The race weekend leading up to the Canadian Grand Prix, the seventh round of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, opens with a curious statement:
"People would like to see more spectacle but the gap between the top teams and the others is still very big".
Speaking these words is Lewis Hamilton, five-time World Champion, who arrives in Canada as the leader. Despite the nonsense of hearing these words from someone who has held the title for years, the Briton is simply stating the facts. Since the beginning of the hybrid era, i.e. since 2014, the public had to get used to see a constant Mercedes domination with a total absence of valid rivals in most cases; before the German team there was a Red Bull domination and before that Ferrari, with just a few intrusions from teams like Renault and Brawn GP. All this only in the 2000s. From the performance of the championship so far you could already bet on a winner and go on the safe side, taking home a good amount of money.
Mercedes has won six races out of six, five of these victories have been accompanied by double wins, but what is even more worrying is the large gap that has been created between this team and the others, as there seems to be almost no comparison. Obviously we can only praise the work done by the Anglo-German team to reach this level, but at the same time we cannot deny that all this takes away enthusiasm from what we call competition, which is almost completely non-existent. The fact that these words come from the very person who enjoys such success suggests the importance of this issue. We cannot hide the presence of teams that for lack of money cannot finish the car in time for the winter tests or the lapped cars that on average start from the tenth position in every race, further demonstration of the gap that has been created between different teams. Since the beginning of the championship there has been no possibility of a turnaround and all this obviously has an effect on the audience.
"Formula 1 should be very difficult on a physical level, instead young people arrive and adapt quickly. Looking at the last twelve years and maybe even further back, there have always been attempts to change the regulations mainly to reduce costs and encourage overtaking. But it doesn't seem to me that in general the choices have been positive. Liberty Media took over Formula 1 a couple of years ago but the problems are always the same. People would like to see more spectacle but the gap between the top teams and the others is still very big. It is not enough to change the regulations, we must also try to improve the show. The current format of four-day weekends for twenty-one rounds a year has never changed. There are circuits like Monte-Carlo where it is impossible to overtake. Maybe they should be changed. I see that there are races where there are few spectators or that the organization is not up to standard. Then there are historical periods in which only Ferrari has won, or only Red Bull or only us. This depends on the changes to the regulation".
In fact, we start talking about big changes starting in 2021 precisely to find a solution to this problem. The penta World Champion continues with his idea of competition: make it more difficult, a bit like the origins to bring out the skill of the driver above all else and give more adrenaline to the competition.
"If I could choose, I would bring back the V12 aspirated engines, the manual gearbox, I would make everything more complicated and difficult. I would take away the huge runways and power steering. The race should impose almost physical exhaustion on the drivers, like they were marathons. The way it is now, you can get out of the car at the end of a Grand Prix with the energy to do two or three more races. Instead, I think this is a sport for men".
Nevertheless, this reality is still far away, so it's good to focus on the present, and as planned Mercedes brings the upgrade on the power unit. This upgrade could provide more security for future victories, also because the German manufacturer is the last engine manufacturer to bring this update, as Honda, Ferrari and Renault have already applied it in the previous weekends, so their performance will be crucial. According to Lewis, this new package comes at the right time given the performance of his rivals in recent races:
"It comes at the right time and the right circuit. All the teams have improved and are getting closer. Top speed is one of the main factors here and Red Bull has improved a lot, while Ferrari is always among the best on the straight and will be dangerous. I think there will be a good battle".
A new engine also suits the Finnish driver, as the current one is reaching the end of its life cycle:
"Definitely the engine upgrade is very welcome. Obviously its potential is something we have to see physically, how it actually performs on the track and all that. We also have to make sure it's reliable. We don't think it's quite there yet to reach the straight-line speed of the Ferrari. I think it's coming at the right time because the first engine is running towards the end of its life, so we'll have needed a new one anyway. But it's nice to have the upgrade here, for sure, compared to Monaco, for example - the engine is much more valuable here, so it's good timing".
The Canadian circuit, dedicated to the hero of the house Gilles Villeneuve after his sudden death in 1982, was built in 1976 for the Olympic Games and opened the doors to the circus in 1978, the inaugural race which was won by Villeneuve himself with his Ferrari. It is a semi-city circuit, also considered stop-and-go because of the alternation of long high-speed straights with chicanes and slow curves putting a strain on the brakes of the cars. The track is characterized by high kerbs and the scarce presence of wide escape routes, a lack that has been filled by walls placed close to the track; and for this reason the safety car is often used. One of the best known walls is the so-called Wall of Champions, located immediately after the final variant, where drivers arrive at high speed, almost touching it, to project themselves on the straight. This wall has not given great joy to anyone, not even to champions, and that is why it takes its name: in 1999, for example, the victims were three World Champions, Hill, Schumacher and Villeneuve.
As of 2018, there are three areas where drivers can activate the DRS; in addition to the finishing straight and the Casino straight, with a single point for determining the gap between drivers, located after turn 9, drivers can also open the mobile wing between turns 7 and 8, with a point for determining the gap between drivers located after turn 5. The racetrack sees the paddock area completely renovated. The work, which began in July 2018, was completed about a month before the race. Former Formula 1 driver Emanuele Pirro is appointed as assistant steward for the race. The Italian has served in this capacity on several occasions in the past, most recently at the Bahrain Grand Prix. The circuit has many overtaking points, and given the long straights it could prove to be the ideal track for Ferrari, a circumstance that worries Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff:
"In the previous six races we were very strong in the corners, but we lost time on the straights. This will make Canada a big challenge for us, as the characteristics of the track could favor our opponents. There are many long straights and fewer corners in which to make up time".
