Hamilton hits back as title fight tightens up in Canada

2017 Canadian Grand Prix review

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The Canadian Grand Prix wasn’t quite what it was supposed to be.

With Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel occupying the front row of the grid for the fourth time this year, this was supposed to be another showdown between the two championship favourites. It wasn’t.

With tyres degrading slowly and one pit stop likely for most drivers this was supposed to be another ‘boring’ race. It wasn’t.

But with Montreal master Hamilton starting from pole position this was supposed to be his chance to reclaim lost ground in the championship to Vettel. It was.

Brush with Verstappen ruins Vettel’s race

Out-of-control Sainz spun into Massa
Vettel’s weekend began to go wrong from the moment Max Verstappen rocketed away from fifth on the grid. Neither of the Ferraris got away well, and Vettel found himself hemmed in with Valtteri Bottas on his inside and Verstappen sweeping around his outside.

There wasn’t enough room for the right-hand part of Vettel’s front wing, which sustained a compromising blow. Then came an unlucky twist which doubled the damage for the Ferrari driver.

Carlos Sainz Jnr tangled with Romain Grosjean approaching turn three. The Toro Rosso driver lost control and smashed into the luckless Felipe Massa, eliminating both. The Safety Car was deployed and the field slowed before the leading drivers had reached the quickest part of the track.

Vettel’s front wing had therefore not experienced anything close to a maximum load since the contact, and the full extent of the damage could not be appreciated. The Canadian marshals cleared the mess up very quickly, and by the end of lap three the race was on again. When Vettel reached top speed for the first time at the restart the damaged section of his wing collapsed.

Had the team realised they needed to change it during the Safety Car period much less time would have been lost, but now it was too late. “Maybe we can delay that,” suggested Vettel. “There is a risk to damage the car and it is too dangerous,” he was told. “Box now.” He dropped to 18th and last.

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Hamilton draws clear, Verstappen drops out

2017 Canadian Grand Prix in pictures
Verstappen had inadvertently compromised one of the title contenders’ races, could he now take the fight to the other one? A superb restart brought him onto Hamilton’s tail, but the Renault’s lack of straight-line speed wasn’t up to the task of getting by.

A few laps later the Renault’s lack of reliability prevented him from going any further. Verstappen thumped the steering wheel in frustration as his car lost all drive coming out of the Senna hairpin. The path was now clear for Mercedes to claim their first one-two of the season.

Daniel Ricciardo now assumed third place and Red Bull were minded to “bank track position”, in Christian Horner’s words. Vettel was compromised, Kimi Raikkonen had dropped himself between the Force Indias with an unforced error at turn seven, and they had a chance to beat the Ferraris by getting his pit stop out of the way.

The soft tyres had looked almost as quick as the super-softs in practice, but more durable, so on lap 19 Ricciardo switched to a set of them. Bottas covered him off by following suit five laps later.

But race leader Hamilton hung on until lap 32, then switched to the super-softs for his final stint. “Because I was quite comfortable on the ultra-soft they kept me out way longer than my stop, which was to be lap 21,” he explained.

“In that period of time everyone had stopped behind me and I was able to wait a bit to see how everyone was doing on the different tyres and after they had seen one of the drivers on the super-soft and it was going well – Vettel, maybe – they said this is the better tyre go with.”

Team trouble at Force India

Perez resisted calls to give way
The Force Indias were running fifth and seventh after the restart with Raikkonen between the pair of them. Ricciardo ahead was a potential target and by splitting the strategies for their drivers they could cover off both options.

But they missed the chance to undercut Ricciardo with Sergio Perez. He came in one lap later and switched to the super-soft tyres, but the additional grip wasn’t sufficient for him to get a run at the Red Bull.

Meanwhile Esteban Ocon stayed out on his original set of tyres until lap 32. He also took a set of super-soft and had the benefit of 13-lap younger tyres when he rejoined the track behind Perez. Force India now faced the difficult question of whether to order Perez to move aside for his potentially faster team mate.

