It was a brilliant early summer day in Montreal as the cars tore off the line towards Turn 1. At the end of the day, Lewis Hamilton had an easy victory and his teammate Valtteri Bottas was behind
him in P2. But further behind them in the field, there was quite a story to tell.
The was nothing separating the Ferraris and the Mercedes in Saturday’s qualifying sessions. That was a welcome change from 2016, when the Mercedes was head and shoulders above anyone else, especially on this power-dependent track.
This year, Hamilton took pole position, but Sebastian was right beside him, with Bottas in third and Raikkonen in fourth. The Red Bulls were in 5th and 6th, followed by Massa’s Williams and then the pair of Force Indias.
As the lights went out, the top 4 drivers all got off to similar starts and looked to hold their positions through the first sequence of turns. Young Max Verstappen, however, had other ideas. He had one of the best starts of the 2017 season and squeezed up past Raikkonen and on the right of Vettel through Turn 1. He cut across the nose of Vettel in Turn 2 (breaking Vettel’s front wing in the process) and found himself in P2 as the cars filtered out of the turns.
Further back, Sainz swerved wildly, clipping Grosjean and spinning forward into the back of Massa. Sainz took himself and Massa out of the race not four turns into the grand prix. This brought out a Safety Car and had the veteran Alonso wondering aloud on the radio “what the hell is going on?” and imploring others to calm down. Vettel came into the pits to replace his entire front nose on lap 6 and would have to work his way through the entire field to try to catch Hamilton.
Verstappen was wildly pissed when his Renault powerunit crapped the bed on lap 11, ending his race. Meanwhile, the tyres were proving very durable and almost every driver was only making one stop. Several drivers, including Esteban Ocon, rode the Ultrasoft tyres 30+ laps before pitting. Because Ocon waited so long to pit, he was on fresh Supersoft tyres at the end of the race and was faster than his teammate Perez, who was P4 and trying to pass Ricciardo in P3. The Force India team told Perez that Ocon was on a different strategy and was faster than him. The team asked, but did not order, Perez to let Ocon by. It said that if Ocon could not pass Ricciardo, Ocon would give P4 back to Perez before the end the of the race. Perez insisted that he have more time to try to pass Ricciardo and Ocon couldn’t make the overtake at that point without the assistance of team orders. In the meantime, Vettel had picked his way through the field and was closing fast on Ocon and crew. Thus, viewers were treated to Ricciardo, Perez, Ocon, and Vettel racing closely in the closing laps with the slowest car in the front and the fastest in the back. Gripping stuff.
Vettel was able to get by the Force Indias, but he ran out of laps before he could catch Ricciardo. Meanwhile, Ocon was furiously pressing Perez and finished less than a second behind him. The two Force India drivers claim there is no bad blood, but keep your eyes on this rivalry.
Force India got major points to solidify its lead among the midfield teams. Alonso was running in P10 with 3 laps to go, about to score McLaren’s first points of the season, when his Honda engine crapped out. Alonso took what he learned in America about crowd engagement and wandered into the nearest grandstand to shake hands and give souvenirs from his racing outfit. What a guy! Any team will be lucky to have him next year.
Hamilton closed Vettel’s lead in the driver’s championship and Mercedes retook the constructor’s championship lead. Ricciardo was egged on by the crowd to drink champagne from his race boot (a “shoe-ie”) and the trophy presenter had some from Ricciardo’s other boot!
Friend of The F1 Newsletter, Rob Smith, was in Montreal in person and was able to collect a substantial piece of Sainz’s car and an aero winglet as he walked the track post race.
P1, Hamilton (Mercedes); P2, Bottas (Mercedes); P3, Ricciardo (Red Bull); P4, Vettel (Ferrari); P5, Perez (Force India); P6, Ocon (Force India); P7, Raikkonen (Ferrari); P8, Hulkenberg (Renault); P9, Stroll (Williams); P10, Grosjean (Haas)