By Nicola Kenton

  • Sebastian Vettel wins his third race of the 2018 season and regains the drivers’ World Championship lead
  • Lewis Hamilton could only manage a fifth place finish in his Mercedes
  • Canadian driver Lance Stroll crashed out in a dramatic first-lap incident
MONTREAL, CANADA – Sebastian Vettel regained the World Championship lead over Lewis Hamilton, after claiming victory at the Montreal circuit while the Brit could only finish fifth.

 

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Vettel dominates Montreal

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It was an easy race weekend for Sebastian Vettel. Having struggled in the practice sessions on Friday, the Ferrari driver qualified in pole position on the Saturday and then backed it up on Sunday with a controlled performance, which led to victory and meant that he regained the world championship lead from Lewis Hamilton. The German now leads the Brit by one point heading into a hectic period of racing.

After the safety car was recalled following a first-lap incident, Vettel led the race from start to finish. Montreal is known as being a power-hungry circuit, especially this year as there was an additional DRS zone, and Ferrari had not won in Montreal since 2004 when Michael Schumacher triumphed. It was also 40 years since Gilles Villeneuve won in Canada with the Tifosi. However, on a circuit where they have not dominated in recent years Ferrari were at ease.

Speaking after the race to Formula1.com Vettel said, “At the start I tried to build up a margin, I was happy with my first lap and then the safety car came out and I had to start over again. During my last 10 laps I prayed that my car would not develop a problem until the end! Points are always important but today this win means a lot and not just in terms of Championship. The season is still so long and there are many races ahead. The main thing is that our car is strong and stays like that, so that we can fight.”

 

Incident free weekend for Verstappen

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Montreal. A race weekend where Max Verstappen was without incident on track. Finally, the Red Bull driver managed to get through the weekend without incident to claim his second podium of the year. It has been an up-and-down season for the Dutchman, who has been involved in much of the on-track action, but this weekend proved that he can co-ordinate with his car to get the best result possible.

Verstappen gave a contentious interview on Thursday, after being asked about his errors at previous race weekends but was fastest in the practice sessions. The upgrades that the team had brought to the circuit seemed to paying off. In qualifying, team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was unable to go as quickly as the Dutchman who squeezed ahead of Hamilton and into third place.

In the race, Verstappen was in a hard fight with Valtteri Bottas ahead of him on the first lap. The two came very close and possibly touched wheels but there was no damage to either car. The Red Bull driver stuck to the game plan to secure his third place finish and increased his points tally to 50. One thing that was different in Canada was that, Verstappen did not have any of his family or management with him.

As reported by the BBC, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said after race, “His approach has been slightly different. He’s just been here on his own. It’s just something different. Whether it contributed is impossible to say. He has been very immersed in everything the team’s been doing this weekend. And he has done a super job, so all credit to him for putting together a very strong weekend.”

 

Mercedes without engine upgrades

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It was a disappointing weekend for Mercedes on a track where they have done well in recent years. Bottas did well to claim another podium finish, especially when put under pressure by Verstappen at the start of the race. Hamilton struggled this weekend and could only muster a fifth place finish on a track where he has won six times.

After a disappointing qualifying, the Brit began the race in fourth place but lost out on the pit-stop to Ricciardo, who pitted later and managed to be ahead when he re-entered the track. Hamilton had overheating issues in the first stint, which according to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was due to a chassis issue. It was a frustrating weekend for the Northamptonshire-based team who were supposed to have an engine upgrade for Montreal. However, they were unable to use the new engines and instead had to use the older spec – which have been in use since the season opener in Australia.

Speaking to Formula1.com after the race, Wolff said: “This has been a tricky weekend for us, with Ferrari showing they had the quickest car in qualifying and in the race. We came to Montreal expecting to perform strongly and today’s result is a further lesson to us that the historic patterns of performance between the teams are not holding true this year. Today, the fastest laps table showed three teams within 0.15s and this is the new reality of 2018.”

 

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Williams still struggling

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It was another weekend where Williams struggled to make an impression. Despite having a Mercedes engine inside the car, they have been on average the slowest car on the grid and this struggle for pace has seen them left at the bottom of the constructors’ championship. Home favourite Lance Stroll and team-mate Sergey Sirotkin could only qualify in 17th and 18th place respectively, on the starting grid they moved up one place each due to Pierre Gasly’s penalty.

However, things went from bad to worse on the first lap when Stroll ended up in a collision with Brendon Hartley. It was a dramatic crash which saw Hartley’s car airborne and the nose of his Toro Rosso landed on the front left tyre of Stroll. Both cars then went straight into the barriers. Williams will be expecting upgrades in the next few races, especially with five races squeezed into the six week period before the summer break, but whether they will have any impact will be questionable.

 

Another boring race?

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Much has been said about the entertainment value of Formula One in recent years. When the rules and regulations initially changed in 2014, Mercedes dominated and the sport did arguably become a procession. Although, there was always the fierce team battle between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to keep fans happy.

However, in the past two seasons there has been more of a battle at the front with Ferrari and Red Bull emerging as contenders for the World Championship. The 2018 season so far has seen a lot of action on track and the fans were lucky with the opening few races so full of incidents. Yet the past few races have slowed down slightly and followed more to routine, not quite a procession as there was an underlying intensity in both Barcelona and Monaco, but there has been less overtaking on track.

When a race is not action-packed much of the talk changes to the technical regulations i.e. how many engines are allowed per season and the type of tyres that have been used. Liberty Media, F1’s owners, are always looking for new ways to attract fans to the sport such as using social media but when one of the biggest headlines from the Canadian Grand Prix was that the chequered flag was waved a lap too early, there was clearly not a lot of action on track to talk about.

As a result of the flag being waved too early, the race was classified from lap 68 instead of lap 70 and subsequently, Sergio Perez’s overtake for 13th place was voided and the Kevin Magnussen was given back the place. Those at the top need to work out what they want the sport to achieve, how they want to showcase it best and what they need to implement for this to happen.

The Formula One season now heads onto its European summer tour beginning with the return of the French Grand Prix on the 21st – 24th June.

 

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