The team tried a diplomatic approach, telling Perez he would be given his place back by Ocon if the younger driver was unable to pass Ricciardo. But Perez wasn’t having any of it. Afterwards the team adopted the stance that they had decided to let its drivers race. But the radio discussions left the clear impression the decision had been Perez’s.

The outcome was predictable: The Ferraris cruised up behind the Force Indias and Vettel overtook them. Raikkonen would probably have done the same but his brake-by-wire system failed shortly before he got within range. This at least spared Ferrari the same conversations Force India were having.

Vettel’s pass on Ocon was a gem of a late-breaking move at turn one, achieve despite Ocon having the benefit of DRS from his team mate ahead. The Ferrari driver had enjoyed a fairly straightforward recovery run up to that point but the last two places he gained were the benefit of gritty moves: a late dive at the final chicane claimed fourth from Perez.

Lance strolls into the points

Stroll became a points-scorer at home
Lance Stroll arrived at his home race after six largely forgettable weekends. The trend continued in qualifying where he dropped out in Q1.

The race was a welcome change for the better. Avoiding the trouble at the start, Stroll ascended to ninth as several drivers ahead of him made early pit stops. He resumed from his visit to the pits at the back of the field, but easily picked off the Saubers with their year-old engines and, later, the even slower McLarens.

Stroll also came up on Romain Grosjean and Jolyon Palmer, the latter having pitted at the end of lap one and run the remaining 69 laps on a single set of super-softs. Stroll dodged past both to take ninth and his first career points.

Ahead of him was Nico Hulkenberg, who saved time by pitting under the Virtual Safety Car period when Verstappen’s car stopped. The Renault driver just ran out of time to catch the ailing Raikkonen before the chequered flag. Grosjean’s long stint was rewarded with the final point.

Toro Rosso’s miserable day was capped when Daniil Kvyat retired. He had already picked up a penalty after getting away from the grid slowly due to a clutch problem and then failing to get his place back in time.

“The regulation allows the driver to catch-up until the first Safety Car line,” explained team boss Franz Tost. “But as all the drivers use the complete width of the track to warm-up their tyres, it was difficult for Daniil to overtake them in order to get back to his position without taking any risks.”

“Therefore, he just missed overtaking Alonso before the Safety Car line. It was also too late for him to go into the pit-lane so he got penalised for this.”

The stewards then dropped the ball: Kvyat was given a ten-second stop-go penalty but a drive-through penalty was announced instead. He served that, but was then told to serve the additional ten-second stoppage at his next pit stop. His total penalty was therefore no worse than it might have been. But it became academic when his car failed during the pit stop.

Hamilton’s car “back to where it should be”

Hamilton trimmed his points deficit
The Canadian Grand Prix was a massive shot in the arm for Hamilton’s championship chances. He halved his points deficit to Vettel. It also bodes well for his chances in the coming two races, also at ‘power circuits’.

And perhaps most importantly it showed Mercedes can master the softest tyre compounds with their fickle W08. Hamilton said his car “is back to where it should be”.

“We didn’t bring any upgrades here,” Hamilton explained. “I was praising [the team] on the due diligence they did after the last race.”

“They really did such great work in terms of analysing where we’d gone wrong, all the different points, and then giving us a summary: ‘this is where we went wrong, this is what we think we need to do to fix it.’ And then putting it into action. It was just amazing teamwork. We came here, the
car’s back to where it should be.

“It doesn’t mean it’s going to be like that every time,” he cautioned, “but I think we learned a lot.”

McLaren and Honda heading for divorce

Whether in Formula One or IndyCar, late-race retirements have been a distinctive feature of Fernando Alonso’s 2017 season. But on a weekend where he made it clear he will move elsewhere for 2018 if McLaren can’t give him a race-winning car, his latest ‘DNF’ took on added significance.

McLaren kept ahead of their rivals through their speed in the corners and well-executed strategies. Any rival which caught them on the straight passed with cruel ease. Nonetheless Alonso was runnign in tenth place with four laps to go. And then the inevitable happened.

“After so much toil and heartache, even that single point would have felt like a victory,” reflected racing director Eric Boullier. “And then came yet another gut-wrenching failure.”

“It’s difficult to find the right words to express our disappointment, our frustration and, yes, our sadness. So I’ll say only this: it’s simply, and absolutely, not good enough.”

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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42 comments on “Hamilton hits back as title fight tightens up in Canada”

  1. It’s a real pitty VER could not capitalise his great start. Again a dubious move from Bott as who does not seem to commit to his intentions. As Vet stated, he did not seem to know what to choose.
    Occon drove a great race. Pere should have a slap in the face. Sainz really dissapointing again.
    The very amateuristisch actions from the stewards regarding Kvyat are ridiculous. Not forgetting the foolish investigation regarding the incident between massa and Saint.
    All in all a nice race with lots of incidents.

    1. Bottas did nothing wrong…just racing. Didn’t know which side to choose? Yeah welcome to racing…he doesn’t have a crystal ball that I’m aware of. That was a frenzied start. Shortest straight off the grid to turn 1 in the whole season.

      1. F1 is reacting to the extreme. I follow vettel here. I think he has some worthwhile insights

    2. To be fair, I was actually impressed by the way Bottas stuck to his guns at the start. His first lap battling has been a known weakness for a while and after being baulked by Vettel on the run down to turn 1 he could have been 4th or lower, but he hung in there and got round Vettel. Seeing as he got a marginally better start than the front row, it was a good result for him all things considered.

      1. If Vettel had not stepped on the brakes Bottas would have wiped both himself and Max out!

        1. Hamilton too. Bottas seemed to be in best position to see what was going on with Max and Seb too iirc. Valtteri and Verstappen could have ended their races if Vettel did not negotiate that part well at the start.

  2. Now another Mercedes 1-2 in BAKU!!!

    1. @krichelle Would be nice to see Lewis win in Baku as it means we’ll have a driver that has won at every country on the calendar. Of course next year he would also need to win in France.

      1. Michael Brown (@)
        13th June 2017, 0:27

        Has Hamilton ever won the European Grand Prix?

      2. Yeah because that’s what we need!!! NOT

  3. petebaldwin (@)
    12th June 2017, 12:15

    Toto was talking about how it was “painful that Mercedes are no longer title favourites” after Monaco.

    Can someone please direct me to his post Canada comments where he (I assume) mentions how great it feels to know they are favourites again?

    1. @petebaldwin Really? You think a race where Ferrari, and specifically Vettel, hit a spot of bother, that throws them out immediately as favorites.

      Compare Mercedes 2016 with Mercedes 2017, vs Ferrari. When both teams are the favorites for the title, then that means just one of them isn’t exclusively. So the ‘pain’ of that will be endure, until one team clearly cannot be expected to beat the other.

      Canada was Hamilton in top gear PLUS Vettel having issues. Hardly a reason to call for contrition from Toto?

      I believe Vettel would have challenged for the win. Alas, we were robbed of the battle.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        12th June 2017, 13:26

        @psynrg – I should clarify, I don’t personally think Mercedes are suddenly “favourites” after Ferrari had a bad race in Canada. I also didn’t think Ferrari were suddenly “favourites” after Mercedes had a bad race in Monaco. Mercedes are the favourites and have been since the start of the year having dominated the last 3 seasons and still having “quali mode.”

        I just hate the “you’re faster than us. And they are faster than us. And them. We’re the slowest F1 team ever. Everyone is faster than us” rhetoric that Toto keeps going with. I’m wondering if the pain has subsided or whether he thinks Mercedes have managed an absolutely stunning result getting pole and a 1-2 in the race despite being a mediocre team?

        1. @petebaldwin OK, I get your point. Perhaps Toto overstates things a tad, but I hear it as a little theatre or hyperbole. I do get the impression that Toto is passionate, but perhaps in an all too Germanic way?

          When you are the figurehead for a few thousand people – and a LOT of money – in trying to be utterly unbeatable, I would guess anything less than a country mile Mercedes one two demands a degree of overstatement.

          1. petebaldwin (@)
            12th June 2017, 15:24

            @psynrg – I think it’s because teams are scared to be perceived as dominating and they don’t want the bad PR. They want to win but they don’t want people accusing them of making the sport boring or the leaders of the sport stating that “Mercedes’ dominance is bad for F1.”

