Canadian GP - Sunday - Race Report

Float and Sting

Lewis Hamilton, Canadian GP 2016

Lewis Hamilton, Canadian GP 2016 

 © Active Pictures


By Dan Knutson in Montreal

"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee," a happy Lewis Hamilton said after winning the Canadian Grand Prix for the fifth time and winning the 45th Formula 1 race of his career. Hamilton and Mercedes used a one stop strategy to defeat Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari who tried a two stop strategy. Vettel wound up second while Valtteri Bottas, who was also on a one stop strategy, brought his Williams home third.

Hamilton dedicated his victory to the late Mohammed Ali.

"I never really dedicate wins to anyone," he said, "but someone who really inspired me so much throughout my life, Muhammad Ali, and obviously he passed just recently, so I'd love to be able to dedicate this to him and his family.

"The last 15 laps, for some reason all I could think of was him and Rumble in the Jungle, it was really, really weird. I was driving and I was just thinking of him, and thinking maybe he would be watching the race, I don't know. So, that's to him and his family. Rest in peace."

In qualifying on Saturday, Mercedes teammates Hamilton and Nico Rosberg grabbed first and second. Vettel put his Ferrari third on the grid ahead of Red Bull teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Kimi Raikkonen lined up sixth ahead of Williams drivers Bottas and Felipe Massa. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) and Fernando Alonso (McLaren) rounded out the top 10. All of them started the race on Pirelli's ultra soft compound slicks.

It was cloudy and breezy, and there were some spits of rain prior to the start. There was a 40 percent chance of rain during the of the 70-lap race.

Vettel jumped both Mercedes drivers to take the lead into Turn 1. Hamilton took second while Rosberg, who bumped wheels with Hamilton and went off on the grass at Turn 1, got shuffled all the way back to 10th. Verstappen got by Ricciardo to grab third, and Raikkonen slotted into fifth ahead of Bottas and Massa.

"I was massively pissed off in the moment," Rosberg said, "but in the end that's just racing on the edge, tough racing and that's it. I gave it a go round the outside. In Barcelona it worked out, here it didn't work out, and that's it."

Hamilton's view: "I got to Turn 1 and had understeer. It was very close with me and Nico. It was non-intentional. Fortunately, neither car was damaged."

The front pair of Vettel and Hamilton were soon lapping over a second quicker than the rest and soon pulled out over a five second gap. On lap 10 the top seven remained the same: Vettel, Hamilton, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Bottas and Massa. Next came Hulkenberg, Rosberg and Alonso.

Vettel and Raikkonen pitted at the end of lap 11, switching from the ultra soft to the super soft Pirellis.

"Obviously a fantastic start and then lap one was a bit hairy," Vettel said. "I just struggled to stop the car in the last corner. It was very windy today and maybe I struggled a bit with the wind from behind but I was pushing all race.

"We committed fairly early to a different strategy, which we were planning to come back. Obviously then Lewis had the chance to stay out and see what the tires were doing and I think probably the tires lasted a bit better than what we expected, so that made it quite tricky to refresh the tires and close the gap."

Hamilton led lap 12, ahead of Verstappen, Ricciardo and Vettel. A few laps later Vettel started attacking former teammate Ricciardo, and he passed him at the hairpin on lap 17. Next, Vettel went after Verstappen and moved into second place, 10.2 seconds behind Hamilton, on lap 18.

Verstappen pitted at the end of lap 20 for a set of soft compound Pirelli slicks. Ricciardo, Rosberg and Hulkenberg did the same one lap later.

Next Massa got the softs after 22 laps, and his teammate Bottas did so a lap later.

Vettel was lapping quicker than Hamilton. The latter stopped at the end of lap 24 for the softs, and that gave Vettel the lead. It would be Hamilton's only stop.

"The team obviously told us what the tires could do, how far they would go," Hamilton said. "I wasn't really sure how far the ultra soft would go. I had already seen graining earlier when I was behind Sebastian (Vettel.) So I was a little bit nervous about it, but it seemed to last, which was great. I could have kept going on the ultra soft, which was interesting; I had a good pace.

"Then we swapped. It was a long stint on the information we got before that that tire could last quite a long time and it was just a beauty. I didn't have to push too much on the tire at the beginning, just looking after them, but very conscious that this guy (Vettel) behind was pushing. I was really enjoying the race with him, you know, just battling times here and there. He was so quick and it's great to see how quick they are and they are really giving us a run for our money, and I just happened to be on a one stop."

Lap 25: Vettel led by 13.0 seconds over Hamilton. Next came Verstappen, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Bottas, Rosberg, Sergio Perez, who had started the race with the soft compound tires on his Force India and who had not pitted, Massa and Hulkenberg.

Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Bottas battled for fourth place, and then Rosberg joined them. Perez finally stopped at the end of lap 30 for a set of the super softs.

Raikkonen pitted at the end of lap 33 and got the soft Pirelli slicks.