Toto Wolff is right to be worried, even if seeing his team's single-seaters you wouldn't think so, but the Canadian track is the one that comes closest - in terms of layout and performance - to the Bahrain circuit, a track where Ferrari was grabbing its first championship win, unfortunately vanished due to reliability issues. Moreover, right in Canada in 2018 Sebastian Vettel had won the first place and the pole position, thus preventing Lewis Hamilton from equaling Schumacher's record of victories on this circuit, a good seven. This could truly be a turning point weekend for Ferrari, despite the slow corners to their disadvantage. Even Steiner, Team Principl of Haas, says that this is the right circuit to see if Ferrari's updates are effective, as Monaco was not the most appropriate track to test it:
"The new engine went very well, we can't complain. Monaco unfortunately does not have the right characteristics to determine differences in the power unit. It is always good to have more power, but no difference is certain. On the other hand, in Canada, we will clearly see if this engine has improved significantly. Hopefully it has good thrust and will allow us to achieve exactly what we want".
The atmosphere of hope does not seem to be enough to stop the rumors in the paddock, and due to the difficult start of the season and the defeat in 2018, there are rumors that Vettel's retirement is close, even believed at the end of the season. However, the German driver denies everything, and indeed declares:
"I'm not going to quit Formula 1. I still have fun, and I still have something to do in Ferrari. I don't know where these rumors come from, I've never said that. I know I can stop when I want, and the team can do the same when they want, but I'm very happy with the whole team and I hope the team is happy with my work as well. I'm very hungry and I'm here to win, that's really the only thing that matters to me: to win with Ferrari, and that's what I'm working for".
A bit surreal rumors, as it would also be surreal to think of a retirement of Sebastian Vettel, especially when he is running for the Maranello stable, this lifelong dream. When back in 2014 his move to Ferrari was announced, it didn't seem true to him, he has never hidden his great rooting for this stable and has always said that his biggest dream was to win a world championship dressed in red. So to retire now seems more than absurd, and in fact he immediately puts these rumors to rest.
"We want to try everything again this season to bring a breakthrough, and the Canadian Grand Prix should be the start. Canada is a race that we drivers look forward to. Last year I started from pole and won the race, 40 years after Gilles Villeneuve won here. I will do my best to get a good result".
The second place in Monaco motivated the German driver, who still sees a chance for the world championship:
"I can't make any predictions, but it seems to be a more promising weekend than others, although the asphalt is very smooth and it won't be easy to get the tires into the correct temperature, something we've been struggling with in the last few races. Is it realistic to aim for the world championship again? I say that the next few races will be crucial to try and get back to winning. We have many reasons to look ahead, we are working hard on the car, we know what is not working at its best: tire management, grip, handling. Maybe aspects that are connected between them. We proceed one step at a time, we have some ideas, I think we know what the car needs. Some things can be introduced in the short term, others need more time to be developed. But I remain of the opinion that within a few weeks we will find out where we are".
Spirits are also high for Leclerc. After the unfortunate weekend in Monaco, the desire for a rematch is high, as demonstrated by the hours spent on the simulator in Maranello to prepare as best as possible:
"Last season I managed to place myself in the points zone, this year the goal is to aim higher. We have the opportunity to bring home a good result".
For this event, Pirelli proposes the same compounds used in Monaco, i.e. Hard, Medium and Soft, corresponding to the C3, C4 and C5 compounds. Ferrari bets a lot on the C4 tires, having chosen more sets than its rivals, perhaps with the idea of being able to use them more in qualifying, and then pass Q2 with the C4 compound. On the two Ferraris the turbo and MGU-H are replaced, while the Mercedes powered cars see a new evolution of the power unit, with a new heat engine. Honda decides to replace the power unit and battery on the Red Bull of Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly, and also on the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvjat. In addition, starting from this race Ferrari is entered in the Grand Prix, as it had already happened for the Australian Grand Prix, with only the name of Scuderia Ferrari, without the title sponsor Mission Winnow, as this would be an indirect form of tobacco advertising.
In the first free practice session, held on Friday, June 7th 2019, the German team creates panic among its opponents: Lewis Hamilton marks the fastest time, 1'12"767, distancing the Ferraris by seconds. Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that Ferrari has done a different work during the morning, without looking for qualifying times. In fact, the Alfa Romeo, powered by the Maranello team, secures the sixth position with Kimi Raikkonen; while, unfortunately, Giovinazzi's morning ends with a wall in turn 9, resulting in a broken suspension. During the first free practice session the Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi takes the place of Robert Kubica at Williams.
After the amazing time set in the morning, Mercedes starts to take a hit: at the end of FP1 on the car driven by Valtteri Bottas there is a hydraulic leak, probably a problem with the fuel pump, but nothing that can prevent him from going on track in the afternoon. It's his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, who is forced to return to the pits half an hour before the end of FP2. Hamilton manages to place himself only sixth, and even punctures his right rear tyre after hitting the wall at the exit of turn 9, causing significant damage to the floor of his car which prevents him from returning to the track. At the end of FP2 the Ferraris occupy the first two positions of the time list, with a 0.7 second gap to the penta World Champion. Leclerc signs the best time of the day with a time of 1'12"177, while Vettel follows with a delay of only 0.074 seconds.
