Sebastian Vettel gave a commanding performance to win the Canadian Grand Prix from start to finish, in doing so scoring Ferrari’s first win in Montreal since 2004 and a timely victory 40 years since the great Gilles Villeneuve scored his first Formula 1 triumph with Ferrari in 1978 at the venue now named after him.
Vettel was in total control from the moment the star-shaped red lights went dark, and again when the race resumed after a safety car period caused by a first lap shunt between Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley and the Williams of local hero Lance Stroll.
The German, who a day earlier put Ferrari on pole in Montreal for the first time since 2001 with a track record time, picked up his second career victory at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the only hiccup with this one was that the checkered flag was waved prematurely by supermodel Winnie Harlow, while Vettel was still on his final lap.
“Tell them not to wave the chequered flag when it’s not done yet,” he radioed back after seeing the images of the ba;ck and white flag waving on the giant TV screens dotted around the track. As per the rules, the race result was taken two laps (on lap 68) earlier than the 70 scheduled for the race distance.
Fortunately, the rollback did not affect the final points-scoring results.
It was also a fitting 50th Formula 1 triumph for the four-times F1 World Championship who now leads the championship by a single point from Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton who was out of sorts at a venue where he has had a huge success in the past. On the day he was only good for fifth.
With the drivers from the top three teams scattered across the first six places on the grid a humdinger of the race was expected but in the end, it was more of a procession than racing which turned into a stalemate of sorts.
Nevertheless, it was a historic day for the Reds and a jubilant Vettel after his dominant race performance, “Perfect is probably a good way to describe it. It’s unbelievable. I said yesterday how much this place means to Ferrari and to have a race like we had today is unbelievable.
“It’s 50 for me but after a long stretch that Ferrari didn’t win here, I saw the people around and they were super happy. There is still a long way to go [in the championship] so I’m not too bothered about it. It’s a good side effect.”
“Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, to have a Ferrari winning today and me personally makes me very proud and I’m honoured. It’s a day to remember the great Gilles Villeneuve.”
Valtteri Bottas was second for Mercedes, chasing hard all day but lacking the firepower to challenge Vettel but had enough to keep hard-charging Max Verstappen at bay off the start line and then late on in the race.
The Mercedes driver summed up, “Since lap one they seemed to be a bit quicker all the time and they could control the race. We were really pushing on it but we got in trouble at the end with running out of fuel which allowed Max to close up.”
“I think this was the maximum today. Yesterday was about hundredths of a second and maybe from pole it could have been different but from P2 today, I think we maxed out.”
Arriving in Montreal under a cloud of criticism, Verstappen brushed it all aside and delivered a mature performance all weekend and was rewarded with a podium for his efforts in the race.
Verstappen said after the race, “It was a good race. We had to pit early because the hypersofts were pretty much gone. But we had a really good pace on the supersofts and were steadily closing the gap. In the last couple of laps we were really competitive.”
Big winner on the day was Daniel Ricciardo who finished fourth for Red Bull after starting from sixth on the grid. The Australian managed a good start and get by the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen off the start.
Then he kept Hamilton in his sights and when the Mercedes pitted the World Champion early, with a over-heating issue, Red Bull did the ‘over-cut” with Ricciardo and he emerged in fourth whee he stayed until the end. Hamilton gave it a stab another stab late in the race but Ricciardo had it covered.
Nico Hulkenberg was best of the rest in seventh, heading home his Renault teammate Carlos Sainz and making it a double points score for the French team that enjoyed a clear step-up the pecking order with their latest update.
Force India’s Esteban Ocon was ninth ahead of Sauber’s Charles Leclerc in tenth, the pair impressing and comprehensively beating their respective teammates on the day.
The day was less positive for two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who was celebrating his 300th Formula 1 race weekend. He retired to the garage after 43 laps – the eighth time he failed to finish at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
The DNF capped an alarmingly bad weekend for McLaren, while fellow Renault powered teams made a step forward this weekend, the Woking outfit appears to have taken one or two back. Stoffel Vandoorne was second last of the finishers in 16th, two laps behind the winner.
When the lights went out polesitter Vettel held his advantage into Turn 1. Behind, Verstappen made a good start and attacked Bottas, pulling alongside the Mercedes.
Bottas held firm, however, and managed to stay in second position ahead of the Red Bull driver. Hamilton kept fourth but Ricciardo made his way past Räikkönen to take fifth place.
Further back, Stroll lost control in Turn 5 and slid into Hartley pushing the New Zealander into the wall. The collision was a big one and debris was scattered across the track as they slid towards the run-off area at Turn 6.
The Safety Car was immediately deployed. Both drivers were taken to the medical centre, with Hartley then being sent to hospital for further checks.
When action resumed at the end of lap four, the order at the front remained the same as Vettel controlled the situation well, but further back there was content between Perez and Sainz.
Perez slid across the run-off are and back on track but there was no further contact, though the Mexican quickly dropped to P14.
Vettel then began to put in fastest laps and the gap to Bottas widened to four seconds by lap 13. Behind him a number of drivers who had started on hypersoft tyres began to pit, moving to supersoft tyres as the pink-banded compound quickly faded.
The Red Bulls, though, stayed on the softest of the weekend’s compounds as they nursed their starting rubber.
By lap 16 Ricciardo was catching Hamilton and the gap between the two had dropped to 0.7s. With Hamilton visibly struggling for pace, Mercedes took the option to pit the Briton on lap 16. Red Bull pitted Verstappen simultaneously, with both taking supersofts.
Ricciardo stayed out, however, and after a superbly quick in-lap pitted at the end of lap 17, taking on supersofts in overcut to emerge ahead of Hamilton.
Vettel continued on and by lap 23 he was 4.8s ahead of Bottas. Räikkönen was now third, though he too needed to pit, 12.9s behind his fellow Finn and 13.8 clear of Verstappen.
The race then settled until Räikkönen made his pit stop, emerging in P6 behind Hamilton. Bottas pitted soon after, holding P2 ahead of Verstappen and Ricciardo. Ferrari then covered the Mercedes stop and rejoined some 8s clear of the Finn.
The race settled again, with the gaps spreading at the front of the pack. On lap 50 Vettel had 6.0s in hand over Bottas, while the Mercedes man was 5.9s ahead of Verstappen. Ricciardo was fourth, seven seconds behind his team-mate and the Australian had just over a second in hand over Hamilton.
And so it remained until the closing laps when Hamilton began to hunt down Ricciardo as the pair met traffic. The Briton closed to within DRS as Ricciardo cleared Force India’s Esteban Ocon. However he lost out slightly when Ricciardo easily got past Sainz and Hamilton lost grip momentarily.
The battle ebbed and flowed as the pair threaded their way through the traffic but then three laps from the end Ricciardo found clear air and stretched his legs. Verstappen, meanwhile, was pushing for a final attack on Bottas who was having to fuel save in the closing stages.
There was a moment’s confusion as the chequered flag was waved a lap early but seconds later the German crossed the line to take his 50th career F1 victory and Ferrari’s first win at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 14 years ahead of Bottas who nursed his Mercedes home ahead of Verstappen and Ricciardo.
Hamilton finished fifth, with Raikkonen sixth ahead of Hulkenberg, teammate Sainz and Ocon. The final point went to Leclerc.
Official Documents & Results from the Canadian Grand Prix Weekend: