Round 7, 2018: Canada
Despite actually being on holiday here in Canada; I have (due to my return flight timings tonight & long journey to the Grand Prix) been unable to travel from Toronto. I will make it up to myself by going to Silverstone this summer. However, I am as usual following today's race in exactly the same way as always; albeit aiming at a little briefer as to enjoy my last day in Ontario. In that regard, I hope we do not have an epic 2011-style race! Of course, that is highly unlikely. But there will be plenty of twists & turns along the 2.7 miles! Sorry, that should be 4.4 kilometres (when in Rome!) instead! Specifically, this weekend is most interesting for the new engine upgrades that the teams are bringing. Well, all but Mercedes who have delayed the introduction of their new PU. Honda reckon they have added 27BHP, whilst Adrian Newey anticipates only a tenth or so improvement from Renault. It seems, then, that Ferrari will be the biggest benefactors. Today also marks Fernando Alonso's 300th Grand Prix and as he is my favourite driver I will leave a link to my (now out of date) review to his career here. I will do an updated version upon the sad occasion of his retirement. Some other errant speculation is abounding on the future of Formula 1 and proposed changes to the weekend format. Let me just say this on absurdity of such suggestions: I watched some Nascar a few days back in a pub near Lake Ontario and it was great. As far as I could tell it was pure, close, racing. It would be good if F1 learned by such examples and not flirted with stupid ideas. Please preserve the history of this sport. If you don't I can bet a few won't watch F1 anymore. But let's watch today!
Race Result: Valtteri Bottas (2nd) & Lewis Hamilton (5th) Points Total (after this round): 206 Qualifying/Grid: BOT: 2nd (1:10.857) & HAM: 4th (1:10.996) Events & Analysis: Lewis Hamilton was slightly off-form this weekend, despite past triumphs in the fast Montreal circuit. Whilst you may point to Mercedes' lack of an upgraded power unit to explain the Brit's lack of pace; Valtteri Bottas' performance, both in qualifying and the race, indicates Lewis could have done a lot more to claim his 7th Canadian Grand Prix win. What is certainly true, however, is that he suffered brief power issues during the race from lap 8 to lap 17; where he pitted and the team sorted out some cooling problems very quickly. From there Lewis hunted down Ricciardo, but didn't get the job done, losing the lead in the championship to Vettel by a single point. Valtteri did well to stick with the fast Ferrari up front, save for an error on lap 55 that undid good work. Mercedes will be easier to judge, going forward, when they have introduced the new power unit. Til then, all long term judgements are a little premature.
Race Result: Sebastian Vettel (1st) & Kimi Raikkonen (6th) Points Total (after this round): 189 Qualifying/Grid: VET: 1st (1:10.764) & RAI: 5th (1:11.095) Events & Analysis: Vettel had a lights to flag finish today; from being 2 seconds ahead in the lead by lap 8 to a total of 8 at the finish. Little to comment on here apart from a cool and collected drive. Kimi Raikkonen's race, meanwhile was a little more eventful, losing out to Daniel Ricciardo at the start, then being employed on a longer strategy by the team to try and over-cut Lewis Hamilton into 5th. Whilst he managed to get close, he didn't quite get the job done. I would like to take a moment to talk about rumours regarding Raikkonen's retirement this season and for calls to put Charles LeClerc in the seat. I feel it is too early for the Monegasque to have the pressure of a Ferrari drive and probably Kimi will keep the seat for another year. He has clung on, despite patchy form, so far.
Race Result: Max Verstappen (3rd) & Daniel Ricciardo (4th) Points Total (after this round):134 Qualifying/Grid: VER: 3rd (1:10.937) & RIC: 6th (1:11.116) Events & Analysis: Verstappen and Ricciardo, both on the Hypersoft tyres at the start, tried to make a punchy get-away on the line. Max did well to put Bottas under a lot of pressure, both before and after the Safety Car, but unfortunately for him the Finn kept his cool and defended well. Ricciardo, on the other hand managed to undo a relatively poor qualifying and claim Raikkonen effectively. The Bulls pitted on lap 17 and 18 respectively; with Daniel pumping in a very quick time to jump Hamilton in the pitstops. Then both tried to protect the grip on their tyres into the race to have a late-game surge of pace. Whilst there was possibility they could claim 2nd at the final laps; no serious challenge ever manifested itself. They will be very happy that they managed to lap Renault: the team below and their engine suppliers. It speaks wonders of the ability of their chassis and aerodynamic work.
Race Result: Nico Hulkenberg (7th) & Carlos Sainz (8th) Points Total (after this round): 56 Qualifying/Grid: HUL: 7th (1:11.973) & SAI: 9th (1.12:168) Events & Analysis: A very solid weekend again from Renault who are taking on the mantle of Force-India's consistency to become "best of the rest" this season. Sainz did have had a quick scrap with Perez on the safety car restart that could have threatened his race, but managed to escape both damage and steward judgement. For a while Nico Hulkenberg felt he was "being held up by the Force-India" in front, which speaks to the inability of these cars to over-take. Sainz was following close behind. As such, both pitted early onto supersoft tyres and easily made back the time; breezing past Romain Grosjean on older tyres. Despite the positives they cannot argue with the big 50 second gap to the top 6 today. In short, Renault will know a lot of work is needed before they fight properly for podiums. An improvement on last season...which cannot be said for...
