Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
Ambient 29° Track 51° Humidity 17% Wind 0.4 m/s
Vicious sunshine assaulted the paddock beneath a dome of clear blue skies, low humidity and the occasional breeze the only saving grace for fans. No saving graces for Mercedes as a late discovered hydraulic leak on Hamilton’s car saw both sides of the garage working frantically to rebuild the engine once it was released from parc ferme. AS the start rocked ever closer, the work continued, not frantic but decidedly there were to be few spare moments for Silver Arrows mechanics before the lights went out. 8 minutes before the opening of the pitlane, they finished the job, in roughly half the time it normally took. What could possibly go wrong….
Also hard at at were the lads at HAAS, having rebuilt Magnussen’s car with a brand new chassis, as he had done the total number on it when he put it into the wall of champions at the end of Q2. That ensured he would be starting from the pitlane, by regulation and opened up some interesting strategy options for HAAS, as a one stop going Medium Hard was reckoned the fastest overall way to go by Pirelli, with a first stint of 18-25 laps and the remainder on the Hards. Not so good for those on the Softs, as a high degradation curve could mean an early stop, and an inability to get to the end without a seconds stop. This looked to be bad news for Ricciardo and the rest of the midfield in the top 10 starting on the Softs, as the early stop almost certainly guaranteed that they will get stuck behind longer running cars on the Mediums. This opens the door for spots 10-13 to gain position through an overcut as was seen in Monaco, where both Ricciardo and Magnussen were trapped behind first Norris, and then a long running Kimi which uttery ruined their race. Specifically the Toro Rosso’s, Sainz, Perez and Grosjean are ones to watch, as if they can keep pace through the opening laps then they have a real chance to fight for best of the rest. And if you were HAAS, running Kmag long on a set of Hards, specifically to trap those on Softs at the front when they pit, might not be the worst idea you’d ever had…..
That said, a 17 second pit delta along with a 70% chance of a Safety Car certainly ups the possibility for the unruly race gods to have their say over the race. And also worth remembering that the outside of T1 becomes the inside of T2 and we’ve seen more than a few drivers unceremoniously run out of room into T2 and that the start holds many perils. Most pundits are looking to Mercedes, who showed greater race pace, to have the advantage, but after Bottas’ performance yesterday and the unknowns of Hamilton’s engine replacement, there was a great deal to keep track of as the start of the race loomed ever larger in the mirror….. And there you go, Mercedes with the wing off and bleeding Hamilton’s brakes as the grid walk was well underway, the data showing that the pedal was a bit soft……
Lights Out!!!! Great Start by Vettel, Leclerc gave Hamilton a bit of a hard time and it was Hulkenberg getting by Bottas who gave a bit of an effort to protect the spot but had to give it up. Grosjean was the big loser down to P18 with Albon having had a bit of contact, losing his front wing and in on lap 2 for a replacement and some hard tyres. IT was getting squished between Giovinazzi and Perez on T1 that did him in…
Lap 4 and Sainz was in to ditch his Softs and it was Verstappen still in P9 after Norris took him on the first lap with his Softs. Bottas too was not making much headway as the harder tyre doing him no favors at the start either.
By lap 7 Verstappen had managed to get round Norris and was lingering behind Bottas who was inside DRS on Hulkenberg but not making much headway. Grosjean was in a for a set of Hards on lap 8 after being run off the track at the start, borking his original strategy and Sainz’ stop was down to debris in a brake duct necessitating it’s removal as the brake was overheating.
Lap 8 saw Gasly in for a set of Hards and then it was Ricciardo, covering him off in lap 9 for a set of Hards and at that moment it was Norris, grinding to a halt with a puncture and flaming brakes…. Double waved yellows and then the race was on. Verstappen continuing to pressure Bottas who did not seem to be happy about it at all. A replay of Norris suggested that the flaming brakes melted his rear suspension.
Kmag had been up to P13 but as the runners cycled onto their second compounds, one by one they rolled past him, suggesting that HAAS had not really gotten on top of the tyres this weekend. Although they were were also running a new rear suspension so that might well have been playing a part, too….
Lap 17 and Hulkenberg was finally into the pitlane, but the damage was really done for both Bottas and Verstappen. At the sharp end, it was Hamilton, who had been loitering 2 seconds aft of Vettel since the first laps now looking backwards at Leclerc who had rocked up a fast lap and was 4 seconds back and perhaps beginning to move into position for an undercut…
Lap 20 and it was Plan B for Leclerc, at least on the radio, and a bit of a breather for Bottas, as Verstappen locked up into the hairpin and gave up nearly 2 seconds to the Mercedes drivers. The following lap was another fast lap for Leclerc and the gap was down to 3 seconds to Hamilton.
2 laps later and it was Bottas on the radio, beginning to struggle with rear traction, Bottas just barely inside Vettel’s pit window. Hulkenberg was on the radio complaining about the engine, slow upshifts that according to him made it feel like the engine was about to blow up….
Lap 26 and Vettel got the call to push as Leclerc was now just 2.5 seconds back of Hamilton, who on the radio was saying his tyres felt like they were very near the end of their life. At the end of lap 26 Vettel was in, leaving Hamilton to try and get it done. Vettel was out on the Hard tyre just ahead of a long line of backmarkers and Mercedes told him the bad news, they didn’t have the gap and he would have to extend his stint as Leclerc continued to whittle away the lead, down to 2.2 seconds.