            That’s the only reason I can think of that explains why Toto has spent 3 and a bit years trying desperately to convince us that Mercedes don’t have the best overall package.

          2. @petebaldwin I don’t know how it sits with you, but I do not see total domination as bad publicity for a team (assuming it is a fair and square advantage they have forged for themselves.) It will be disliked by some members of the F1 fraternity, and in more extreme cases they may well be a subject of ‘hate’ (in an internet forum type scenario).

            While it may result in predictable results, and potentially less thrilling race-days, no genuine fan of F1 would hold it against a team for being too successful. Rather, deride their competitors for not being good enough.

            I genuinely don’t think Toto has anything to apologise for, apart from when Mercedes are not delivering top results! It’s all about winning, and when they don’t win, it hurts!

        2. @petebaldwin I too take your point but I think you are pushing it way beyond what you accuse TW himself of doing with rhetoric far more extreme than anything TW says.

          I think what TW is doing is being diplomatic. Before this race they were not ahead in either Championship. Now they still lag in the drivers category.

          You seem fairly alone in terms of your extremeness with this issue, but can you imagine the torrent of posts if TW
          sat there, behind Ferrari in both categories, LH’s Monaco performance in plain view, and said ‘we are dominant just like the last 3 seasons and we are the favourites.’ Would that actually come off as any more credible to the majority of posters?

          1. Merc is dominant and stating otherwise is ridiculous.

          2. Well that seems to depend on the track this year, no? Were they dominant at Monaco?

          3. @robbie They weren’t dominant at Singapore 2015 either but they were dominant in 2015.

        3. Exactly. Toto’s been on that narrative for years now. Always bigging up what Ferrari have. It’s boring and stupid, sorry.

  4. Great summary Keith, thoroughly enjoyed this race.

    A shame Raikonnen had the brake issue he was flying up to the back of Ocon taking over a second per lap out of the gap, would have interesting to see the four way battle and if Raikonnen could have chased down Ricciardo.

  5. Death knell for Honda: “it’s simply, and absolutely, not good enough” – Eric Boullier.
    Pretty stark. The relationship is over, McLaren-Honda is in advanced divorce proceedings.

    1. If McLaren break the contract they will have to pay Honda a very hefty pay-out close, loose $100m in sponsor money and loose the free engines they get now and pay Mercedes $25m a yr instead.

      They might get a little discount on the Merc engines though, if they become a defacto Mercedes JR team and give a development seat to Mercedes junior drivers Wehrlein or Ocon like Manor did last year.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        12th June 2017, 15:49

        @jeffreyj – What is the financial cost on them being completely uncompetitive though? What sponsorship deals and prize money are they missing out on by using Honda, for example?

        If they do stay with Honda, they’ll make one big cost saving straight away because Alonso will be leaving and no-one capable of commanding his wage will want the seat!

        1. You contradict yourself. Alonso has been worth one higher placing each season so far which is worth at least $20m a year, halving his salary.

        2. @petebaldwin I get your point, but it’s very hypothetical. I mean if they ditch Honda they might recoupe some of that money by finishing a bit higher up the standings, but they could just as easily remain relatively uncompetative because of the severly downsized budget in the first year. It that would be the case, the budget will remain low of course and could potentially ruin the team for good.

          This is not an easy choice to make for Brown, not at all. Espeically if Honda do get it right with Sauber at some point…

      2. @jeffreyj McLaren a junior team? I don’t think it will ever be the case.
        Pretty sure McLaren can afford one or more years without title sponsor and manufacturer backup. Enough to reach a decent WCC rank and get some money back while finding new sponsors and win races with a Mercedes engine. Then in 2020 who knows? Mercedes? Audi?

        1. @spoutnik McLaren are at a budget of roughly $250m and Honda pays half of that in free engines and sponsor money…. Over the last few years McLaren has lost a lot big of sponsors like Hugo Boss, Mobil 1, TAG Heuer and haven’t had a title sponsor since 2013

          Frankly they are lucky that the Bahrain royal family owns 50% of the team and pump their own money into it….

