While Graham Hill and Ayrton Senna may stake claim to the ‘Masters of Monaco,’ there can be little doubt in anyone’s mind that Lewis Hamilton is clearly the ‘King of Canada.’ His display this weekend around the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve was a masterclass in poise and speed, something which both Mercedes and Hamilton have been severely lacking as of late.
Mercedes Hard Work
Now that Mercedes has resumed their familiar perch atop the podium, they have revealed the only reason they were able to get back there was “24/7 shifts for 10 days.” Sounds insane, right? Wrong. This is what Formula One is all about. Working through the night, never letting up, giving your team everything you’ve got and then giving a little more.
When I was younger, I remember hearing story after story of mechanics working through the night on the Saturday before a Grand Prix to get rid of any gremlins left in the car after qualifying. While it may be hell on the mechanics, it provided one an even better story for the rest of us come race day when the bleary eyed teams would stumble out of their garages and watch as the car they’d slaved over rose up through the ranks.
While teams are no longer allowed nights like that due to pitlane curfew rules, the zeal shown by Mercedes since Monaco has been vindicated. A double podium, a tightening of the Driver’s Championship and a lead in the Constructor’s Championship. It’s the dream result they needed at this point in the season.
Now, moving forward, who knows how the boys in silver will fare. Baku is a very strange track that no one really understands yet. So, Ferrari may be able to take the fight back to them, or the street circuit nature of the grid’s newest grand prix could swing the pendulum towards Red Bull. It’s less likely the latter will happen, but as for the former, I’d say tune in to find out. It’s going to be a hell of a rest of the season.
Fans Denied Two Great Battles
While the closing laps of the race were anything but dull, I couldn’t help but be thinking of what could have been. Vettel’s remarkable storm through the field, culminating in his closing lap passes of both Force Indias (more on that later) was spectacular. But what could have happened had he not had contact on lap one and was forced into an early pit stop? There is no doubt in my mind that this was Hamilton’s race from the start, but Vettel may have given the man a run for his money, if given the chance.
Likewise, poor Max Verstappen, after giving us one of the most breathtaking starts we’ve seen all season, once again was turned victim by Renault’s engine woes. His frustration was palpable as he got out of his car. His teammate, Ricciardo, drove an excellent race to bring home his sister Red Bull in 3rd place, but before he stopped, Max looked like he had a better feel of both the track and car. Once again, it’s doubtful he would have been able to truly challenge Hamilton for a win, but it would have been wonderful to see him mixing it up with Bottas at least.
The Case for Team Orders
First off, let’s not take away from the fact that Force India had yet anther stellar race that saw both their drivers bring home solid points finishes and solidify their spot as best of the midfield. That said, their day could have been a lot better had they not let their drivers race the way they did.
Was it exciting to see Ocon and Perez duking it out over the closing laps of the race? Hell yes, it was amazing. Ocon was getting progressively more frustrated and his moves were becoming erratic and more gutsy, but Perez held his ground and held off his young French teammate till the end. But, as is often the case, repeated battling allowed Vettel to catch up and pass the both of them, granting him his 4th place finish.
For a while, I thought there was a chance Perez might actually have been able to catch Ricciardo and take 3rd place, but just as soon as I thought it, Ocon began to attack and Perez dropped back, forced to defend.
So, in the classic tradition of Monday Morning Team Principal, I can’t help but wonder what could have happened if, A) Force India had order Perez to allow Ocon through and let him take a shot at Ricciardo or B) What could have happened if they had been told to hold their position in an attempt to prevent Vettel from overtaking them both.
Either way, this was a case where team order should have been implemented. While 5th and 6th are nothing to shake a stick at, if the team had managed their drivers just a hair better, they could have very well been looking at minimum a 4th, 5th or at maximum a podium.
Sainz’s Falling Star
At the start of the season I was very big of Carlos Sainz, Jr. I still am in many ways. I think he’s an incredibly talented young driver who has shown at many points during his short career that he is worthy of a driver in a better car than the Toro Rosso. That said, he’s behavior as of late has made me question that. Canada was just the mot recent incident that stretch back to his collision with Stroll in Bahrain.
Having now apologized to both Massa and Grosjean for his lap one shunt, the fact still remains that he caused a massive crash that took out two other drivers. Yes, I understand his explanation that Grosjean was in his blind spot. But here’s the problem: it’s the first lap. Everybody’s jockeying for position and everybody is in everybody else’s blindspot. A good driver should know that. That’s why you don’t see the likes of Hamilton or Vettel making a erratic, sweeping move into the first corner, even though their mirrors are clear (okay, that may not be the best example, but you know what I mean). On the first lap, you have anticipate cars being on your inside even if you can’t see them because that’s just the nature of the beast when it comes to a first lap. Sainz did not and paid the price for it. It’s a massive shame, because I do not want to see a talent like his disappear, but if he keeps up on this path, he very well may be relegated down the field to the ‘also ran, but was too aggressive’ category of drivers.