It can be said that Ferrari has remained hidden during the morning, only now beginning to show its potential, hoping to maintain this competitiveness throughout the weekend. The first pursuer is in any case a Mercedes, that of Bottas, 0.1 seconds behind; this is because in Red Bull a different work is carried out. Gasly runs regular simulation laps, not going further than twelfth position, while Verstappen attempts a qualifying lap, but is forced to abandon the attempt due to his close encounter with the famous Wall of Champions.
Surprising is the speed of Sainz Jr's McLaren, 0.4 seconds behind Leclerc's Ferrari, and Magnussen's Haas, in fifth position. Moreover, from the long run simulations we can see a great performance from the drivers using the Hard tires, perhaps the best usable compound for the hot asphalt of Montreal. This should be a wake-up call for Ferrari, who preferred to have more sets of Medium tires, bringing only one set of Hard to use throughout the weekend. In addition, Mercedes once again shows that they have more competitiveness in the long rum, compared to the qualifying lap. All issues that create more and more hype in anticipation of Sunday's race. At the end of Friday's practice, Lewis Hamilton comments:
"FP1 was smooth; at the beginning the track was very dirty, but the conditions were the same for everyone. In FP2, instead, I made a mistake and damaged the car. The guys did everything they could to get me back on track, but there wasn't enough time. I can't remember the last time I missed practically an entire session. It's definitely not nice to watch the session from the garage; it feels like being in the principal's office, wishing you were back in class. My mistake? I was engaged in a multi-turn run on the Medium tyres and was trying to find the limit; I went a little over, losing control coming out of Turn 9. I hoped until the last moment to avoid hitting the wall, but that's what happened, these things happen. Fortunately Valtteri had a good session, collecting a lot of data. The guys will certainly do a great job, and we will be ready for tomorrow".
While in Ferrari, morale is high, as confirmed by the words of Sebastian Vettel, despite there are still many improvements to be made:
"It was an interesting day. At the beginning the track was quite slippery, but we know that it will improve as the weekend progresses. We struggled again with the tires, especially in terms of long run performance. We will have to work on this in the third free practice session, because having a good grid position is vital here. Where are we at the moment? I would say that we are certainly not the fastest, especially on the single lap; our main rivals seem to have a slight advantage. We lack grip in the slower corners and I still don't have the feeling I want from the car. We will try to change some things to find a balance that at the moment we still don't have".
And of the same idea is Charles Leclerc:
"It was a positive day overall. In FP1 there was a lot of dust on the track and this, combined with the high temperatures, made it very complicated to find the right grip. The conditions improved as the day went on and I felt much more comfortable in the second session. We made a good step forward between FP1 and FP2 and we will have to keep working hard to repeat that tomorrow. It is still hard to say where we will be in qualifying. We expect that our opponents will definitely be strong, while we will do our best to get a good result".
While the teams are preparing for the Canadian Grand Prix weekend, in the Formula 1 environment there is already talk of 2021. In this regard, on Thursday, May 30th 2019, the FIA sent - from Paris, via email - to the teams the draft for the new regulations to be introduced in two seasons, concerning the technical and sporting regulations, and on Tuesday, June 4th 2019, it also sends the final attachments. The project focuses on three main points:
- New weekend format and scrutineering;
- Parc Fermé;
- Budget cap.
If everything were to be confirmed, we would be facing a new Formula 1, with cars aesthetically more similar to the Indycars but above all revolutionized in its habits. The first change concerns the format of the weekend. The program will be reduced by one day in order to include more Grand Prix in the calendar. Thursday will no longer be dedicated to Media Day, as everything will take place on Friday. According to the intentions of the FIA, in the morning there will be the press conferences and the technical checks, while in the afternoon there will be the first two free practice sessions that will not be modified in their duration. In fact, fans will have the same amount of action on track, i.e. two sessions of an hour and a half each. But these will take place later: in European races FP1 will be held from 1:00 p.m. To 2:30 p.m. and FP2 from 5:00 p.m. To 6:30 p.m. . For the TVs (especially overseas) this is an advantage, while for the old continent the intention is to make FP2 more enjoyable for the fans.
But the change that is most controversial is the extension of the Parc Fermé: with scrutineering to be carried out on Friday morning, the single-seaters will then be directly blocked even before going on track for free practice, with no possibility of modification on Saturday and Sunday. In the event of an accident, damaged parts can only be replaced with components of the same specifications. Teams will therefore have to decide on Friday morning, before scrutineering, which version of wings to use for the weekend. It will not be allowed to homologate two different versions and then choose the best one. At the same time, however, teams will be able to test new parts on Friday. However, these parts cannot be used during the rest of the weekend, as the cars will have to return to the specifications of the technical checks.
In addition, there has been talk for years of setting a spending limit for teams and now there is a first official proposal. It is an annual Budget Cap of 175 million dollars (for the seasons from 2021 to 2025) studied by Nigel Kerr, former financial manager of Honda, Brawn GP and Mercedes, who joined the Formula 1 organizational group in 2017 thanks to the inclusion wanted by Ross Brawn. This cap would not include some key expenses such as driver salaries, marketing-related expenses and costs associated with power units. Excluding these factors, it is estimated that the top teams currently have an expense range of between $220.000.000 and $250.000.000.
