Vettel Cruises To His 50th F1 Victory In Montreal
Graham Read, Formula 1 Correspondent
Two weeks after racing on the twisting streets of Monaco the F1 world swapped continents for this weekend as the Canadian Grand Prix took place at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on the Île Notre-Dame in the St Lawrence River near downtown Montreal. With high speeds and heavy braking zones it was a very different driving challenge to the Monegasque encounter and one from which Sebastian Vettel emerged victorious for his Ferrari team.
After an often incident strewn start to his 2018 campaign Red Bull’s young Dutch charger Max Verstappen had gone fastest in Friday morning’s opening Free Practice session ahead of the Mercedes of reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo in the other Red Bull and Vettel.
Come the second Free Practice period Verstappen again topped the timesheets ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen and Ricciardo, who had to spend most of the session in his pit garage as his mechanics worked to resolve an electrical issue. The top three all completed their fastest laps on the softest Hypersoft tyres, whilst Hamilton was fourth quickest despite not using Hypersofts to set his best time.
Verstappen proved to be the fastest car on track again in Saturday’s final Free Practice, although Vettel was a mere 0.049s slower. It was very much a session to forget though for local hero Lance Stroll as he ended up slowest of all 20 drivers in his troubled Williams car.
The all-important qualifying hour began in the worst possible way for Romain Grosjean as his Haas left a massive cloud of white smoke in its wake as he made his way from his pit garage towards the circuit and he was doomed to start from the back of the grid for the following day’s Grand Prix.
At the sharp end of the grid Hamilton, pole sitter in Montreal for the last three years, had to settle for fourth place in the starting line-up just behind Verstappen. Ahead of them Vettel set a blistering pace as he claimed the 54th pole position of his Formula 1 career and Ferrari’s first Canadian pole since 2001. Afterwards the delighted German enthused “The car was incredible - it just kept getting quicker”.
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas showed real pace when it was most needed to finish qualifying as the best of the rest behind the lead red Ferrari. So, qualifying was important in terms of showing pace and setting who would start where the following day, but everyone simply looked forward to the Grand Prix, aware that in Formula 1 championship points are only earned on race day.
Montreal is a decidedly chilly place for much of the year, but the June race day offered sunny blue skies and warmth for the massed spectators, many of whom were clearly supporting Ferrari and its drivers. The circuit is of course named after the legendary Canadian Ferrari Formula 1 driver Gilles Villeneuve, who won the first F1 race held at the Montreal track back in 1978.
For the start of the Grand Prix the Ferrari and Mercedes drivers were on Ultrasoft tyres, whereas the Red Bull duo were on a different strategy using the softer Hypersoft tyres first which could give them an early performance advantage but may need changing sooner.
When the red lights went out Vettel sprinted into an early lead which he was never to relinquish and Bottas had to get his elbows out on the opening lap to defend from a charging Verstappen. The Safety Car was soon called into action though after Stroll’’s Williams squeezed Brendon Hartley’s Toro Rosso into the barriers at Turn 5 and both their races ended instantly as they slid off the track at the following corner.
When the Safety Car returned to the pit lane Vettel made a good restart and led from Bottas, Verstappen and Hamilton. Whilst the German extended his lead some of his pursuers made their pit stops, switching to Supersoft tyres and Ricciardo managed to jump Hamilton when making his own stop.
Second placed Bottas delayed his own stop until lap 36 and Vettel made his only stop of the race one tour later, rejoining the circuit with his lead still intact. With 30 laps remaining the order up front was Vettel ahead of Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Hamilton and Räikkönen, whilst the unlucky Fernando Alonso was forced into a further retirement shortly afterwards when his McLaren suffered an exhaust failure. Hardly a great way to celebrate his 300th Formula 1 race weekend.
As the Grand Prix headed towards its conclusion Hamilton started to apply pressure to Ricciardo’s Red Bull, but the British driver was never close enough to take fourth position from the Australian. Vettel continued to dominate the race and third placed Verstappen reduced the gap to Bottas late on as the Finn was starting to suffer from low fuel, but the young Dutchman had to settle for the final step on the podium.
There was a rare glitch near the end of the race when some drivers were accidentally shown the chequered flag a lap early as a young celebrity model friend of Hamilton was assigned the task, but the teams made sure their drivers knew the true position.
Young Ferrari protégé Charles Leclerc, gaining experience at Sauber in his first season in F1, deserves a special mention for finishing tenth and claiming a championship point.
Vettel’s victory leapfrogged him back to the top of the Drivers’ Championship table, just one point ahead of Hamilton, and Mercedes remained in charge on the Constructors’ front.
All the teams were keen to pack up as soon as possible after the Grand Prix and return to their respective European HQs to prepare themselves for the challenge of three races on consecutive weekends in France, Austria and Britain.
The first of these events takes place on June 24th when Formula 1 makes a welcome return to the colourful Paul Ricard circuit near Marseille for the French Grand Prix before we all move on to the picturesque Spielberg track in Austria and then Silverstone in the UK. Bring it on.
2018 Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix
1 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1hr28m31.377s
2 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +7.376s
3 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +8.360s
4 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +20.892s
5 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +21.559s
6 Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) +27.184s
7 Nico Hülkenberg (Renault) Lapped
8 Carlos Sainz (Renault) Lapped
9 Esteban Ocon (Force India) Lapped
10 Charles Leclerc (Sauber) Lapped
11 Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) Lapped
12 Romain Grosjean (Haas) Lapped
13 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) Lapped
14 Sergio Perez (Force India) Lapped
15 Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) Lapped
16 Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) Lapped
17 Sergey Sirotkin (Williams) Lapped
18 Fernando Alonso (McLaren) Retired
19 Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) Retired
20 Lance Stroll (Williams) Retired
2018 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship (after 7 of 21 Grand Prix)
1 Sebastian Vettel 121
2 Lewis Hamilton 120
3 Valtteri Bottas 86
2018 Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship (after 7 of 21 Grand Prix)
1 Mercedes 206
2 Ferrari 189
3 Red Bull 134
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Vettel Cruises To His 50th F1 Victory In Montreal, 10th June 2018, 23:19 PM