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Thanks to @F1TheaJ for his weekend recap with TJ13 poll results
Race Review- Round 7 Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada
Temperatures plummeted for FP3 and qualifying on Saturday, resulting in Vettel heading the leader board in FP3 and Hamilton who had been top in FP1&2 in fourth place. Was this real or just a reflection of the truncated session? (or showboating by Hamilton who could then emerge from the ashes and rise to glory like a phoenix reborn?)We just had to wait a couple of hours until qualifying to get an answer to that one…….
Not surprisingly, the threat of rain had the Mercedes and Ferraris queuing to be first out on track before the rain came down. Last place on the starting grid was secured by Kevin Magnussen in FP3 as his crash rendered his car unfit to take part in qualifying. The remaining five to be eliminated were Har, Nas, Eri (who carries a three place grid penalty from Monaco) Weh and Pal. No real surprises there. Ros was quickest in Q1 on 1:13.714. Slight drizzle put in an appearance towards the end of Q1.
The infamous Wall of Champions claimed its first victim in Carlos Sainz at the beginning of Q2 redflagging the session. Carlos later said ‘The wall you don’t mind hitting so much is the Wall of Champions. The walls here are all so close! I’ve slightly touched this same wall a couple of times over the weekend, but in today’s quali I did it in a different way, just a bit harder. I knew that the fight to get into Q3 was going to be tough so I pushed that extra bit more and maybe this is the reason for this mistake. Fortunately though, we are looking strong and the points are won tomorrow, so we will make sure we fight for another top ten finish in the race.’
For the second time this season Gro was out qualified by his teammate Gut (Canada being the first time the new Hass team will race on North American soil), with Kvy But and Per, being the next six to be eliminated. Kvy later said ‘ Tomorrow we will start from even further behind as I have a three-position grid penalty from Monaco, but in the race anything can happen and we just need to keep our head down and take any opportunity that comes up.’
Ham was fastest in Q2 on 1.13.076, already 9 tenths faster than Vet’s FP3 time. All time sheets reset to zero for Q3.
Well the Mercs took the front row (again) followed by Vet, Ric, Ves, Rai, Bot, Mas, Hul and Alo. On the surface it looked like business as usual, but the gap between the Mercs and Ferrari was down to 0.178, much closer than the more familiar 0.5s, so (in qualifying at least ) it looks as if the Ferrari upgraded engine (which used three development tokens) is doing its job, helped by the upgraded rear suspension. Vet, however, was disappointed as prior to qualifying he thought that pole had been a possibility. He said he had been a bit greedy out of turn 10 and not greedy enough into turn 6. His aim had been to get below 1:13, which he did. He also brushed the Wall of Champions, so he’s ticked that off his list and sees no reason to do it again in the race.
Ham acknowledged that Ferrari had picked up their pace with their upgrades and thought it would be a great race.
The Williams drivers were slightly disappointing, especially as Bot qualified in P4 last year and finished on the podium. Better news for McLaren, with Alo splitting the two Force Indias, but of course, the big question of the day will be can Ric avenge his misfortunes of the past two races? Not long to wait now…………………….
Apart from Per and KMag (soft), But and Har (SS), all the other drivers started on US tyres, and what a start it was. Vet made (probably, in my opinion) the best start ever, going round the outside of Ham to take the lead from 3rd, with Ham having (allegedly) massive understeer forcing Ros wide and off the track. This cost Ros very dear indeed, dropping down to P10 (by L3).
Verstappen, who jumped Ric at the start, received a message from the team on L11 ‘do not hold Daniel up’ whereupon he put his foot down and left him bobbing in his wake. Ves had gone into tyre/fuel saving mode once he realised (from 3rd) that he could not keep up with Vet and Ham but was reluctant to give up 3rd place to Ric so had to put some distance between the two of them. (again, IMO, Ves is now the No1 driver at Red Bull).
Disaster then took a two pronged approach to the race: firstly, on L11, But’s engine gave up the ghost as he lost drive, and seeing smoke billowing from the rear of his car soon came to realise why. This initiated a Virtual Safety Car (VSC) which limited the speed of the drivers in each sector of the race (determined by the marshals). This gave disaster its second opportunity: Vet, on L12, was called into the pits from a significant lead to change tyres from the US to SS. This could have been an inspired move had not the VSC period ended when Vet was still in the pit lane. Vet was limited to 60km/h as his rivals sped past the pit lane at three times that speed. Vettel crawled back onto the track in P4, the brilliance of his start having been completely undone, now in traffic and with quite a fight on his hands. Ham, who had been struggling to keep pace behind the Ferrari, was now blessed with leading the race in clean air with his nearest rival not too near at all.