Thus, there is talk of a reduction between $45.000,000 and $75.000,000, although the mid-tier teams were confident in a ceiling of around $150,000,000. Liberty Media and the FIA are confident that expenses can thus be regulated. In the case of violations, penalties such as loss of points in the standings are expected. For 2020, teams would be asked to show their accounts in view of the entry of the new regulations, without penalties of course. In the morning of Thursday, June 6th 2019, the Team Managers met in the paddock in Montreal and discussed the sporting regulations, while in the afternoon the technical directors of the teams met. The FIA would like to find the agreement by mid-June, to ratify it through the World Council.
Getting back to talking about the action on the track, FP3, held during the morning of Saturday 8th of June 2019 is a further confirmation of what had already been seen the previous day: the Ferraris lead the timesheets. Sebastian Vettel scores a time of 1'10"843, bringing himself only 0.079 seconds off the time, which had earned him the pole position in 2018, and Leclerc completes the one-two with only 0.1 seconds behind. While the Mercedes are forced to queue up: Hamilton is 0.4 seconds behind, and Bottas at 0.7 seconds. One second behind the Monegasque are the Red Bulls and Daniel Ricciardo's Renault.
Further back the McLaren of Lando Norris, the Racing Point of Sergio Perez and Daniil Kvyat with the Toro Rosso. No time scored by Lance Stroll, whose Mercedes engine explodes in the early stages of the session, not allowing the Canadian driver to take part in the tests. An old heat engine, used for the first six races, is remounted on his car in order to avoid penalties on the starting grid. The MGU-K is also replaced. A few hours later, Sebastian Vettel brings a smile back to the faces of Ferrari fans, as only he knows how to do. The qualifying of the Canadian Grand Prix will end with another exploit of the German driver, who clings to the first position with all his strength until winning it in a last lap that is nothing short of perfect.
Already from Q1 the audience in Montreal witnesses a fight for the first place with a perpetual alternation between Mercedes and Ferrari drivers, but it's Vettel who gets the better of it: a prediction of the actual conclusion of the qualifying. After the times set by the two Williams drivers and the other mid-table cars, the first of the top team drivers to set a time is Charles Leclerc with 1'11"786, a time not beaten by Sebastian Vettel. Max Verstappen intersperses between the two Ferraris, while Antonio Giovinazzi climbs to fifth. Lewis Hamilton is third, while Valtteri Bottas and Pierre Gasly manage to get into the top positions, and Lando Norris also passes Vettel.
But soon after the Ferraris improve their times, commanding the ranking ahead of the Red Bulls and the Mercedes. In the final part of the session the Anglo-German cars lower the time limit again, with Bottas ahead of Hamilton. Further behind Romain Grosjean takes the seventh time, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo; shortly after Alexander Albon climbs up to the sixth position. The fight is very close to avoid the cut in Q1, and at the end of the session Sergio Pérez, Kimi Räikkönen, Lance Stroll and the two Williams of George Russell and Robert Kubica do not pass.
Q2 is even more eventful: drivers try to set the time on Medium tires, in order to have a better strategy for the race. And as much as Ferrari and Mercedes succeed, you can see the disappointed faces in the Red Bull box. The third force in the world finds itself back from a rather disastrous qualifying session. Verstappen is guilty of several mistakes and is himself a victim of traffic, so much so that he can't manage to set a lap time good enough to cross the finish line on Medium tires, while his teammate turns to a different strategy and takes to the track immediately on Soft tires, without major problems.
After an unsatisfactory first attempt with Medium tires, the Dutchman tries again with Soft tires, but his lap is over before the third sector begins. The Wall of Champions claims its umpteenth victim, which in this case is Kevin Magnussen. The Dane presses his Haas right at the last chicane, destroying the car and putting an end to Q2 and to the hopes of Verstappen, only eleventh. Luckily the Haas driver is okay and passes Q3 with the tenth time, after having taken away the chance of his teammate to improve. Along with Grosjean and Verstappen, Kvyat, Giovinazzi and Albon are eliminated.
Hamilton sets the time to be reached at the first attempt of Q3, 1'10"499, with Vettel at 0.1 seconds and Leclerc on his tail. For Bottas, on the other hand, Q3 turns into a disastrous session full of mistakes, which ensure him only the sixth position on the grid. After the first attempt, the drivers get ready for the last stint, the decisive one. Hamilton improves his own time, finishing his lap in 1'10"446. Behind the penta-champion, however, the two Ferraris are reaching the finish line: and if Leclerc only gets the third position, unexpectedly it is Sebastian Vettel who laps about 0.2 seconds faster than the Englishman, winning the pole position and setting the track record with a time of 1'10"240, stopping a negative series that had not seen him start from the first position since July 2018.
"Yes, Yes, Yes".
Shouts Sebastian Vettel, accompanied by a triumphant ditty sung in headphones.
"Bravo Seb beautiful lap, we needed it, you needed it, all our fans needed it, we have to grit our teeth, today we did it in a dignified way. Bravo... thanks".
Mattia Binotto comments in team radio, congratulating his driver. Vettel, with the enthusiasm of a child and a voice full of love, can only thank the team he has always loved and dreamed of:
"Thank you, great team. Forza Ferrari".
