Formula 1

Vettel assumes championship lead with dominant Canadian win

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Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Sebastian Vettel took his third victory of the 2018 season, the first Scuderia Ferrari victory in Canada for 14 years, moving above Lewis Hamilton in the World Championship standings.

Vettel was unchallenged throughout the whole race, finishing seven seconds ahead of the other Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport car of Valtteri Bottas with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing‘s Max Verstappen chasing the Finn right to the finish. Hamilton fell to second in the Drivers’ standings with fifth place, behind Daniel Ricciardo.

Starting from pole position, Vettel held his advantage coming out of Turn 2, whilst Verstappen harried Bottas to no avail for second. The top of the field made it into the second sector unscathed, however a horrendous crash between Lance Stroll and Brendon Hartley at Turn 5 prompted the appearance of Bernd Mäylander in the Safety Car.

Hartley tried to look around the outside of home hero Stroll, but for the latter to suffer with a hit of oversteer – courtesy of a suspected right rear puncture – forcing the New Zealander into the outside wall. The Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda climbed up on top of the Williams Martini Racing car briefly before both came to rest in the Turn 6 barrier. Fortunately, both drivers emerged from the wreckage.

After five laps behind the Safety Car, Vettel started to extend his gap to Bottas with a succession of fastest laps. After Hamilton – who reported “drop outs in power” on lap seven – Verstappen and Ricciardo all made their stops for super-soft tyres between laps 15 and 20, it became increasingly clear that Vettel, Bottas and Kimi Räikkönen were holding on to their starting compound for an extended period.

Hamilton lost out to Ricciardo in his sole pitstop, sliding on the dusty part of the track on pit exit. As Vettel set about executing “Plan B”, Räikkönen tried to use his strategy to leapfrog the ailing Brit. Pitting on lap 33, the Ferrari just missed the opportunity to gain track position, despite Hamilton being obstructed by last placed man Sergey Sirotkin.

Bottas and Vettel made their stops for super-softs on lap 36 and 37 respectively before trading fastest laps, edging closer to Rubens Barrichello‘s 2004 lap record of a 1 minute 13.622 seconds. The Mercedes set about closing in on the Ferrari, but Bottas’s slim hopes of a win diminished on lap 56 when his slithered onto the grass before Turn 2 when lapping Carlos Sainz Jr.

The loss of 1.5 seconds was enough, Vettel controlled the closing stages of the race to take his 50th Grand Prix victory in Formula 1, emulating Alain Prost, Hamilton and Vettel’s idol and compatriot, Michael Schumacher. Verstappen almost caught Bottas in the last two laps, finishing less than a second behind the Finn.

Hamilton was given full power to end the race as he piled the pressure on Monaco victor Ricciardo, but the ageing power unit was not enough to pinch fourth and therefore his previously 14 point championship lead.

Räikkönen finished an underwhelming performance in sixth, ahead of the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team duo of Nico Hülkenberg and Sainz Jr. Esteban Ocon continued his good vein of form, taking ninth and two more points for his and the Sahara Force India F1 Team tally; whilst Charles Leclerc managed overheating brakes to score his third top 10 finish of a very impressive rookie season.

Pierre Gasly threatened to trouble Leclerc but for a late problem, he was the sole Toro Rosso finisher and held off the attentions of Romain Grosjean and his team-mate Kevin Magnussen, as the Haas F1 Team failed to score once again. Sergio Pérez was forced into making two pitstops which hampered his progression – further disappointment for the Mexican after a sub-par Monaco weekend.

Marcus Ericsson finished around 40 seconds adrift of team-mate Leclerc, but ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne. The Belgian was the sole McLaren F1 Team car to make it to the finish, as Fernando Alonso saw his 300th Grand Prix end with exhaust failure. Sirotkin propped up the order in another dismal weekend for Williams.

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DTM, Formula 1 writer and deputy editor for The Checkered Flag. Autosport Academy member and freelance voice over artist.
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