Hamilton anonymously dominates as Force India lose podium

Lewis Hamilton secured his 6th Canadian Grand Prix victory with a dominant performance that saw him win the race with a 20 second gap to Valtteri Bottas in 2nd. His race was anonymous for all the right reasons, but the battles within the top ten kept the race very much alive. 

In the tight fight between Mercedes and Ferrari in 2017, it was crucial that Hamilton could get through the first lap with his lead in tact after pulling three-tenths on Sebastian Vettel in qualifying. As the cars got away for the formation lap, Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso was unable to get off the line, demoting the Russian from 11th to the back of the grid and making his afternoon a taller order, when points had looked likely earlier.

MONTREAL, QC – JUNE 11: Daniil Kvyat of Russia driving the (26) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12 on track during the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix

When the lights went out, all eyes were on the Mercedes and Ferrari drivers, but it was Max Verstappen who pulled off an incredible start, jumping up to 2nd from 5th. Elsewhere, going into turn 3, Romain Grosjean and Carlos Sainz collided, throwing the Spaniard into the back of Felipe Massa and retiring both drivers. Grosjean was able to limp back to the pits, change his front-wing and join the back of the pack as the safety car led the field.

The cars were released on lap 4 just before the final corner, and Verstappen was lining the leader up rather than Hamilton getting away. Further back, Sergio Perez cleared Kimi Raikkonen, who had a moment with the barriers at turn 7. The opening of the race was starting to look bad for Ferrari. Vettel had dropped to 4th with damage on his front-wing, the Championship leader was in the pits for a wing change and supersofts. He emerged at the back of the grid.

MONTREAL, QC – JUNE 11: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO8 leads Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB13.

The running order after 7 laps saw Hamilton leading Verstappen, with Bottas 3rd and Ricciardo behind, highlighting how poor the start of the Canadian Grand Prix had been for Ferrari. By lap 10, both Mercedes cars had a 3-second advantage over the Red Bull driver chasers, but Verstappen was doing well to retain a 2-second gap to Bottas in 3rd.

One lap later it was all over for the Dutchman, who had pulled to the side of the track and retired from the race with a battery failure. Under the following virtual safety car both Renaults took an early stop to try something different on tyre strategy. Force India were once again looking very strong too, with Perez in 4th and Ocon 6th, the leading Ferrari driver Raikkonen sitting in 5th.

during the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 11, 2017 in Montreal, Canada.

At the restart on lap 14, Kevin Magnussen and Lance Stroll were able to overtake Stoffel Vandoorne for 9th and 10th and their situation would get better with the news that Daniil Kvyat in 7th would have to serve a drive through penalty for retaking his starting position after stalling on the start of the formation lap earlier on. After serving the penalty, he emerged in 11th, behind the battle for 8th between Magnussen, Stroll and Hulkenberg.

On lap 19, Raikkonen and Ricciardo pitted to cover one another in the fight for the final podium place, but the stops promoted Perez to 3rd with his teammate following. At this point, Fernando Alonso was running in 5th.

Force India decided to pit Perez on the following lap to cover Ricciardo, the Mexican emerged back onto the track behind Ricciardo, but ahead of Kimi. With Alonso up the road, the Force India was able to keep in touch with Ricciardo, shaping up an early three-way battle for 3rd between Ricciardo, Perez and Raikkonen. Interestingly, Force India opted to keep Esteban Ocon on track instead of pitting, meaning that Ricciardo wasn’t able to extract the full performance from the fresh rubber and pull away from Perez behind. It was an effective strategic move for Force India to play.

MONTREAL, QC – JUNE 11: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM10 on track during the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix

Up the road, it was feeling like 2016 despite the incredible amount of overtaking going on behind. It was a clear Mercedes 1-2 with Hamilton enjoying a 20-second gap at the front. Bottas pitted from 2nd on lap 24 and emerged behind Esteban Ocon, who was still faster than Ricciardo on 24-lap-old ultrasofts, the Frenchman was looking to be having one of the performances of his F1 career so far.

On lap 26, Kevin Magnussen was given a time penalty for overtaking under the safety car period. He gave the position back straight away, but the stewards deemed it a big enough error of judgement to ruin his prospects of points. On lap 30, the Dane was out of the points on-track with a bold move by Daniil Kvyat recovering Toro Rosso’s chances of damage limitation and bagging at least a point in Montreal.

Hamilton and Ocon in 1st and 2nd were still managing a quicker pace than the drivers behind despite running on 32-lap-old ultrasoft tyres. Ocon was driving sensationally, two-tenths off of Hamilton’s pace whilst managing a staunch defence against Valtteri Bottas.

MONTREAL, QC – JUNE 10: Esteban Ocon of France and Sahara Force India during qualifying for the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix

On lap 32, Hamilton pitted for a fresh set of supersofts, his 26-second advantage over Bottas reduced to 9 seconds. Ocon also pitted, emerging in 6th behind Raikkonen. Crucially, the young Frenchman had earned a huge tyre advantage and was reigning Raikkonen in for 5th.

By lap 40, Perez, Raikkonen and Ocon were consistently lapping better than the three car ahead, causing the leading Force India driver to find himself within touching distance of Ricciardo for the podium position.

Kimi Raikkonen arrived at the Ferrari pits for a second stop a few laps later as Vettel caught the fight for 3rd between Ricciardo and the Force Indias. Further back, Lance Stroll was running well and lining up Fernando Alonso in a fight for 11th. Stroll was able to use his advantageous straight line speed to great effect and overtake the two-time World Champion for 11th. A pitting Kevin Magnussen ahead promoted the Canadian driver into 1oth at his home race.

