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Ben Edwards column: Canada

Hamilton has won in Canada five times while Vettel has won just once.
By Ben Edwards
C4F1 commentator

Right now we are enjoying a battle royal between two great champions of Formula One. Sebastian Vettel leads the points having taken three wins to Lewis Hamilton's two, but Hamilton has been the better qualifier, leading 3-1 in pole positions. This weekend we come to a circuit that has a history of success for the British driver and one of frequent disappointment for the German. How can we read the runes of past performance in Canada?

Hamilton's relationship with the parkland circuit in Montreal began on a high with his very first visit, as it saw him take his first ever Grand Prix win in only his sixth Formula One event, despite going wheel to wheel with 2007 McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso and dealing with as many as four safety car periods in an incident-filled encounter. Since then he has added four more wins, including the last two in a row, and another victory this weekend would make him a six times winner of a particular race, something only Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher have achieved in the past.

By contrast, Vettel has often been tantalisingly close to victory, only for it to slip away. Take last year as an example; a superb start from third on the grid saw him squeeze between the Mercedes and set off in the lead. His qualifying time had been within two tenths of a second of Hamilton's and in the race he looked in control, but an early commitment to a two-stop race allowed Mercedes to go for the alternative, stopping just once and regaining track position.

Afterwards Vettel felt that even the kids in the grandstand could see how Ferrari had lost the advantage and second place was scant reward. The previous year had seen him fast in practice, and Kimi Raikkonen took third on the grid but Vettel was left on the sidelines early in qualifying with a power unit failure, and a fightback to fifth was the best he could deliver. 

In 2014 when he was in his final year at Red Bull, a golden opportunity appeared out of nowhere as both Mercedes suffered energy recovery problems. Suddenly there was a chance of glory in a season of woe but through pit stops and traffic the three-place advantage he had enjoyed over his teammate Daniel Ricciardo on the grid was overturned and it was the Australian who went on to win his first ever Grand Prix. 

Granted, in 2013 came the exception to prove the rule; Vettel won the race from pole position in dominant fashion, but in 2012 he was defeated by Hamilton despite setting the pace in qualifying, and in 2011 came probably the biggest blow of all. That race will always be remembered for Jenson Button's remarkable victory having dropped to last place at one stage, but the driver he beat that day, and who had led every lap of a marathon four-hour long encounter until halfway through the final tour, was one Sebastian Vettel. 

A slight over commitment at Turn 5 to avoid falling within DRS range saw him slithering wide and Button was through. He even missed out in 2010 when Hamilton ended Red Bull's 100% pole sequence to that point and despite Vettel starting second, in the race he dropped to fourth. There wasn't a race here in 2009 (perhaps a relief...) but in 2008 he hit the barrier sufficiently hard in final practice that he missed qualifying altogether in his Toro Rosso. A recovery to score the final point that day was some consolation.
 
So, it has not been a circuit of wonderful memories for the title leader, and yet quite the opposite for his hunter. Hamilton knows he needs to bounce back from the disappointment of Monaco as fast and as effectively as possible, and this could be the ideal place to do just that. His ability to brake incredibly late, yet maintain control and balance into a corner is rewarded several times around the 2.7-mile lap and you can imagine there will be an extra bounce in his step coming to an event which has gone his way so many times. 

Will Vettel overcome his jinx or will Hamilton extend his winning record in Canada? It will all play out on an island in the St Lawrence Seaway this weekend.

Qualifying highlights from 10:30pm on Saturday 10th June, Canadian Grand Prix highlights at 10:30pm on Sunday 11th June on Channel 4. 

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