At his side will be Lewis Hamilton, qualified with about 0.2 seconds behind the German. At 0.7 seconds behind, on the second row, Leclerc will be flanked by Daniel Ricciardo, protagonist of a fantastic qualifying that saw him bring his Renault in fourth position. To follow Gasly, Bottas, Hulkenberg, the two McLarens of Norris and Sainz and, finally, Magnussen, who couldn't take part in the session after the accident in Q2. The starting grid for Sunday's race sees Verstappen only in eleventh place, followed by Kvyat, Giovinazzi, Albon, Grosjean, Perez, Raikkonen, Stroll, Russell and Kubica. Fifty-sixth pole of his career and the fifth in Montreal. An incredulous Sebastian Vettel comments thus on today's feat:
"It was a really good day for us and I'm happy for the team. The last couple of months have not been easy for us, so it's nice to get a result like this, which is important for all the guys. We are giving everything and the most important thing is that we keep pushing. This lap gave me a lot of adrenaline and when I opened the radio I was really happy; in terms of concentration it was a very hard qualifying, as you had to do everything perfectly in the two attempts. We knew we had a great chance here in Montreal to do well, and we did. Looking ahead to the race, I'd say we have a good pace and we're aiming to avoid using soft; anything can happen tomorrow. Our opponents are very fast, especially on the pace, and so far they have always shown it; but here we start in front and we hope to stay there and battle as much as possible. We have to confirm tomorrow and hopefully sing more at the end of the race".
Vettel is not the only one breathing a sigh of relief. Ferrari's team principal, Mattia Binotto, is also happy, as results are finally starting to show:
"We are happy, it was needed in a not particularly happy period. It's almost a surprise, we didn't expect it. When you have such a strong competitor on any track they have an advantage. I think Seb deserved this pole. He went looking for it, he did a perfect lap, beautiful. He knew he had it in the bag, at the right moment he pulled it out. We needed it, then we are aware that this is just qualifying and does not give points".
Unexpectedly, to rejoice in this pole is also the penta World Champion: is it because of the change of which he spoke so much? In any case, between Hamilton and Vettel there is a lot of respect and admiration. Therefore, Hamilton says he is happy with his work, even if it was only enough to get the second position:
"I honestly don't know why, but I'm not very disappointed right now. They were faster than us, especially in the last sector. I did everything I could, the timing was perfect, the procedures too: I'm happy with our work. That's good. But these are the races. I think I gave everything today, so I'm not disappointed at all. For a moment we were on pole, but the Ferrari was faster, especially in the last sector. I think they were at least four, five tenths faster than us in the straights, but we expected that. And I'm happy with the fact that they were competitive again. Tomorrow will be an interesting race, and hopefully we can give the fans a good show".
Hamilton is absolutely right, such an exciting qualifying had not been seen for a while. Charles Leclerc follows in third place: not a bad result, being in front of a Mercedes. Still, the Monegasque doesn't seem entirely happy:
"I struggled a bit with the car, in the third sector I made a bit of a mistake. I couldn't really follow the track in its improvements. Maybe I made a mistake in the set-up, I have to find the right set-up especially in qualifying. Today's is a great result for the team and I congratulate Seb for the wonderful pole position he got. He was very fast and good at putting everything together; he deserves it. For my part, I need to better understand the evolution of the track, so that I can make the most of Q3. I will analyze everything and I hope to do better in this respect next weekend. Starting from the third position will give me a good chance in the race, and it will be fun to play with our opponents. We will keep pushing to get the best possible result".
Undoubtedly less happy is Valtteri Bottas, who disconsolately comments on his qualifying:
"I made a mistake in the first attempt in Q3, losing the car and almost ending up spinning out of Turn 2. I was lucky not to hit the wall, but all that didn't put me in a bad position ahead of the second attempt. I had a pretty messy lap, blocking several times and not doing a very good job in the corners. It's not a lap I'm very proud of, but mistakes happen. I need to learn from what happened and move on. The car is going very well and our pace on Friday seemed very consistent; so I'm confident that we have a good chance in the race. Overtaking is possible on this track and we have seen great races here in the past; my goal is to get as many points as possible".
And he certainly can't be happier Max Verstappen, who had to interrupt his run-up to Q3 through no fault of his own:
"We were very unlucky, but that can happen in Formula 1. We tried to go into Q3 with the medium, but that type of compound didn't perform as well as it could and, adding the traffic at the hairpin, the strategy didn't work. We had to get back on track, and I was on a good lap to go into Q3; the red flag, unfortunately, prevented me from finishing the lap. Starting eleventh or tenth, depending on what happens to Magnussen in the Haas, will be tricky, as I need to get past the cars in the middle of the pack before closing the gap to the leaders. This is not the point from which we want to start, as I want to fight for the very first positions; but we should be able to recover quickly and have a good race".
At the end of the qualifying, due to the accident between Albon and Sainz Jr., which saw the latter compromising the other driver's lap, the Spaniard was penalized three positions starting from the eleventh position. Magnussen, on the other hand, as a consequence of the chassis and power unit replacement due to the Q2 incident, will start from the pit-lane.