Bottas got by Ricciardo when the latter cut the final chicane. Vettel came in again at the end of lap 37 and switched to the soft slicks. Next, Ricciardo came in for another set of the softs.

Hamilton would led from lap 38 through to lap 70 to win his second grand prix of the season.

Verstappen came in at the end of lap 46, got a set of the ultra soft Pirellis, and dropped from third to fifth.

On lap 50 the order was: Hamilton by 4.8 seconds over Vettel, and then Bottas, Rosberg, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg. Everybody else had been lapped.

Rosberg had a slow right rear puncture so pitted at the end of lap 51 for another set of the softs. Hulkenberg also made a stop.

Having dropped to seventh, Rosberg then passed Ricciardo and Raikkonen to move up to fifth.

The gap between Hamilton and Vettel stood at 5.5 seconds after 60 laps. Next came Bottas, Verstappen, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) and Perez. All but Hamilton and Bottas had pitted twice.

"It feels really good to be here again," Bottas would say after finishing third. "Montreal has been pretty good to me and to us as a team. It was always going to be one of the good tracks for us, but today's result didn't come easy. The strategy and the choice of lap to stop were perfect. I really have to thanks Williams for this result but we need to keep getting these kinds of results."

Hamilton, on older tires than Vettel, was able to run similar or better lap times than the Ferrari driver. Rosberg, on his fresh tires, closed in on Verstappen, but the teenager was not giving up without a fight.

"We wanted to finish on the podium in front of the Williams but soon realized we were suffering with a bit too much tire degradation," said Verstappen who hung on to fourth. "I think a little bit of rain could have helped us today. At the beginning I saved my tires and fuel as I knew I could not stay with the front two. When Daniel (Ricciardo) got close behind I then decided it was time to push.

"I am very satisfied with my performance but also with the new power unit, you could see it was hard for the Mercedes to try and pass on the long straight so we are making good progress. The last ten laps I really enjoyed, I would actually say they were the hardest ten laps of my life. I was in fourth for a very long time so didn't want to give up that position.

"It was a very hard battle at the end of the race, his (Rosberg) pace was very strong but we managed to keep ahead and then the last lap was pretty spectacular."

Rosberg made a lunge at the end of lap 69 but spun at the final chicane. He managed to hold on to fifth, however.

"I was really low on fuel, because of battling all the way through and always having to overtake," Rosberg said. "It was difficult to understand how low. I knew the number was massively red and didn't know if I was going to get to the end of the race. I did a huge lift and coast lap at the end with Kimi (Raikkonen) on the last lap just to carry it over the finish line.

"That was the big problem with Max Verstappen. I could only launch a couple of attacks. Every time I launched an attack he defended very well and then I needed to back off again to save fuel, so it was massive management. But the whole race was so complicated with a lot of things and of course I got the puncture as well which probably lost me a podium, I'm quite sure, so quite a frustrating day."

And so the top 10 remained the same at the end of the race: Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas, Verstappen, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Sainz and Perez.

"Not an easy one," Raikkonen said of his race. "We didn't have one of our best starts but we managed to keep our position. Out of the second corner there was a Mercedes in the middle of the road and later on a Red Bull, so it was a struggle. It was hard to keep the tires working when I had to slow down to save fuel. I kept losing tire temperature and then struggled more. Once I could push it seemed to get much easier but it was not an easy race for us today."

Ricciardo had similar sentiments.

"The start initially was okay," he said. "The Mercedes were really slow so there wasn't really anywhere to go and then out of Turn 2 with Rosberg coming back on, I had to go on the inside, Max (Verstappen) was on the outside and then I lost a position there.

"Then we were a bit quicker than Max on the first stint with the ultra softs and I said I could be quicker if I had clean air, but after my first pit stop I locked the softs and ruined that set of tires. I came in again and had traffic to Kimi (Raikkonen), we were able to stay with him but damaging the tires too much to really make an impact and pass. I think we didn't have the best race today."

In contrast, Force India was delighted to have two drivers in the points.

"We started the race hoping we could pull off a one stop strategy with both cars," Robert Fernley, the Deputy Team Principal said. "But with lots of tire graining and high wear rates we opted to switch to a two-stop race. Most of the cars around us did the same, so it was the sensible course of action to cover our bases. Nico Hulkenberg's race was pretty non-eventful and he did well in the opening few laps to recover the ground he lost when he bogged down at the start.

"Sergio Perez's race was compromised by the slow warm-up of the soft tires, which dropped him behind both McLarens and cost him quite a bit of time. To recover and score the final point was a good effort."

By finishing ninth, Sainz came home in the points for the third consecutive race.

"If you had told me before the race that I would have finished in P9 after starting P20, I would've probably signed immediately!" he said. "We chose the right moment for our first pit-stop, going for the undercut, and I then did five or six qualifying laps on the soft tire, which allowed me to overtake five or six cars and keep up with the Force India."

Now it is on to the inaugural Formula 1 race in Azerbaijan. Hamilton trails Rosberg by just nine points, and if Hamilton does some more floating and stinging he just may take the lead in the championship.

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