Once basking in the glory of consecutive championship-success, then tasked with reviving Ferrari – as his hero and compatriot Michael Schumacher did – the time for Sebastian Vettel to achieve this could be running out.
This Canadian Grand Prix had everything but it all came down to a defining moment between Seb Vettel and Lewis Hamilton on lap 48, a controversial moment that will live long in the memory.
Hamilton’s race was nearly derailed before it had even begun. Hamilton’s Mercedes had a hydraulic leak and the team worked extremely hard to get the car race-ready.
Despite some problems getting off the line on the formation lap as the anti-stall kicked in, Hamilton did not have any problems as the lights went out.
Vettel led Hamilton comfortably off the start while Charles Leclerc challenged Hamilton on the inside into turn one but was wise enough not to go through with it. Further back, Alexander Albon was squeezed between Sergio Perez in the Racing Point and Antonio Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo, forcing the Thai driver to pit for a replacement front wing.
Max Verstappen spent the opening few laps behind Lando Norris, eventually closing up to the McLaren into the turn ten hairpin on lap six and overtaking him into the final chicane.
Then, Norris’ race began to get fiery, quite literally. He had a brake failure with his rear-right brake overheating and catching fire, causing the rear-right suspension to melt.
Originally, it was thought that he clipped the Wall of Champions, but we couldn’t have been more wrong.
Meanwhile, Williams’ woes continued as Robert Kubica was lapped by Sebastian Vettel on lap 13 with George Russell being lapped on lap 18. It brought questions in my mind as to where Williams can go from here.
It continues to be a real shame to watch one of the greatest teams in Formula One suffer like this.
Hamilton’s aggression while chasing Vettel led him to lock up and go wide at the turn ten hairpin several times during the race, giving Vettel a breather every time he did so.
On lap 26, Vettel pitted onto the hard compound tyre, coming out comfortably ahead of the traffic. Soon afterwards, Hamilton was told on the radio that “we don’t have the gap so we’re going to extend as long as we can.”
However, the tyres were beginning to fall off the cliff so Hamilton pitted on lap 28, with Vettel off in the distance by the time Hamilton reached the pit lane exit.
Back in the midfield, Sergio Perez got his elbows out, barging past Romain Grosjean to get past on the inside into turn one. As is usual after such incidents, Romain Grosjean was immediately on the team radio asking for the incident to be reported to race control.
However, as Martin Brundle said in commentary, “rubbing is racing in these parts.”
A poor qualifying led to a poor race for Valtteri Bottas as he was fighting with the Renaults for the majority of it. He even had to lift off the throttle down the back straight to avoid running into the back of Ricciardo at one point. He eventually got past the Renaults and finished fourth today.
Now, for the big talking point. On lap 48, the rear of Vettel’s car got loose as he turned into turn three, forcing the German wide and across the grass into turn four, re-joining the track just ahead of Hamilton, nearly forcing the Brit into the wall.
The stewards awarded Vettel a five-second time penalty for an unsafe re-entry and forcing another driver off the track. For once, I actually agree with the penalty given. However, many people didn’t, including the 1992 world champion, Nigel Mansell.
What’s Seb supposed to do?Crazy ,the car stepped https://t.co/ybVmo5UkQL that point he was a passenger.
— Nigel Mansell CBE (@nigelmansell) June 9, 2019
The penalty awarded to Vettel handed the Canadian Grand Prix to Lewis Hamilton, who has now equalled the record for the most wins at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, set by Michael Schumacher, who won seven times here.
A consolation prize for Vettel was Driver of the Day, which he won with 24 per cent of the vote.
What happened after the race was something which I have never seen in all the years that I have watched Formula One. Vettel went to the parc fermé at the start of the pit lane where the non-podium finishers park.
He then went straight through the FIA garage and walked to the Ferrari paddock building.
He was eventually persuaded to come onto the podium and received a massive cheer as he walked back out into the pit lane. He then walked to where Hamilton and Leclerc’s cars were parked and swapped the number one and number two bollards around as he was the ‘winner’ today.
Despite the crowd seeming to boo Hamilton on the podium, Vettel maintained that his beef is not with Hamilton but with the race stewards who, in his opinion, made a wrong decision that may have jeopardised interest in F1.
It was a great shame today that the battle was ruined by Vettel’s time penalty, even though I think that it was a fair penalty.
All this means that Hamilton now has a 29-point lead in the driver’s championship and Mercedes have a mammoth 123-point lead in the constructors’ championship. And we’re only a third of the way through the season!
Once the dust settles and everyone calms down, the F1 circus will move to Paul Ricard for the French Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time, when the European tour resumes.
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 9, 2019