Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
Ambient 20° Track 41° Humidity 27% Wind 1.2 m/s
Traffic was jammed on the BQE, brakelights solid red. An early promising start combined with some well spotted overtaking and an allegedly healthy disregard for posted limits had seen the GPS move it’s needle from 8 after to 4 after when the awful sound announced traffic was building up and I was not going to make the start of the race, after it turned out my gig started an hour later than I was told…..
A new route put me back to arriving 2 minutes before the start of the race, and some spirited driving saw me claw back another minute, banging the wheels against the kerb with 3 minutes to spare… A sprint up the stairs and I was cranking up F1 TV as the app announced the beginning of the parade lap. No picture of course and 10 minutes of chatting latter, and having cleared my cache and restarted my browser I was FINALLY able to get visuals, but not before I missed the interesting bits. AS for the race, well, looked to be a one stopper and I’m increasingly of the opinion that that is the default for this season, due primarily to the slow pace they need to run to protect the engines and save fuel….
Lights Out!!!! Rocking start from Vettel and huge effort from Verstappen to bring himself into contention with Bottas around T2. Bottas kept his foot in and managed to fight him off to maintain P2. Ricciardo didn’t get the greatest of starts but hung it round the outside of Raikkonen T1 and then took the position neatly away. Ocon slung it round Hulkenberg for P7 and then a massive smash!!! Stroll, having had a good start as well and gaining several places, lost the car on the way to T6 and took Hartley, who could ill afford it, straight into the barriers, showering the circuit with debris. Safety Car was out and brought an immediate halt to the fun.
On the restart Verstappen again was close to Bottas, Perez had an off road incident and was back on without crash, but not before Alonso and Kmag got round. According to the immediate and somewhat agitated radio commentary, Perez was clocked by Sainz which resulted in his adventure.
Hulkenberg, complaining mightily about being faster, was on Ocon but with DRS not yet enabled not much progress was being made. Lap 7 and Vettel was making no real time, 1.7 seconds up the road as Verstappen closed up to the back of Bottas. Meanwhile, a fairly angry Perez was calling for Sainz to be black flagged, despite the replay looking rather like he turned into the unfortunate Renault driver.
Hulkenberg continued to put the screws to Ocon but was unable to get round the Force India, even after DRS was enabled. Slightly further back, Leclerc, in the last points paying position, was giving a vigorous defense to Fernando Alonso, who was trying all his wily veteran type tricks on the youngster, to fairly little effect.
Lap 12 and Ocon put himself out of Hulkenberg’s misery, pitting for a set of Supersofts. It was a massively slow stop which was good news for Hulkenberg who had been overheating massively behind the Force India driver. Hulkenberg was all over it, turning a lap in the 1:15’s the only midfielder to visit that rarefied air, on his way to a slam dunk overcut. Along with that, reports that Bottas was on the edge of overheating his tyres hit the airwaves from team radio.
Hullkenberg managed to exit the pits in front of Ocon after his pit stop, which should’ve been a no brainer, but as Renault was also slow in the box, it was a little more entertaining than it should’ve been. Lap 15 and Sainz was also in, both of the Renaults rocking the Supersofts, popular choice. The full price of Force India’s slow stop then became apparent, costing them not just P7, but also P8 as Sainz, too, emerged in front of the young Frenchman as he hit the far end of the pitlane. But that was quickly forgotten as both Verstappen and Hamilton bounced into the pits and right back out on Supers, just ahead of the long runners, now led by Leclerc, who was close enough to get a bit racy. Ricciardo radioed in Hamilton was struggling, and his engineer encouraged him to go for it, not that it was needed.
Ricciardo was in the following lap and with a smashing stop, managed to pass him in the pits, as Hamilton’s outlap mirrored the troubles he had yesterday in qualifying, a fundamental lack of grip and difficulty getting the power down midcorner. Frying pan, meet fire for Mercedes at the moment as Vettel switched to plan B, swanning along comfortably ahead of Bottas with a 4.5 second gap on lap 20. In all likelihood, that meant going long for a 1 stop as Bottas was fundamentally unable to put any kind of pressure on the Ferrari.
Lap 21 and with both Leclerc and Alonso having pitted, it was now Gasly, the sole Toro Rosso left in the race, momentarily leading the best of the rest. Astonishingly, Gasly was running a set of Hypersofts, though his laptimes reflected the care required to get them over 20 laps. Lap 23 and Hamilton had brought his tyres up to temperature and his car to the gearbox of Ricciardo, their race long duel due to commence.
Grosjean was now leading the midfield, and having not stopped, Hulkenberg made short work of him and it was back to status quo ante as the Hulk retook P7. Up ahead, Vettel managed a rather large lock up into T10, bits of rubber shredding off in the slo mo beauty shot. Raikkonen had managed to clear Hamilton from his pit window. Sirotkin was in leaving Grosjean the sole midfielder without a stop. At the sharp end, the top 3 continued to circulate at a reasonable tempo.
According to Sky, Hamilton had been suffering with power issues due to an “incorrect cooling” configuration, which they remedied as best they could at his stop. The more you know kids… RoGro continued to plague Ocon, who was unable to get round the exceedingly wide HAAS, unlike the Renaults who were busy making time. Hamilton asked why the early stop, and was told it was exactly to have a go at that incorrect configuration before things got out of hand. At the cost of 1 place, which is still a lot less than not finishing at all.
Lap 33 and Raikkonen was finally in from P3 and back out directly in front of the back of Hamilton, who had been told to unleash his right foot and found himself momentarily jammed between the rather slow moving Williams of Sirotkin and the fast approaching Ferrari of Raikkonen.
