The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX: Canada: Hamilton Historic but Ferrari Falter

13-06-2017

By Jack Target

The 50th Canadian Grand Prix was an historic one for Lewis Hamilton, but it was mess for Ferrari.

Hamilton recorded the quickest ever lap on the Montreal circuit in qualifying before coasting to victory on Sunday. Facing a 25 point deficit the Brit had to get back to winning ways to catch Sebastian Vettel. That gap was narrowed to a more manageable 12 points thanks to the worse weekend of the season so for the Italian team. 

Not only was it a fine weekend for Lewis, the highlight of the weekend came on Saturday when the Mercedes driver was gifted Ayrton’s Senna’s race helmet from the 1987 season. It was given to him on behalf of the Senna family as Hamilton matched his hero’s mark of 65 pole positions. The Brit was clearly quite emotional at receiving the helmet and held it dear when being paraded around the track afterwards. It is a scene we love to see in sports. Like most of you readers when you start talking about Ferrari, Hamilton’s demeanor changes when talking about Senna. Championship titles come and go but this was a very special moment. 

For Ferrari it was a weekend to forget. Although it started ok with Vettel qualifying 2nd and Kimi Raikkonen 4th, the pair were outdone by the Red Bulls from the start. Things got from bad to worse as Vettel had front wing damage that made him pit early and left him with an uphill task, whilst Kimi struggled with his brakes as they both finished off the podium. 

Outside of the top guns all eyes were on local lad Lance Stroll. The young Williams driver has struggled this season and has put his team under pressure to rethink things. With the un-retired Felipe Massa scoring all of the team’s points, the Canadian needed a good result in front of his home crowd to ease the pressure. A poor qualifying session, 17th, he moved up the pack, getting involved in some good scraps to finish 9th, collecting his first couple of points of the season and his F1 career. 

Qualifying produced no real major shocks as the field stayed pretty uniform to what we were used to. Fernando Alonso started from 12th on his return from the Indy 500. Once again he would not finish the race, but this time in more agonising circumstances as his engine failed with a lap remaining. In the drivers press conference before the weekend the Spaniard had mentioned that the team will need to start winning if he were to stay. Another disappointing weekend will not keep away the rumours that he will be leaving at the end of season. 

The race got off to a rather messy but enthralling start as Max Verstappen went round the outside through the first couple of corners to jump up to 2nd. Valtteri Bottas was able to take advantage too as he passed Vettel, leaving both Ferraris well behind. 

That was soon followed by a crash which saw Carlos Sainz and Massa’s races end early. Sainz had an impressive season up to this race but he was unfortunately at fault here. The Torro Rosso driver tried to squeeze out Romain Grosjean, but ended up losing control of the car and spun backwards in to Massa on the corner. It allowed everyone to catch their breath but also produced an angry message over the team radio from Alonso, who sounded much like an old uncle who was being disturbed by a bunch of loud children at a family gathering. 

With Hamilton cruising, his weekend got a lot better as Vettel pitted early to change tyres and fix the damage on his front wing. He came back out of the pits near the back as his teammate fell behind Sergio Perez after a slip on the grass let the Force India through. The final nail in the coffin for the race win came when Verstappen had a battery issue which ended his race after only 11 laps. It was such a gutting moment for the young Dutchmen who would have surely given Hamilton a fight, but once again the luck was not with Red Bull as they finished another race without both cars seeing the chequered flag. 

It was down to Daniel Ricciardo to keep the points coming in for Red Bull and that he did very well. With Perez and Raikkonen hot on his tail, his pit stop worked best as Kimi tried to go for the undercut but was still behind. It set up a fascinating battle for the podium as Esteban Ocon joined the gang after his late pitstop. With twenty laps remaining Force India were in a great position to get on the podium, one they would have thoroughly deserved after some impressive displays so far this season. But the occasion got to them. It was clear that Ocon was on the fresher tyres and would have been the one who could have challenged Ricciardo in 3rd. However, whether Perez refused or the team lacked conviction in making a decision, Perez held up his teammate and both pink cars followed the Red Bull around the track without getting a sniff. 

Then they went from having a potential podium finish to being overtaken. Whilst the team were working out equations and blowing their opportunity, the Ferraris were gaining. Although it was pretty clear Maurizio Arrivabene would have made the decision decisively to let Vettel hunt down the pack on his fresher tyres, he didn’t need to as Kimi messed up going through the chicane due a brakes issue, letting his teammate chase down the cars in pink. 

Ocon finally passed his teammate with five laps to go but the three cars would all be involved in a big scrap a lap later. Perez did superbly to overtake his teammate before defending his position extremely well, firstly from Ocon and then Vettel, who held back whilst the two were battling it out and then went on the attack, expertly squeezing between the two cars and dodging the swerving cars around him. It was a fabulous display of driving from the current world championship leader and the driver who looks like he is ready for a second opportunity at one of the big teams next year. The Mexican could even end up as Vettel’s teammate at Ferrari. 

For now Vettel is still in the faster car and the German took advantage by passing Perez in the last lap with another great move to finish in 4th. After the awful start it was another sign of Sebby’s qualities when he has to maneuver his way through the pack. As for Force India, the praises have justifiably been coming their way all season, but they missed a big opportunity here. If they do get their chance of a podium again this season, and they have the cars and drivers to do so, let’s hope they learn from their mistakes in Montreal. 

In the end it was a Mercedes top two and Hamilton closed the gap on Vettel and Mercedes took the lead in the constructors championship. He was joined on the podium by his teammate, Ricciardo and the legend that is Sir Patrick Stewart. He topped off a fascinating topsy turvy race with a fine performance interviewing the drivers before taking part in the phenomenon that is the shoey, right from Ricciardo’s left boot, daring to go where no man…nope sorry that’s far too easy! We now head to the street of Baku in Azerbaijan.