In extraordinary scenes at Circuit Gille-Villeneuve, Sebastian Vettel tasted both the sweetness of success and the sourness of regulations after physically winning the Canadian F1 GP, only to have the win denied and a five second time penalty applied. The penalty was courtesy of what the stewards deemed to be effectively a case of gaining unfair advantage on lap 48. Both Vettel and Hamilton had been scrapping since race start and finally the tension came to a head.
Vettel was under pressure from the Mercedes driver and ran wide through grass on a corner. His re-entry is where the stewards saw it as dangerous and gaining advantage, as Vettel buried his foot and barely kept his scarlet machine ahead of the Brit, who looked to be in real danger of hitting the wall. Hamilton’s luck was such that the result was nothing more than a scary moment on track but the damage was done.
The penalty soured what was otherwise a classically tight race between two very fine drivers and the penalty was, unfortunately enough for Vettel who had rarely been anything over three seconds ahead of Hamilton, exactly what was not needed for the German to claim the win. Vettel was clearly bitter about the situation, saying to his team: “I had nowhere to go. I didn’t see him. Where was I supposed to go? I have grass on my wheels. He decides to go that way, if he got to the inside he got past me.” The final gap for the history books would be 3.5 seconds. Hamilton himself appeared subdued but gracious: “Naturally, absolutely it’s not the way I wanted to win. I was pushing to the end to try and get past. I forced him into an error, he went wide, I had the run on that corner and we nearly collided. It’s unfortunate, but this is motor racing.”
Behind the duo were Valtteri Bottas in fourth and Charles Leclerc for second, meaning that Ferrari were able to salvage a measure of pride and gaining much needed driver and manufacturers points. Bottas had been under pressure himself throughout most of the race from former teammates Max Verstappen (5th) and Renault’s new recruit Daniel Ricciardo (6th) who was absolutely delighted to have seen the checkered flag in a strong performance. Adding to his delight was the fact that he’d finished ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, his Renault teammate. That delight was tempered by the knowledge that although neither car had expired, they were still a lap from the lead finishers.
Behind the yellow cars were Pierre Gasly, hometown hopeful Lance Stroll, and Daniil Kvyat for the top ten finishers. Alexander Albon and Lando Norris failed to make the end, with Norris not making it past lap 9 thanks to a combination of a rear suspension failure and a fire somewhere in the rear, whilst Albon was within sight of the flag on lap 63 of the race, with what looked to be a complete power failure. This comes on top of a tag in lap 1 with Albon requiring a new front wing.
Carlos Sainz, who had been given a three grid spot penalty from the qualifying sessions after being deemed to have impeded Albon in Q1, would finish 11th, and had suffered early by needing to pit early due to a visor slowing airflow into a radiator intake. Team strategy would then have him stay on hard tires from the pit on lap 3 through to race end. Sainz had driven masterfully but his fading rubber in the closing stages would allow Gasly, Stroll, and Kvyat to make their moves.
“Having to manage brakes, having to manage tires the whole race, it was tough. Very, very close but in the end we didn’t manage it. We weren’t able to show our true pace today, which I think was a solid points finish had it not been for that early pit stop.” Sainz said after the race. Sergio Perez, Antonio Giovinazzi, Romain Grosjean, Kimi Raikkonen, George Russell, Kevin Magnussen in his “new” chassis after his massive qualifying shunt, and Robert Kubica, rumoured to be replaced before season’s end, finished the race. Grosjean was held up early, with his car running over Albon’s wing in traffic, and a piece had flown up and become lodged in his car’s halo.
Hamilton’s ultimate victory came after pit lane work on his Mercedes, with an apparent brake issue being attended to in pit lane. Verstappen, Stroll, Magnussen and Giovinazzi all started on the white-marked hard tires, with Ricciardo and Gasly going for softs for the start. Verstappen had taken time to get his tires up to temp and had charged past Norris on their 7th lap, and Ricciardo also pitted for hards before the 10th lap. Both Hulkenberg and Hamilton had told their pits of varying issues during the race too, with Hulkenberg describing gearbox issues.
Vettel and Leclerc had traded quick times early, with Vettel 1.7 seconds ahead of Hamilton on lap 25 before pitting a lap later and rejoining in 3rd. Again Ferrari would leave Leclerc out, saying “We are going long” before pulling him in on lap 33. Bottas would pit just before half race distance, and this tire change would be the catalyst for his eventual pass on Ricciardo, aided by old rubber on the Ricciardo Renault.
The race would remain much the same until the event that would change Vettel’s history in the race and in F1. The result has him in 3rd overall for the drivers’ championship, with his 100 points 33 behind Bottas however the team is 2nd overall on 172, behind the 295 for Mercedes.
F1 heads back to Europe in two weeks times for the Pirelli Grand Prix De France over the weekend of June 21 to 23 at Circuit Paul Ricard.
UPDATE: Just as we went to press, news broke that Ferrari were going to appeal the decision of the stewards in regards to the time penalty given to Sebastian Vettel.