On Sunday, June 9th 2019, the anticipation is very high: there are many who hope for a Ferrari triumph, if only to interrupt a Mercedes domination that is making the Formula 1 World Championship monotonous. In the minutes before the start of the Grand Prix, the public's apprehension rises as the Mercedes mechanics work frantically on Lewis Hamilton's car, trying to repair a fault that could compromise the British driver's start from second position. An alarm that soon goes away, allowing the penta World Champion to take part regularly in the race.
After the formation lap he waits for the last car to be in position to wave the green flag, and signal that the race can start. Vettel, who starts from the pole, has a good start and keeps the head of the race setting the pace. Behind him the fight between Hamilton and Leclerc develops: the Monegasque tries to overtake, but the Englishman is not surprised and, having freed himself from the Ferrari driver, launches himself in pursuit of Vettel. For the second Mercedes driver, Valtteri Bottas, it doesn't go so well, as he is immediately overtaken by Hulkenberg while behind him Norris and Verstappen get closer.
A tyre lock under braking by Lando Norris allows Verstappen to gain position, but the Briton doesn't give up and tries to overtake at the chicane. The McLaren driver is able to win the duel because he is helped by the use of Soft tires, easier to bring to temperature, while his opponent is clearly struggling with Hard tires in this initial phase of the race. At the back of the field, Albon is the victim of an accident at the start, which sees him involved between a Racing Point and the Alfa Romeo of Giovinazzi, with the consequent breakage of the front wing: the Thai driver is thus forced to return to the pits to change the damaged component.
In the meantime Vettel starts to create a gap between himself and Hamilton of one second, while behind him the first pit stops start with Sainz already at the fourth lap, followed shortly after by Gasly. Verstappen succeeds in overtaking Norris, and begins the chase on Bottas. At the ninth lap Ricciardo comes back to the pits to change tires, but just as he is about to exit the pit lane Lando Norris' car has a problem with the brakes, resulting in the breakage of the right rear suspension due to the high heat, and he is forced to stop the car just at the pit exit, causing the neutralization of the sector.
The gap between the top two rises to 2.5 seconds, but nonetheless both Vettel and Hamilton are told to push, in order to have the right margin to make the stop with confidence. Vettel re-enters on lap 27 to fit Hard tires, and returns to the track just behind Hamilton and Leclerc. Hamilton's stop is postponed by two laps, so as to allow the British driver to get back on track at least in front of Verstappen, who has now closed the gap to Bottas. But the return to the track is even better than any expectation, in third position, behind the two Ferraris and four seconds behind Vettel. For Leclerc, the stop came on lap thirty-three, losing his position to Verstappen who recovered shortly after, while Bottas had made it two laps earlier and is now in pursuit of Ricciardo. Overtaking the former Red Bull driver is not easy, and in fact the Australian defends his position with obstinacy, giving it up only on lap 39.
In the meantime, the gap between the first two has reduced to a few tenths of a second, with the Englishman becoming more and more aggressive. Vettel is warned that Hamilton is just behind, with DRS available, and that he has to push: the fight between the two leads the Mercedes driver to make a mistake. Vettel regains a few tenths of a second, easing the pressure. But the race pace shown during the tests by the Mercedes is more and more evident and the penta World Champion takes little time to reduce the gap of half a second, bringing himself inside the delta useful for the use of DRS. The pressure is high for the Ferrari driver. And so, on lap 48, Vettel makes a mistake under braking, gets on the grass in the run-off area at turn 4, and returns to the track, avoiding Hamilton's overtaking.
"He re-entered in a dangerous way".
Lewis Hamilton exclaims over the radio, more directed at the FIA than at his track engineer. In fact, it was only a matter of a few minutes before the Ferrari driver was first placed under investigation for returning to the track in a dangerous manner and for pushing another driver off the track. In the same lap Verstappen comes back to the pits and gets behind Hulkenberg, starting his comeback towards the fourth position. The Dutchman first overtakes the German, then throws himself in pursuit of Daniel Ricciardo.
In the five laps following the mistake he was involved in, Sebastian Vettel creates a good gap between himself and Hamilton, equal to 1.5 seconds, but thirteen laps from the end of the race the marshals give the German driver a penalty of five seconds, changing the fate of the Grand Prix. The Ferrari driver has a few laps to further extend his lead over Hamilton and maintain the longed-for victory. The gap is now 2.5 seconds.
"We were given a five-second penalty for unsafe re-entry, concentrated we have him three seconds behind us".
Point out the engineers to Sebastian Vettel.
"I couldn't go anywhere else. Seriously, I had nowhere to go. I had to go through the grass. Where the hell was I supposed to go? I got grass on my wheels. It's his fault that he decides to go that way. If he had gone inside, he would have passed me".
From the pits they reply:
"Okay, copy that. Stay focused".
But Vettel retorts:
"I'm focused, but they're stealing the race from us".
From this moment on, also due to the growing anger, Vettel begins to lose the advantage that he was able to obtain with so much difficulty, dropping to only 0.5 seconds with five laps to go. In the meantime Alex Albon retires during the fifty-ninth lap, due to damage sustained during the first lap, while Sainz Jr. is overtaken by both Stroll and Kvyat. With a possible victory now assured, Mercedes also wants to get the fastest lap time now assigned to Leclerc: therefore, having the chance, Valtteri Bottas is called back to the pits to mount a new set of tires. On the return to the track the Finnish driver wins the fastest lap and the additional point.