Lap 29 and it was done, Mercedes brought him in and he was out behind Vettel for a loss of nearly 2.5 seconds, for a total of 4.5 seconds to try and make up…. At the front it was now Leclerc, 29 laps in and getting near the end of the recommendations from Pirelli for strategy. Lap 31 saw Bottas called in, finally, and with a sticky left rear doing him no favours, he was out, 2 seconds back of Ricciardo… Perhaps the biggest surprise was Stroll, at this point still turning decent times on Hard tyres, making the strategy work though yet to stop. Looking back it was going to be P11 when he finally decided to pull the plug.
Leclerc was in on lap 34 and out just behind Verstappen, who was told he needed to find 4 seconds to be ahead of Bottas and Ricciardo at the end. Speaking of, Bottas finally his first go on lap 35 but Ricciardo breezed over to the middle of the track and forced the Finn to back out of it, though his driving made it seem he wasn’t too happy about the manuever. Leclerc on fresh tyres took it to Verstappen, who made little effort to defend as he was on a completely different strategy.
The battle between Ricciardo and Bottas continued onto lap 37, where Ricciardo once again benefitted from DRS on Russell, who was conveniently in the right spot as they rocked onto the front straight. Lap 39 saw the job done, for the moment at least, as Ricciardo stayed glued to the gearbox of the Mercedes. No sooner did they continue on than it was Hamilton, 1.5 seconds back. The following lap it was DRS for Hamilton but he locked up into the hairpin and wasn’t close enough to have a go as lap 41 entered the history books.
And it was a fast lap for Vettel, taking him out of DRS, for the moment at least as Bottas, finally clear of Ricciardo, had managed to extend his lead to nearly 7 seconds and was currently trying to put as much time into the bank as possible against Verstappen’s inevitable stop. One fast lap later and he was inside of 10 seconds, leaving Max to find more than 7 seconds when he finally came in. More immediately, he was on the radio to say that his brake pedal was nearly on the floor, not a good thing in the tight confines of Montreal.
Lap 45 and the drama at the front ignited, as Vettel was told to pay attention to the numbers on his wheel. That resulted in a slow lap from Vettel and a fast one from Hamilton, once again in DRS and the scent of blood in the water….. Lap 46 saw Stroll in and out just ahead of Kvyat, P10 and well done.
Lap 47 and just as Kvyat was catching up to Stroll, the leaders were catching up to them. And then, Vettel was wide and off, arrowing back on and closing the wedge that Hamilton was desperately driving into, closing the door and keeping the Mercedes at bay for the moment…. Naturally Lewis was on the radio to complain about a dangerous rejoining of the track as Verstappen was FINALLY in and out on lap 49, behind Hulkenberg and chasing on Mediums with track temps at 51°C.
Lap 51 it was Verstappen, easily by Hulkenberg as the stewards were officially investigating Vettel’s off. Meanwhile, 2 laps later Vettel retook fast lap, diving deep into the 1:14’s as Verstappen continued his march forward, now by Ricciardo and chasing Bottas, who took the fast lap away from Vettel, chasing the biggest possible haul of points possible from P4….
AS the laps ticked by, the gap between the front 2 settled at just under 2 seconds and given the lack of a Safety Car, it wasn’t unreasonable to assume that some small amount of fuel saving might be necessary to have one final charge at the end. To break the tedium, Magnussen was on the radio to point out this was the worst possible experience he could have, to which Steiner pointed out the entire garage worked to get him on track and that would be quite enough whinging, thank you…..
Ohhhh and then the hammer dropped, 5 second penalty for Vettel as Hulkenberg caught up to Ricciardo and with tyres 8 laps fresher was all about getting round his teammate… By lap 62 it didn’t look possible for Vettel to gain 5 seconds on Lewis, but neither did it look possible for Lewis to get round Vettel, not that it was necessary for him to do that. It would make it look a bit better for the sport if he was able to pull that off, and as he tried once again to close the gap, Albon rolled into the pitlane to retire the car.
To make matters worse for Vettel, Leclerc was now coming on like gangbusters chasing down the gap to Hamilton in a bid to perhaps sneak 2nd away from Vettel. Also trying to make inroads was Lance Stroll, all over the back of Sainz with just 3 laps to go… Bottas was called in for Softs to have a go at fast lap, the pit window behind him wide open as Stroll moved into P9, with Kvyat chasing and rocking by Sainz as well, hot on the heels of the Canadian driver.
Lap 69 and Hamilton was once again into DRS but with backmarkers looming, it wasn’t going to yield the advantage he needed to get round Vettel. Leclerc was still cranking out the laptimes and Vettel was told to get his foot in to protect his P2 and as Vettel took the chequers it was Hamilton with the win and Leclerc just a second shy of stealing P2. Of course a 5 second penalty can’t be appealed and as Hamilton and Leclerc rocked up to the end of the pitlane and rocked up to the P1 and P3 boards, Vettel stopped at the other end of the pits, got out of his car and began pushing it back down to parc ferme. He then rolled into the FIA garages and was no doubt off to have a word with whoever he could find…..
Woo boy, after about a ten minute wait, Ferrari eventually persuaded him to rejoin the podium as otherwise he face a penalty and so he did, and as he got to where the cars were parked he picked up the board with #1 on it and swapped it with board #2 to the roaring approval of the tifosi…..
In many ways it was a great race for Ferrari, finally back in it, but it has to feel terrible for them to lose the victory to an unappealable penalty. Of course, Hamilton has suffered such in his own career, and no one ever said racing was fair. Still, given the pace they showed it is to be hoped that going forward the battle between the two teams is back on at full tilt. Great race for Stroll, into the top 10 and rocking up some points from far back in the field, and a great day for Renault, with Ricciardo P6 and Hulkenberg P7. HAAS has some serious work to do, though once Grosjean was punted at the start their odds were always pretty low… It all starts again in a couple of weeks, this time in France…. best leave early for the circuit if you’re driving!!!!
And remember to play nice in the comments!!