MONTREAL, QC – JUNE 11: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H on track during the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix

On lap 50, Vettel took the pits, confirming both Ferrari’s had to use a two-stop strategy where other cars could survive the race on one. It returned the battle for 3rd into a Ricciardo/Force India exclusive scrap, although with 20 laps still remaining, the Ferraris on fresh rubber were still on to catch the fight.

By lap 53, Perez was given a message over team radio to give Ocon a chance at fighting Ricciardo for 3rd given that the Frenchman was wearing tyres that were 13 laps younger than his teammate. As soon as Perez was given the message, his pace did pick up, but he was ultimately damaging Ocon’s strategy and defying what the team wanted to try. Whilst the domestic was going on over team radio at Force India, Kimi Raikkonen was catching Ocon.

On lap 61, Both Force Indias were within a second of Ricciardo and the pursuing Raikkonen made a big error, going deep into the final corner and having to travel past the bollard, allowing Vettel to overtake for 6th and pursue the fight for 3rd himself. Raikkonen’s error turned out to be a brake problem and he started losing 6-seconds a lap, giving Hulkenberg a whiff of 7th place.

MONTREAL, QC – JUNE 09: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS17

On lap 64, Vettel’s nose was poking the back of Ocon’s helmet. On lap 66, Perez defended heavily from Ocon, slowing the Frenchman’s momentum through the final corner and allowing Vettel to overtake for 5th. Sergio Perez was the next target for the German driver. With two laps to go, Fernando Alonso retired from 14th, another terrible weekend in Formula 1 for the Spanish driver.

With one lap to go, Vettel was able to dispatch of Perez routinely for 4th. Had Perez allowed Ocon to eke out his tyre advantage earlier in the race, one Force India could have beaten Vettel.

Lewis Hamilton crossed the line to claim his 6th Canadian Grand Prix victory, his race was anonymous for all the right reasons, a dominant display in which the Brit looked to be back at his best. Valtteri Bottas secured 2nd, but was never on for the win or able to contest his teammate ahead.

MONTREAL, QC – JUNE 11: Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP hugs second place finisher Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP in parc ferme during the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 11, 2017 in Montreal, Canada.

Before the race, it looked like it would be a close contest between Mercedes and the Ferraris, but the Silver Arrows have amassed 23 more points than the red cars this weekend, promoting the team to the top of the Constructors standings with a 8 point gap.

Daniel Ricciardo was the beneficiary to a lack of clear instruction from the Force India pit-wall. Had the team commanded rather than requested that Perez should allow Ocon to use his fresher tyres to overtake the Red Bull driver, the Aussie could have found himself further down the order. The slight blunder from Force India allowed Vettel to clear them both too and eventually secure 4th with a damaged car and having done an extra pit-stop The Canadian Grand Prix had turned into a great recovery drive from the German, who finds his lead in the driver standings reduced to 12 points.

MONTREAL, QC – Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H on track

Force India, despite the possible soap opera that may emerge for a while between the drivers, have enjoyed one of their best weekends of the season. Ocon was on for the podium and Perez was once again able to put in a performance that keeps him in contention for a bigger seat next season. They crossed the line less than three-tenths apart and provided most of the entertainment throughout the race. Perez secured 5th, with Ocon 6th. It proved to be another weekend in which the pink panthers outscored Red Bull as they edge closer in the fight for 3rd in the Constructors.

Kimi Raikkonen was able to hold onto 7th despite a severe brake issue bringing him under threat from Hulkenberg in 8th, who drove a solid race and claimed 4 more points for Renault, enough to jump Haas in the standings.

Lance Stroll finally scored his first Formula 1 points for Williams at his home Grand Prix and the young Canadian had to work hard to secure 9th. He overtook several cars and drove a mature race having to endure pressure in phases from Alonso. These 70 laps mark his most convincing performance of the season so far, and could give him further confidence to put in this sort of performance at every Grand Prix.

Lance Stroll picked up his first F1 points on home soil.

Romain Grosjean picked up the final point on offer for Haas, the team once again had a difficult weekend with the French driver involved in a first lap incident with Sainz that put him at the back of the field in the opening stint. Had he avoided the clash with Sainz, he may have eventually finished ahead of Stroll and been in the fight for 8th with Hulkenberg’s Renault.

Momentum has fallen into Hamilton’s favour, although this is counterbalanced by the performance that Vettel put in against the odds with a damaged car. The front-wing damage the four-time world champion sustained early on denied us another epic battle between silver and red, but both contenders for the 2017 title were arguably the best drivers on track this weekend, although Ocon’s performance shines through too.

MONTREAL, QC – JUNE 09: Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM10 on track during the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

There won’t be bad blood for too long at Force India, and he team were the second best on track this weekend. The most impressive aspect of Ocon’s race was in his first stint on heavily worn ultrasofts, putting in times that were a few tenths down on Hamilton and quicker than Perez on fresh rubber. This hard work didn’t pay off in the end, but Force India have to appreciate how strong their line-up has turned out to be this season, and they have two drivers who can easily secure 4th in the Constructors, and still become a headache for the teams who are, on paper at least, supposed to be doing a better job than they are.

Elsewhere, Fernando Alonso retired from the race with two laps to go. There were rumours that McLaren would struggle to make race distance on fuel because of the high-throttle nature of the circuit, and this appears to be true on Alonso’s car. It doesn’t look like the team are going to be winning by September, and the frustration over team radio during this race was once again present.