At the end of seventy laps completely dominated and a perfect pole, Sebastian Vettel crosses the finish line first and passes under the checkered flag. A victory more than deserved, but unfortunately subtracted due to an extremely stringent regulation. The German crossed the finish line in first position, but ended the race in second.
"No, no, no guys. Not like that. Not like that. No. Seriously. You have to be completely blind to think that a guy would go on the grass and then be able to control the car. I was lucky I didn't hit the wall. Where the hell was I supposed to go? This is a wrong world. I'm telling you. It's not fair... Great crowd, great race. Thanks guys".
These are the words expressed with so much bitterness and anger by Sebastian Vettel through the radio, and not even Binotto's words manage to reassure him:
"You won on the track, that's the most important thing. You are the winner for us today. For the team. We appreciated your efforts. Head down, stay calm".
Vettel, understandably unhappy with the outcome of the race, responded to Ferrari's team principal:
"I'm not staying calm. This is not right. I am angry. And I think you know why. And I think I have a right to be angry. I don't care what people say".
At Mercedes, however, they are celebrating a victory that Lewis Hamilton says was well deserved:
"This of course is not the way I wanted to win. But I would have overcome it if there wasn't that wall there, so thank you very much for continuing to believe in me and for your trust. I love you guys".
Behind the Monegasque driver, who came third at the finish line, Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg saw the checkered flag, decreeing the best result of the season for the French team, then Gasly, Stroll, Kvyat, Sainz, Perez, Giovinazzi, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Russell, Magnussen and Kubica.
The return lap to the pits is not enough to calm Vettel, who stops his car at the entrance to the pit lane, together with those of the other drivers, contravening the normal post-race regulations imposed by the FIA and Liberty Media. Then, without taking off his helmet, he goes directly to the Ferrari Hospitality, avoiding the journalists and continuing to disregard the post-race protocols. Once weighed, he passes through the Mercedes garage to reach the Parc Fermé once the interviews are over, accompanied by the shouts of the fans in support of him.
The German driver stops on the threshold of the door that connects the parc fermé to the podium, looks at the parked cars, then looks at the empty lay-by with the poster marked with the number 2 in front of it, and reflects. Then, by instinct, he takes the second position billboard and without hesitation places it in front of the Mercedes, reappropriating the number 1 billboard and placing it right in front of the empty lay-by that was just waiting to be filled by his single-seater. The shouts of approval increase, and the fans on the bleachers applaud Vettel, who waves his hand to thank his fans.
Exclaim the Ferrari mechanics and engineers, rushed to the parc fermé to congratulate their two drivers. Once again it is a Mercedes that triumphs. Despite the contrasting opinions, for Hamilton it is the fifth victory of the season, as well as the seventy-eighth of his career. A race where the British driver was second to Vettel for all seventy laps, and as he said on the radio, if it had not been for the hiccup on lap 48, where he was forced to lift his foot, he would have won it on the track. On the podium, after being covered with unjustified whistles, Lewis tries to calm down the audience by calling Sebastian on the top step of the podium, but the German driver doesn't want to know how to satisfy him, and remains still.
"This is not the way I wanted to win. I pushed until the end to try to pass him but I forced him into making a mistake. I had a way through the corner but I had to go wide. But this is racing. He's entitled to his opinion, I did the corner normally but when you get back on the track you have to keep safe, not try to get back on track. I'm really, really grateful. I had a crash on Friday, so the weekend didn't get off to a good start, and we had an engine problem this morning. The guys worked really hard and did a great job fixing it, so I really wanted to get the best possible result for them. I was trying to increase the pressure on Sebastian to push him to make a mistake, and he made one. I wanted to win the right way and get past him on the track, so I fought all the way to the finish, but my tires were out. Ferrari did a fantastic job this weekend, they were fast on the straights and Sebastian had a great race, it took absolutely everything for me to try and keep up with them. In the end, that's not how I want to win races, but I put my heart into it to make the team proud of me".
In any case, there was time to recover and overtake the German, also because there were more than twenty laps to go from the accident to the end of the race. Nevertheless, Hamilton affirms that the right moment to overtake was exactly the one coinciding with the accident:
"At the end we were struggling with the temperature on the brakes. The tires were good at the time he made the mistake, then I made that block and the gap grew again. It would have been difficult to overtake him".
It is also important to take into consideration this blockage that Hamilton talks about, justified by brake temperature problems. During the course of the race, the gap between the two was seen to decrease several times and then increase again. Well, the reason behind this is simple: every time Lewis gained a little bit of advantage, before turn 10 he repeated the same braking error with consequent locking, and this was repeated several times during the race. Another reason why the overtake on Vettel never came. Toto Wolff adds:
"There is a rule, and this rule says that you have to leave one car of space. But we want to see the fight, it's a situation that from Mercedes' point of view is 60-40%. Of course, if I were an Italian fan, of Ferrari or even Sebastian Vettel I would see it 40-60%: we will have a lot of discussion, like in soccer".
As Hamilton already said, obviously Vettel's idea is different. The German lost control of the car that slid on the grass, so his only options were to end the race against a wall, or try to save the car. As he says, Vettel had no other choices, so what he did was the only plausible solution.
