On a gray, overcast day in Montreal, rain seemed imminent throughout the hour before the start of the grand prix but the rain remained a mere threat across the duration of the 70-lap race. Low track temperatures meant that teams had to improvise on their respective tire strategies with Sunday’s chilly conditions effectively negating the data collected from the practice sessions held under warmer conditions. The variety of strategies employed among teams actually mixed the top of the field up quite well, making for an interesting race.
Race winner Lewis Hamilton made a one-stop strategy work, beating Sebastian Vettel on a two-stop strategy—Ferrari again failing to out-smart Mercedes in terms of pit strategy. Similar to Melbourne in the first round, Vettel got off to a dynamite start off the line from third, easily passing both Mercedes drivers within a few hundred meters. Vettel maintained the race lead until the Virtual Safety Car was deployed following Jenson Button’s retirement due to engine failure.
Ferrari committed to a two-stop race after pitting both Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen just as the VSC was about to end, changing their tires from the Ultrasoft to the Supersoft compound. Tire rules for the race mandated the use of the Soft compound so that meant that they definitely had to change tires again later on. Vettel showed good pace on his stint with the Supersofts, clawing back to the race lead while Hamilton extended his first stint, switching directly from the Ultrasoft to the Soft compound, attempting to run a one-stopper. Hamilton got the lead back as Vettel made his second stop to change to his own set of Soft tires that were numerous laps fresher than Hamilton’s.
The Ferrari driver managed to trim the gap lap after lap but eventually started to make several mistakes, especially on the final chicane of each lap. Vettel said that he gave it everything he had but evidently, he pushed too hard as Hamilton cruised to the checkered flag, making his tires last and again converting a one-stop strategy into a race win. Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene admitted that their tire strategy was “wrong,” arguably costing Vettel a victory.
Meanwhile, championship leader Nico Rosberg, in my eyes, was forced off the track by Hamilton at the start at Turn 2. Taking to the escape road, Rosberg lost a ton of places and had to work his way up throughout the race in a valiant effort. The German driver started challenging the Williams of Valtteri Bottas midway through the race but a slow puncture forced Rosberg to pit again, dropping to seventh behind Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo. Rosberg eventually moved up to fifth and battled with Max Verstappen for fourth with few laps remaining.
The teenager Verstappen displayed precocious defense against a hard attack from the championship leader. On the penultimate lap at the final chicane, Rosberg’s attempt to pass the Red Bull ended up with him spinning and just managing to keep his engine running to recover and finish fifth, holding off Raikkonen and Ricciardo closely behind on the final lap. As it stood, Bottas rounded out the podium finishing third and making his own one-stop strategy pay dividends while Verstappen finished fourth after running an Ultrasoft-Soft-Ultrasoft strategy.
A special mention to Force India who followed up a strong Monaco Grand Prix performance with another double points-scoring finish with drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez finishing eighth and tenth respectively. Another noteworthy driver this weekend was Carlos Sainz who propelled his Toro Rosso to ninth after starting twentieth. The young Spaniard has been rumored to have piqued the interest of top teams due to his consistent early season performance.
With Hamilton’s second consecutive victory and Rosberg missing out on a podium finish again, the gap between the two drivers at the top of the championship standings has been trimmed down to only nine points.
Formula One makes a quick comeback this weekend with the inaugural grand prix at Baku, Azerbaijan. That race is set to start right as the checkered flag is waved for the Le Mans 24 Hours so it will be a cracking weekend for motorsport fans.