Lap 37 and Bottas was finally called in, 6.3 seconds behind the Ferrari of Vettel, so not really an undercut but to forestall Verstappen rocking into his pit window. Raikkonen lingered inside the DRS of Hamilton as Vettel boxed the following lap, a formality as much as anything else, no real pressure as they were simply covering Bottas off.
Once they settled down, the top three, Vettel, Bottas and Verstappen were all well into the 1:14’s, but the intervals between them were wide, nearly 5 seconds a piece. Things compressed a bit after that, with Hamilton just 2 seconds adrift of Ricciardo, and Raikkonen 1.8 seconds back of the Mercedes as lap 42 ticked over.
And then Alonso’s McLaren gave up, 300th GP over and soon to be forgotten as the march of misery continued for the team from Woking. The rest carried on, unaffected, and truthfully, not a single car was in DRS and the gaps seemed fixed as in amber with Lap 45 in the books. Amazingly, Grosjean still hadn’t stopped and if the app was telling the truth, Ocon had briefly wandered into DRS range yet again. OOOH juicy rumour, random speculation from the Beeb that Leclerc might well be headed to HAAS for some more seasoning before heading to Ferrari, replacing Grosjean. It was at this point it became obvious they were reaching given the lack of on track action…
Ocon finally got in front of Grosjean on lap 49 as RoGro prepared to pit, this forced RoGro to take to the grass as the braking point for the pits is distincly later than the braking point for the chicane, and resulted in some world class moaning from the HAAS driver. Macca reported exhaust issues were the cause of Alonso’s retirement and Hamilton had inched his way back into DRS on Ricciardo at the end of Lap 52. The retirement of Alonso also promoted Leclerc into P10 and the prospect of points for the Sauber driver immediately prompted the conversation to turn back to silly season, and whether or not he should now take over for Raikkonen this time.
Lap 55 and the closest battle was Perez on Kmag, but just then Bottas ran off the track lapping Sainz. Just a bit wide, but it cost him precious time in his slow burn to reel Vettel in, from 3 seconds, to over 5, and crucially, put the two Renaults ahead of him yet again.
Lap 58, though, and Vettel pressed his advantage, turning fast lap of the race and extending his lead to 7.3 seconds, basically mocking Bottas and Mercedes, telling them not to bother and setting himself up for the Grand Schelem. But the real race was back between Hamilton and Ricciardo, as Lewis needed to finish ahead of Danny Ricky to leave Montreal still leading the championship and the pitstop hoodoo Mercedes performed was apparently enough to make him think he had a shot.
Lap 61 and RoGro managed to catch up to Gasly and got right to using his newer tyres to their best advantage. Mercedes advised Hamilton that he could turn the engine down, and he was having none of it, with the Red Bull tantalizingly in reach. Lap 62 and off he went, closing down inside a second down the front straight and starting to wake up what had been becoming a fairly sleepy affair.
Lap 64 and Lewis was down to 0.6s and traffic loomed ahead for Ricciardo, Ocon was pressuring Sainz and that was putting stress on Hulkenberg, who requested the team stop telling him to go faster. Ooooh and then cheeky Verstappen knocked off a fast lap with just 4 laps left, as Lewis prepared to kitchen sink it against Ricciardo. Verstappen, too, was suddenly significantly faster than Bottas and with 3 laps left, he was 1.6 seconds back and 0.7 seconds a lap faster.
Lap 68 and Hamilton was finally close enough to have a go, but a twitch on exit at the end of the straight put paid to his best yet chance at the Aussie. Verstappen had made it to DRS on Bottas and as they turned the corner for lap 69 some actual racing had finally broken out. And oh dear, the celebrity waving the chequers blew it by a whole lap, prompting a call from Vettel asking them to please not wave the flag till they were actually done racing. But, the race was classified a lap early according to the official timing screens so there you go, perhaps a fitting end to a, shall we say, less than gripping (haha tyre joke, get it) race…
Tragic race for Hartley, who, needing a good result and FINALLY getting in a good quali, was quite thoroughly smashed into the wall by the errant Williams driven by Stroll. Stroll was released from the medical centre, but after having a careful look, Hartley was sent on to hospital for some follow up scans. With a race in two weeks, if he suffered a concussion it will be interesting to see if he can get medical clearance for the French GP. If not, could be some very interesting moves in the drivers market. Tragic for Alonso, though in a different way. The word irony springs to mind, as the PU he worked so hard to get to Macca is ultimately what let him down. Well, that and the entire design team, as the magnificent aero apparently would require a Mercedes or Ferrari mill to power it towards the sharper end of the field.
Mercedes did well to keep Bottas in P2, but they also had rather obviously missed a trick, demonstrated by the last minute FP3 work being done to the suspension of Hamilton’s car. The old PU was no help, and the fact they misconfigured the cooling rubbed salt into that particular wound but Canada was seemingly a track they expected to shine at, and they couldn’t put a dent into the Ferrari, meaning a lot of toiling away at Brackley between now and the visit to Paul Ricard…
Big Happy shiny point for Sauber and Leclerc, and loads of silly season speculation as a result of ANOTHER good drive from the young Monegasque. Ocon, too, scoring some for Force India will help ease the sting a bit from their poor pitstop that handed the best of the rest title to Hulkenberg and Renault. Red Bull too, with Verstappen finally having a clean weekend and a podium to boot had plenty of optimism to share post race. Last minute news from Sky that the FIA official handling the chequers was to blame, not Winnie Harlow, which resulted in the race being classified at 68 laps, losing Ricky Danny his fast lap. New tyres and new circuit next up, but it’s increasingly looking like Vettel’s championship to lose….
And remember to play nice in the comments!!