fortunate to not lose his P5 as his result.
At the front, Lewis kept it clean and crossing under the checkers, treated his pitwall to “Float like a butterfly, sting like a Bee” a Muhammad Ali quote in tribute to one who truly was “the Greatest”. Vettel was not an entirely happy camper and one can only wonder what those Monday morning interoffice memo’s from Marchionne are gonna look like. Crucially worth remembering that Kimi had the exact same lock up in the exact same place during Quali with Ferrari’s front end looking more and more like the source of it’s woes. Bottas was as ecstatic as a Finn ever gets, which is slightly more than dead, and the P3 confirmed that perhaps Williams is not as lost in the wilderness as they’ve recently appeared.
Rosberg down to +9 in the championship and not a happy camper as he admitted being pissed at Hamilton’s lap 1 adventures and rather out of fuel for the duel with Max at the end of the race. The big Red Bull question has now also been answered: Yes they are fast enough to defend if they get ahead, but overtaking not possible without massive tyre advantage. So Monaco-like tracks will be their playground and a bit average otherwise. Thus it’s back to Mercedes/Ferrari and thank goodness Mercedes’ starts are so wretched as it unleashed a much more entertaining race than might’ve been expected.
Post race nice to hear Vettel joke their main problem was Lewis being too fast and to say that they will have to come to Montreal “forever” possibly making Mr E’s negotiations slightly more complicated. The biggest talking point will naturally be what might’ve happened had Ferrari not gambled on the VSC to jump to a 2 stop race, a move Arrivabene characterised as a mistake in an interview with Sky.
Oh, and a special shout out to Carlos Sainz who went from P20 to P9, without hitting anything.
And remember to play nice in the comments!!