F1 in 2017 is all about confounding expectations. And in an appropriate place – Montreal races are known for the unforeseen – plenty more were confounded in the Canadian Grand Prix.
It was supposed to be another track that would upset the diva Mercedes. Low grip; slow turns; softest tyre compounds – just like Russia and last time out in Monaco, where Ferrari was well on top. But in the event the silver car went toe-to-toe with the perennial red one.
Lewis and Mercedes cruise
Lewis Hamilton’s pole effort stunned, but Sebastian Vettel started alongside him and his launches usually are good. On race pace it was thought there was nothing to to tell between silver and red (Mercedes’s calculations added up literally to a dead heat).
But that expectation was confounded too, and the first turn did much to frame the race. Seb’s start this time was poor, and not only did Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas get by, but worse for Seb the Red Bull had clipped his front wing on the way through, and Seb after replacing it was 18th.
It added up to an imperious Mercedes one-two result. And Lewis personally was especially imperious. On a track he adores and specialises he simply disappeared (almost literally as the TV director seemed to give up on him), led every lap and was 20 seconds clear at the end. Underlining his local talisman it was his win number six at this circuit. Thus not all expectations were confounded.
Vettel limits the damage
Seb did manage to limit the damage with a fine recovery drive. He ended up fourth, and thus lost just over half of his points lead when for a time he looked at risk of losing all of it. The effort was a worthy and aggressive one, with some bolshie overtakes, though he was aided by a couple of things also. One is that his team mate Kimi Raikkonen cleared out of his way thanks to brake problems. The other is that Force India despite a fine showing provided a soap opera when Sergio Perez refused a team order to let his more freshly-tyred team mate Esteban Ocon by.
Them compromising each other helped Seb pass both in the late laps (plenty reckoned Ocon might have got a podium finish with a more cooperative stable mate). And it seemed typical of Seb in his pomp – that even when things don’t go for him, things go for him.
It was a diverting race more generally, typical of Montreal – this being another expectation not confounded. Daniel Ricciardo completed the podium, though Max was sadly not able to make good on his great start, as he dropped out with a battery problem early.
Lewis afterwards was an odd mix of happy and cautious. Perhaps he was justified on the latter. Ferrari remains quick in all circumstances and was peculiarly impeded this time by events. And we’ll need a few more rounds before we can conclude that the Merc’s ‘diva’ tendencies are solved.
But Mercedes after this one also has more reason to think it’s back in the game.
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