Race Result: Stoffel Vandoorne (16th) & Fernando Alonso (DNF) Points Total (after this round): 40 Qualifying/Grid: ALO: 14th (1:12.856) & VAN: 15th (1:12.865) Events & Analysis: A very poor weekend for McLaren, along with bad performance at a more favourable track in Monaco, is starting to sully a decent start to the new season and new engine partnership. Fernando Alonso's 300th Grand Prix was ruined, despite decent efforts to fight with LeClerc and Ocon ahead for points, by yet another retirement. Stoffel meanwhile was anonymous: pitting early due to being caught up in Hartley and Stroll's crash, before trundling around at the back for the majority of the race. Again, I will reiterate that he needs to start picking up points to cover for Fernando has bad luck. Indeed, with Alonso taking on WEC responsibilities at LeMans next weekend (good luck for the triple crown!) and for the season, Stoffel's need to improve might be acute with a tiring Alonso as well as an unlucky or demotivated one.
Race Result: Esteban Ocon (9th) & Sergio Perez (13th) Points Total (after this round): 28 Qualifying/Grid: OCO: 8th (1:12.084) & PER: 10th (1:12.671) Events & Analysis: Since last time out in Monaco, VJ Mallya has resigned as Force-India's managing director, thus paving way for rumours about the team being bought out. But until we, as viewers, have anything concrete on Force-India's future, we must focus on track. Today...Perez, who is coming under pressure from an excellent Ocon this year, made a big error on the restart, hit Sainz a little and span into 14th. Alonso & LeClerc benefitted. By lap 11 he was down to 18th place due to a pit-stop. Ocon followed him in on lap 12; but another error, this time a bad pit stop from the team, lost two whole seconds. In the end there was enough time for the Frenchman to recover; but given decent qualifying and the car's usual good straight line speed at this circuit, this result is not good enough. Perhaps we can conversely say that in order for Force-India to focus on track; they must sort out their future first? Way more mistakes are being made this season than last year.
Race Result: Pierre Gasly (11th) & Brendon Hartley (DNF) Points Total (after this round): 19 Qualifying/Grid: HAR: 12th (1:12.635) & GAS: 16th (1:13.047) Events & Analysis: With Lando Norris of McLaren rumoured to have been approached by STR-Honda to replace Brendon Hartley, there can be no surprise that the Kiwi driver is feeling the pressure to perform. Perhaps that can explain his slightly desperate lunge on Lance Stroll today on the outside of turn 5. Was he giving his all to impress his critical employers? As his car flipped up slightly against the wall, before diving back down onto the Williams, he must have wondered 'what next' for the coming weeks. He did have a good qualifying, trouncing Gasly, so much cling to that in an effort to retain confidence. The Frenchman, in the only running car, ran slightly longer into the race coming as high as 7th by lap 21, before pitting down into 13th. He just missed out on points.
Race Result: Romain Grosjean (12th) & Kevin Magnussen (14th) Points Total (after this round): 19 Qualifying/Grid: MAG: 11th (1:12.606) & GRO: 20th (NO TIME SET) Events & Analysis: Seismic bad luck for Romain Grosjean continued this weekend as his engine blew up before he had even left the pits in qualifying. But, despite having to start last with no time set, he went on a stellar quest. Today he was 14th by lap 10 and then 7th by lap 20; despite this performance being massaged by the fact he had yet to pit even as far as lap 40, this was a valiant effort that will help heaps in retaining his seat next season. He defended well from faster cars, most notably Ocon, even when on much older tyres. Points will come soon if this kind of fight continues. Magnussen meanwhile, as far as I am concerned, was pretty void of comment for the first time in a while and so will want to get back on his usual high form coming into the next few rounds.
Race Result: Charles LeClerc (10th) & Marcus Ericsson (15th) Points Total (after this round): 12 Qualifying/Grid: LEC: 13th (1:12.661) & ERI: 19th (1:14.593) Events & Analysis: Whilst Marcus Ericsson did admittedly scrape the wall in qualifying and so was limited to only 1 run; that is no excuse as to how spectacularly he is being shown up by his team-mate currently. LeClerc is, quite simply, in fantastic form. First qualifying a mammoth 2 seconds faster than his team mate, then making up two solid places from a good start. But he wasn't finished; holding his own very effectively on track against the predatory Alonso until the Spaniard undercut him in the pits. Another point means he has now got 5 times the amount of Ericsson and is showing the world why he deserves a seat higher up the field. My bet is on a Haas drive next season and should he continue to deliver, a Ferrari seat thereafter.
Race Result: Sergey Sirotkin (17th) & Lance Stroll (DNF) Points Total (after this round): 4 Qualifying/Grid:STR: 17th (1:13.590) & SIR: 18th (1:12.643) Events & Analysis: From recording his first points finish for Williams here last season, followed by a Podium at 2017 Baku, to a dismal shunt today, Lance Stroll will wonder how he and his team get out of this hole. The collision, as far as I can tell, was barely his fault. The car hit him with a huge amount of oversteer as he rounded turn 5, and there was nothing he could to prevent a collision with the poorly-placed Hartley, despite his attempts at full-opposite lock. Meanwhile, bottom placed Sergey Sirotkin's only mention was that he got in the way of Lewis Hamilton, nearly costing the Brit 5th place, as the Mercedes lapped him. That about says it all for Williams.