As if that wasn’t bad enough for Ferrari, Rai followed suit and came off even worse. BUT the soft tyre was the nominated compound for the race, so this move committed both Vet and Rai to a two stop strategy, as they would both have to stop again to take on the compulsory set of tyres. The two/one stop strategy (not taking into account an additional stop for rain) was marginal, with the 2 stop supposedly being 2s faster overall. Had Ferrari planned a two stop all along, or was it an opportunistic spur of the moment decision to try to take advantage of the VSC? (it will be interesting to see YOUR opinions on that one!!)
Sai pitted for softs on L14, Eri and Gut did likewise on L15. By L17 Vet had overtaken Ric to regain P3 and shortly thereafter did the same to Ves to take P2. Lady Luck decided not to shine on Pal (again) and a couple of laps later he retired from the race with a water leak. L21 saw Ves pit for softs, with Ric and Ros doing likewise on L22, with Mas coming in on L23.
Ham pitted for softs on L24, handing the lead back to Vet. At this point Ves was in line for a podium finish, ahead of Rai, Ric and Bot. Vet was held up by backmarkers and lost 3s of his lead over Ham (he needed about 19s to get into the pits and out again still in front). L34 saw Mas retire and Bot overtake Ric for P4. Vet pitted on L37 (soft) emerging in P2, 7.5s behind Ham on tyres which would be 13 laps younger by the end of the race.
L39 saw Ric pit AGAIN for another set of softs having picked up a puncture. Not only that but his pit stop was SLOW (nowhere near as slow as the nightmare of Monaco) as the technician struggled to fit the front right tyre, losing a couple of seconds.
Interestingly, Ves changed to a two stop strategy on L47, moving onto US tyres and emerging in P5. This pushed Bot into 3rd place, giving Williams the possibility of their first trophy of the season.
Ros pitted on L52 with a right rear puncture, emerging on softs in P7.
Meanwhile back at the front, Vet had been gaining (0.2-0.4s per lap) on Ham and his tyres were looking pretty good compared to Ham’s until he locked up on the hairpin overtaking Gut and got a small flat spot on his tyres. Then came another lock up losing 1.5s as he cut the chicane and went into the runoff area, and then on L62 , déjà vu, a second lock up with subsequent loss of time. At this point it seemed, barring an error on Ham’s part, that Vet had run out of laps to catch Ham and the race was all but won.
Won, but not over. There was an epic battle going on for a) salvaging championship points and b) third place on the podium, as Ros, cut a swathe through the field, demolishing his rivals maximising the grip on his new tyres. HOWEVER it was not all plain sailing for Ros as he had MANY lights flashing on his steering wheel informing him of the problems his car was experiencing (all of which turned out to be real). Ric was first to go on L56, followed two laps later by a (world class) overtake on Rai at the final chicane. Ros was cutting into Ves’s lead at the rate of 2s per lap, so it seemed a matter of time before he’d have fourth place. Ves would not be such easy pickings, as he also had fresh(ish) tyres, his were US, and this was Ves behind the wheel.
Ves defended brilliantly for about 5 laps, outwitting his (far) more experienced adversary, until on the final lap, a final lunge saw Ros spin off the track and nearly loose his P5. (He did get fastest lap, though.) All this defensive work from Ves had allowed Bot to make a clean getaway and secure his first podium finish of the year (same as last year and more than making up for the poor qualifying.) Let’s not forget its not where you start that matters so much as where you finish the race, and Bot finished on the podium.
Meanwhile, not getting very much air time at all, Kvy finished in P12, just out of the points, Alo ( who had requested and had had denied an early retirement from the race) finished in P11, Sai had driven a cracking race and finished in P9 (starting form P20 after a grid penalty for a premature gear box change). Sai was many people’s driver of the day, taking of which…….
The results of rating the race and driver polls from TheJudge13.com are now in and you voted for Max Verstappen as driver of the day (56%), with Vet coming second (12%) and Sai a close third (10%.) The race was rated as 7 overall (34%) with 59% of voters rating it 7 or above. In University parlance, that’s First Class!!
Well it’s Azerbaijan next, hosting the European GP (European? Well Australia competing in the Eurovision Song Contest gives some indication of the importance of geographical accuracy in these things.) Who will lift the winner’s trophy this weekend? We’ll just have to wait a little while longer to get an answer to that one…………………..