Formula 1 visited Canada for the 50th time last weekend, and what a visit it turned out to be.
The drivers flogged their challengers for all they were worth around the picturesque scene of the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve, leading to action, aggression, attrition and fantastic all round entertainment.
Lewis Hamilton ultimately triumphed, but apart from his top class drive, there was a lot to enjoy about F1’s trip to Montreal.
Hamilton was under a little bit of pressure after a lacklustre showing in Monaco last time out left him 25 points behind Sebastian Vettel in the battle for the title.
In Canada, however, the Mercedes man bounced back in spectacular style. His pole lap on Saturday was nothing short of sensational, and it was an appropriate performance to draw him level with idol and F1 great Ayrton Senna, who was famous for his raw speed over one lap.
Come Sunday, Hamilton was serene out front, almost anonymous, as he simply ticked off the laps one by one and crossed the line a cool 20 seconds clear of teammate Valtteri Bottas.
It’s a result that helps him cut the gap to Vettel in half and reassert yet again that he is the main man at Mercedes.
The Briton has always had a bit of a love affair with the Canadian circuit, but even after six wins there, his 2017 triumph is surely one that he will look back at fondly for years to come.
Vettel limits the damage
Things started off decently for Vettel, as the German secured a front row start on Saturday. At the start of Sunday’s race, however, it all went wrong as he lost places off the line and picked up damage to his front wing and floor, forcing him to pit and emerge all the way back in P18.
With title rival Hamilton cruising away out front, it looked set to be a bad day for the Ferrari man. But Vettel had other ideas. He set about his work calmly and methodically, using his car’s strong pace and pulling off some decisive overtaking attempts to slowly but surely climb his way back up the order.
His late-race tussle with the Force India’s demanded courage and skill in equal measure. The German and the two pink cars went three abreast into turn one, with Vettel holding the inside, the front wing on his Ferrari shuddering as he stamped on the brakes and held his nerve to dispatch Esteban Ocon, before making short work of Sergio Perez moments later.
It wasn’t the result that Vettel and Ferrari would have wanted, but it could have been much worse, and the 12 points for P4 might just come in handy when it gets down to the wire.
Three times three for Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo lined up in P6 on the Canadian grid, seemingly destined to more or less stay there while the faster cars ahead of him pulled away.
However, the Australian managed to pass Kimi Raikkonen at the start, and when teammate Max Verstappen was forced to retire, Ricciardo found himself in P3.
The Honey Badger was soon forced to show all his tenacity, as he spent the whole afternoon with the two Force India drivers pressuring him, desperate to pip him to the podium.
Red Bull instructed their man to fight for every inch and he calmly replied in the affirmative. The pressure was relentless, but Ricciardo was faultless and kept his head down to secure the 21st podium of his career, and his third P3 finish in a row.
The Australian’s RB13 challenger still isn’t as fast as the machinery at the disposal of his rivals, but with results seemingly going his way at the moment, things could be worse.
Glass half full for Ocon
Esteban Ocon found himself mixing it up with the big boys from the start of the race on Sunday, and soon found himself fighting teammate Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo for the final podium spot.
While the French youngster was ultimately unable to pass either of the pair, and was in fact caught by Sebastian Vettel, his P6 finish, though excellent, doesn’t tell the full story.
After a good start, a variety of circumstances meant that Ocon found himself in P2, taking pressure from the Mercedes of Bottas. The French rookie didn’t flinch and frustrated the Finn for a substantial period of time before peeling off into the pits for new rubber.
After that, he was comfortably able to keep pace with Perez and Ricciardo and although he opted to run off the circuit rather than fight Vettel, that was a better decision than causing an accident and throwing all his hard work away.
Ocon wasn’t overly thrilled with Perez’ refusal to let him past in order to attack Ricciardo (despite the team asking the Mexcian to do so) but unfortunately, that’s the nature of F1 sometimes.
Ocon will feel like a first-ever F1 podium escaped from his reach, but on the whole, his Canadian weekend was one to be proud of, and with 27 points to his name this season, he’s definitely pulling his weight.
Stroll delivers at home
Lance Stroll seemed doomed to endure a difficult first-ever home race after failing to advance from Q1 on Saturday. On Sunday, however, the 18-year old produced the best race of his young career. It seemed that Stroll fought with virtually every other driver out there, giving as good as he got, but crucially, passing more cars than he let past.
Most importantly, he kept a calm head and didn’t take any unnecessary risks, ultimately crossing the line in P9 and scoring his first ever F1 points, and at home, too.
Questions still remain over Stroll and his ultimate ability at the highest level, but his efforts in front of his home crowd were certainly a step in the right direction.
Welcome back Fernando, sorry we forgot your gift
After doing F1 proud in the Indy500, Fernando Alonso got back to his day job of making his McLaren look better than it actually is.
The Spaniard was his usual gritty self, making life difficult for faster cars and arguing with his team over the radio, all while chucking his car around between the walls lap after lap.
The Spaniard’s performance saw him (deservedly) running in the points as the final laps of the race approached, until the biggest cliché of 2017 struck again and his engine gave up the ghost.
The result means McLaren remain the only team in the grid that have failed to score any points this year, and as such, remain rooted to the bottom of the Constructor’s Championship table.
For a competitor as fierce as Alonso, you have to wonder how much longer he can endure his present situation before he reaches the end of his tether.
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