  6. Will McLaren choose a new a engine manufacturer(VW) in the future after having the disastrous relationship with Honda?

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      12th June 2017, 15:58

      @royalz – I think it depends on what happens with the rules going forward. The engines are currently so complex that if you started now, it’d take a few years just to catch up to a 2017 Mercedes. By the time you caught up, they’d be using the 2020 model! If you try and jump ahead of the curve and do something “different”, you sacrifice reliability and end up where Honda are now.

      Any new engine builders looking to enter in the current generation are foolish because they don’t stand a chance.

  7. If the McLaren split with Honda goes ahead. What are people’s thoughts on the future of Honda’s return to F1? They have Sauber signed up for 2018 that WOULD have been the second development team and doubled the distance the engines cover significantly increasing the data set for Honda engineers.

    It’s embarrassing already however to pull out completely would be a huge loss of face for Honda and executive management, however with only one team running the engine how can they hope to produce a viable PU?

    Obviously if they DID manage to produce a competitive PU down the line say, McLaren would surely be tempted to tie the knot again!

    Overall it’s a shame as F1 needs a competitive fourth engine supplier.

    1. @ju88sySauber is an opportunity for Honda to develop their engine relatively low key. Sauber are at the back right now and won’t be complaining like Mclaren if it takes Honda another year or two.

      I can’t help but think that eventually Honda will get it right and that Sauber would then be more competative than McLaren with a customer engine…

  8. Once again congrats to my man Lewis, this time for flawless sunday. The fight is on.

    “Vettel’s pass on Ocon was a gem of a late-breaking move at turn one, achieve despite Ocon having the benefit of DRS from his team mate ahead.”

    I have to admit, so far no one is even close to his skills this year. This dirty side overtake was another insane move by Seb.

    1. Fukobayashi (@)
      12th June 2017, 16:42

      @antoine-de-paris agree. It’s like Seb has chosen this year to finally bury a nail in that ‘can only win from the front’ chestnut. He has been very impressive.

      Lewis owns Canada.

  9. Keith, I understand that your job is dependent on there being sustained interest in the F1 circuit but, I think you know that this was not an interesting race . How could it be ? It was a return to the 2014-16 Mercedes 1-2 and with the race over shortly after it started . That is not interesting .
    There were ,however, two events that one might consider of interest.
    First ,the possibility that Karma not only is real but, was at play in that Verstappen’s Karma in cutting into Vettel and ruining the race for Vettel, Ferrari and every fan who wanted to see a battle for P1 came back to Verstappen .
    Second ,the fact that once again Lewis Hamilton can’t resist the temptation to speak his mind and once again lets the world know that he simply cannot act with the class expected of and required of any athlete who wishes to be viewed as having any degree of sophistication and representing his sport in the manner a true champion should.
    Hamilton has historically lacked the ability to either say nothing or speak with grace ..
    This time it was ” We stuck it to Ferrari ” or it could have been ,” Did you see us stick it to Ferrari ?”
    Either way “stuck it ,stick it ” , really Lewis ? The overtones of rape were as clear as they were uncalled for and reflective of a person who notwithstanding his monetary success shows that he never acquired the polish and maturity one would expect from a person of such economic advantage .
    Note Vettel never lowers himself to ” street” language and despite plenty of reason to neither has Alonso .
    They act like true champions and bring an aura of class and credibility to themselves their sponsors and their sport .
    Others do not and for example when interviewed with a world wide stage speak of ” being screwed “. ( Ricciardo at Monaco last year.
    There is a lot of distance between winning races and being a champion .
    It seems that even when they win the race Mercedes still is bested by Ferrari.

    1. I think you know that this was not an interesting race

      Well I can only speak for myself and I certainly found it interesting and enjoyable. Certainly it was a shame there was no contest for the first two places, but the question of how much ground Vettel would make up and how the third-to-seventh battle would be resolved held my attention to the end.

