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View from the Pit Lane: Canada

Lewis Hamilton took the perfect pole-to-flag victory in Montreal
By Karun Chandhok,
C4F1 technical analyst


Hello everyone from my very glamorous campervan in the Le Mans paddock. 

I have plenty of home comforts for the week; a coffee machine, cupboards stashed full of food, my cycling gear, my own pillow, a quarter of a normal-sized shower and, of course, my race kit squeezed in by the air conditioning unit. I’ve even kept two little lockers free for when my wife arrives later this week! 

You may have noticed that I wasn’t with the C4F1 gang in Canada but from what I saw over the weekend it seems like Steve and Lee missed me… and my strategy. 

It also looked like I missed a cracker of a Canadian Grand Prix, it was all a bit exciting, especially towards the end. 

Hamilton gets his mojo back

What can you say first of all about Lewis Hamilton? 

That was an absolutely devastating qualifying lap and one of the best laps I’ve seen from him to take his 65th pole position. 

It was also a lap befitting equaling someone like Ayrton Senna’s career pole positions. There were understandably lots of emotions for Hamilton around the Senna story. 

Hamilton’s commitment through the final chicane was pretty stellar but the whole lap was so hooked up. 

It was nip and tuck between him and the Ferraris in Q1 and Q2 before that first run of Q3 where he went BANG! It was such a big jump ahead. To then do a second run even faster with a 1:11:459 was pretty amazing stuff. 

To be seven tenths ahead of his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas on one of the shortest laps of the season in terms of laptime– probably the shortest actually – also underlined his superlative performance. 

Once Hamilton got to the race he made the start and then he was gone. I watched the whole race and after the Virtual Safety Car we saw him thrice before the chequered flag. He was just so far gone. 

It was a hell of a comeback from Hamilton and shows why he and Sebastian Vettel will carry on being the two A-listers who will fight for the championship all the way to Abu Dhabi.

On the other side of the Mercedes garage, there are lots of questions for Bottas that need answering after he finished nearly 20 seconds behind Hamilton one race after he blitzed him in Monaco. 

A Sunday nightmare for Ferrari 


Ferrari will be certainly disappointed with fourth and seventh for their drivers after looking like they would be the quickest cars on Friday when they would have fancied their chances. 

They were very close again in final practice on Saturday but then, when we got to qualifying, they weren’t quite there, even though Vettel shared the front row with Hamilton.

The start was just a nightmare for Ferrari and it all fell apart for them on the first lap; Vettel had front wing damage and Kimi Raikkonen lost track position, dropping it on the grass coming out of Turn Six and nearly into the wall.

It was just a messy opening three or four laps and that compromises you because the margins are so small.

In Montreal straight-line speed is of paramount importance. If you haven’t got it then you’re in trouble because you can’t overtake. It doesn’t matter how quick you are through the lap if you can’t pass and we saw that in Ferrari’s battle against the Force Indias. 

Raikkonen was stuck there and never quite had the pace, eventually opting to switch tyres.  Vettel showed during his tussle with the pink cars later on that you had to be a bit risky to gain position. 

Ferrari will be disappointed with the way the weekend panned out but that’s how life goes and they’ll have to bounce back from here. 

Going to Azerbaijan in two weeks’ time will there be opportunities? Well, there’s a big, big straight line there, but again you’ve got those tricky braking zones and 90-degree corners so we’ll see how that battle between the two top teams unfolds. 

A dilemma of dynamics for Force India

We have to talk about Force India.

It was an amazing race for them in Montreal but there was also drama around the potential team orders between Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez. 

It’s a tricky dynamic there as you have to keep in mind Perez brings a reasonable amount of sponsorship to the team and so it’s quite delicate to have to dictate terms to him.  

I was Perez’s driver-coach back in 2007 and 2008 so I’ve known him for a long time - he’s a great guy but he’s a hard competitor. 

I knew when that first phone call came from Force India about moving over there was no way he was going to do it, there’s no chance, because that’s just not who he is.  

In a way I think he’s right because it’s a hard call to make as an individual. You wouldn’t have seen Senna move over or Hamilton or Vettel or Michael Schumacher – they don’t give any quarter and they are fighting for position in their team. 

Ultimately it did cost the team as it allowed Vettel to get ahead of both cars and it possibly let Daniel Ricciardo break away for third as well. 

Having said that, Ocon drove a great race to finish two tenths of a second behind Perez in sixth. The Frenchman continues to be the outstanding rookie of the year compared to Stoffel Vandoorne and Lance Stroll. Ocon, along with Max Verstappen, have shown themselves to be two of the best talents to arrive in F1 in recent times.

Stroll makes home advantage count 

Stroll drove a feisty race to get his first points in ninth. He didn’t have a great qualifying, down in 18th, but he picked his way through the drama on the opening lap, got himself into a reasonable position and made some good moves. 

He was also very patient, when the moves weren’t there to be had he backed out of it and that shows good judgement and maturity. 

Montreal is also a tricky track with the brakes, and we know Stroll had brake issues in Melbourne and a couple of other places this year so again he did a good job to manage the race from that point of view. 

I know there’s been a lot of pressure on him around the build-up to his home race in Canada and the pressure has also been building on his performances throughout the season in relation to his Williams teammate Felipe Massa. 

He really deserved those two points in front of his home crowd and hopefully he can build on that and go forward. 

Qualifying is now the area that he needs to improve on, he needs to start getting within two or three tenths of Massa rather than six, seven or eight tenths and I’ll be interested to see what progress he makes on that. 

Overall it was a really strong performance and a really good effort in Canada and he should be pleased. 

Alonso’s strategy masterclass


What can you say about Fernando Alonso? Another engine failure, another DNF but his brilliance coming to the fore again. 

From watching the GP, you can see that he’s judging his pace based on what Ferrari are doing, he’s looking at ‘well the Ferrari in front isn’t pulling away as much, the one behind us isn’t actually quicker, super-soft may not be working so let’s try the soft.’ 

The man’s just got such a brilliant ability of handling the race and how it unfolds – he could be a strategist really! It’s just amazing how he’s able to do it but it shows the car is not befitting to a man of his talents. 

Hopefully that situation will resolve itself soon. It sounds more and more likely that McLaren and Honda are heading for divorce and there’s going to be a Mercedes engine in the back of the car one way or the other. 

For the sake of Formula One it’s sad that Honda haven’t been able to achieve what they set out to – we want to see McLaren and Alonso back up at the front fighting.  

Someone feeling similar frustrations on the flight back from Canada might have been one Max Verstappen. His start and those opening few corners were just stellar. He was holding his own against Bottas, who I think would have had a tough challenge to get ahead of him.

I felt really sorry for Verstappen, who was the victim of a suspected energy store failure, as he deserved to get some points. 

Back in the driving seat

The F1 drivers now get a bit of a break before Baku but I’ve now got a big week ahead of me. I’m here at Le Mans for the 24 Hours – the biggest race of the year for me. 

It’s not only a long race but a long week for me as I’m also here in this little campervan for seven nights! 

We’ve got practice and qualifying on Wednesday and Thursday nights, a day off on Friday and then the 24 Hours over the weekend.

We’re in a slightly tricky situation because our chassis which is a Ligier isn’t quite as competitive as the Oreca that we’re competing against in the LMP2 class. We’ll do the best we can and a lot can happen in a 24-Hour race.  

So, there’ll be lots to reflect on after my Le Mans adventure and the next LIVE race in Azerbaijan for Channel 4. 

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