      But it’s a matter of opinion and interpretation, isn’t it? I found the Russian Grand Prix tedious because I never felt the outcome of the race was in question. Others liked it because they felt Vettel had a chance to get past Bottas and that made the ending suspenseful. It depends on your point of view.

      However if you want my views on whether it’s correct to exaggerate how entertaining a race is, see here.

      Either way “stuck it ,stick it ” , really Lewis ? The overtones of rape were as clear as they were uncalled for

      No I think that’s a long way wide of the mark. It certainly would never have occured to me to interpret those remarks in that way.

    2. @Rik Vettel never lowers himself to street language? Are you kidding or simply deaf? Please review some of Vettel’s outburst just last year. Dig out Mexico, have a good listen to how he addresses the race director for one. If you can find me one example of Hamilton saying anything remotely as bad over his entire career to date, I will defer to your interpretation.

      Another interpretation, which if I may, says more about you than anything else. Which is to read “We stuck it to Ferrari” as some kind of reference to rape! I’m gobsmacked!
      I will give you the benefit of the doubt and guess that English is not your 1st language? “Sticking it to someone” is not a reference to rape, not even anywhere near, thank goodness.

      It is a common bit of slang, used in this context to imply that the competition was well and truly beaten. A colloquialism which has been used by all manner of competitors in all manner of competition for many years. While I’m not certain of its origins, or if it be English or American, it is generally interpreted as competitive banter in many circles.

      Most certainly not anything like what you have understood it to be.

      Please tell though, how you find Vettel’s command of the English language when in Mexico. I’m genuinely interested to hear?

      And I dare say you owe Hamilton an apology!

    3. Michael Brown (@)
      13th June 2017, 0:33

      “Overtones of rape.”

      Sure, whatever you say.

  10. Title picture caption “No flies were harmed in the making of this photo”

  11. Merc appear to have sorted some setup issues after knuckling down for 10 days after the HAM’s Monaco debacle. Until Monaco, I thought BOT was able to extract more from the W08 and was disappointed he didn’t quite show up in Montreal. I still expect BOT to continue his impressive start to life at Merc. HAM seems to struggle whenever engineering aptitude is called for and the fact that he was at a track he “owns” could have masked ongoing struggles to extract the most possible out of the “diva car”.

    I thought HAM was fortunate that VET’s challenge was blunted by the lap 1 incident, so it would be ill-advised to think the balance of power has shifted. It would be very good indeed were it to prove the case that Merc are finally taming their “diva” and that more races going forward can become 4-ways with a hing of a recovering Red Bull.

  12. Richard (@)
    15th June 2017, 19:19

    The Hamilton Vs. Vettel tenor of statements was referring to their interview language not their race comments. What athlete fails to use colorful language in the heat of a competition AND as noted Vettel cursed at those who deserved it as when he cursed at Whiting after Whiting let Verstappen in Mexico cut the course without surrendering the position. ( note the famous picture of a fan in that race yelling ” Cheater !Cheater !” at Verstappen).
    I have NEVER heard Vettel act as less than a gentleman when interviewed. What one says over the radio and thus essentially to one’s own team and what ones says to the world is totally different . If you don’t know this then you have never competed.
    Have you ever been to a NBA game or the like . “F” bombs abound . Yet the same verbiage would not be tolerated in a post game interview .
    As to ” sticking it ” , yes people do use such slang but , what is OK for adult to adult conversation is NOT OK for a world wide broadcast that thousands upon thousands of children and God-fearing people are listening to .
    You may speak that way all of the time and yes so do I when I am with adults that I know but, NEVER in front of children. I would never say to a 10 year old ball player ,” now go back in the game and stick it to them “. Nor would I use such language with senior citizens, people I don’t know or any formal or church function.
    You perhaps are like Hamilton and think nothing of your expressions that have sexual overtones and underlying violence as their source but, true gentleman know that it is not right for ” mixed” company and Vettel ,at least in his thoughtful not- in- battle mode persona is apparently a gentleman and that to me and mine make him the type of champion I admire.
    Apologize to Hamilton for pointing out his lack of manners ? Never ..He should apologize to my friends who children now think is OK to say “stick it” and perhaps will do so in this week’s Sunday school .

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