"What else could I do? I was trying to stay on track and keep the car, I was coming off the grass and the tires were dirty, I had no other option, I had to make a correction and Lewis was right behind, but for me at that moment it was already difficult to regain control. Today we fought, we deserved to win and this was also the opinion of the public. Decisions like that are definitely not good for our sport. I'm pissed off. Not like that, I can't lose like that. I was in a blind spot, I was stuck and practically at the wall. Lewis was faster than me but we were good to stay in front, about the rest ask people what they think. It was a fantastic show, Lewis showed me so much respect. People should not challenge Lewis. I think we had a great race and the judges' decision was too harsh. In turn 3 I lost control of my car and I was forced to go long on the grass entering turn 4 in front of Lewis. I didn't see where he was, I was too busy to keep my car on the track without crashing and I didn't squeeze him on purpose. I think that for the weekend we had, and even if our rivals were very strong on the race pace, we deserved the victory and I think I understood that a lot of the public on the circuit today thought the same as me. It's always nice to race in Canada, I feel a lot of support from the people and it would have been great to give all our fans the first great joy of the season".
Supporting Sebastian is also Mattia Binotto, who states:
"I think the moral winner today is Seb. He crossed the finish line ahead of everyone. Then we are not the ones to decide, although you can have a different opinion. It was important for us to find our rhythm again, we have shown that we are competitive, we go home even more motivated than before. We have many races to prove our worth. Ferrari penalized? There have been other occasions when they have been good looking at the last races, there have been situations like today's where the judgment has been different. There is regret, from the point of view of the result we deserved. Seb was initially very angry, we tried to calm him down, but it is justified. He pushed every lap, it was a difficult race. He knows he didn't make any mistakes, there was nothing intentional in coming back on track, he had no alternative".
Charles Leclerc, thanks to his third place, guarantees Ferrari the best result of this season: two drivers on the podium, albeit with great disappointment.
"I'm obviously disappointed for the team, because we all worked hard to be in front. We will come back even stronger, hopefully the win will come soon. I don't know what happened to Seb, I know the team deserved a win, it's a shame. But I'm pretty satisfied with my race, even if it was quite lonely. I think I could hardly get a better result and overall our performance was good from the first to the last lap. At the same time it was a pity for the team to have lost the first victory of the season. This track was particularly suited to our car, but now we are thinking about France, a track on which it is difficult to predict what our level of competitiveness will be. What is certain is that we will continue to push and fight for important results".
The penalty inflicted on Sebastian Vettel triggers the controversy of the public, and also involves former drivers and important figures in the world of Motorsport, many of them in support of the German driver. Statements and comments are made on social networks or through interviews. Nigel Mansell, for example, comments:
"Really, really embarrassing. Two great champions who were fighting, a fake result. Vettel at that moment was a passenger in his car, what could he do differently?"
And Mario Andretti also sides with the Ferrari driver:
"I think the task of the stewards is to protect the safety of the drivers, when dangerous maneuvers are made, not when mistakes are made dictated by a hard fight. What happened is not acceptable, in our beloved and great sport".
Criticism of this sanction is many, and Mark Webber also added to it, stating:
"None of the stewards have ever competed in Formula 1? Crazy penalty".
While the driver turned NASCAR legend, Jimmie Johnson, is harsher in his statements:
"I'm glad there are no stewards in Nascar".
But there are also opinions in favor of the decision, such as that of Rosberg, who believes the penalty is fair, or that of Damon Hill, although the latter would have liked to see the final duel:
"In my opinion Vettel could have left more space, but we lost a great finish with a few laps to go because of the penalty. The situation was so borderline that we could let them continue".
As for the drivers participating in the World Championship, in support of Vettel rushes the former teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, who points out a fact close to him, as if to mark a possible inconsistency of the choices made by the commissioners. In Monaco, in 2016 - recalls the Australian -, he and Hamilton had a similar, if not identical, episode. The only difference the Australian driver wants to focus on, in his speech, is the seriousness of what happened and the consequences: the current Renault driver goes on to argue that three years earlier Lewis closed it in an even more evident and clear way than what happened in Canada. But despite this, in that case no penalty was given to the British driver and, consequently, Hamilton won the race.
"If he had swerved further to the left, he would have spun. And if he had braked on the grass as well. There wasn't too much room for Hamilton, but it was enough. I had an identical situation with Lewis in Monte-Carlo in 2016. He had taken the emergency exit and almost pushed me into the wall on his return to the track. And we were closer with me than the episode between him and Vettel. That time Hamilton wasn't penalized and it was fair, it was a tough battle".
Even Lewis Hamilton, after reviewing the TV replays, admits he would have done the same maneuver.
"I watched the replays. If it was me in the lead and I had made the same mistake going off the track, I probably would have done the same thing as Sebastian. Everything happens very fast and you just think about preserving your position. And when I say that I would have done the same thing, I mean that I would have tried to squeeze him as well. If I hadn't braked, we would have had an accident. It's a natural instinct of drivers to close the door".
However, it must be underlined that the marshals, as such, are obliged to judge the drivers' actions on the track and their consequences; therefore, based on these actions, the penalties vary in severity. Vettel's maneuver was declared dangerous as the Ferrari driver lost control of the rear of his car cutting into turn number 4, and re-entering the race he would have gone wide to the right forcing Lewis to brake to avoid crashing. The action of the German driver is therefore to be considered, according to the rules, dangerous towards Hamilton.
But, unfortunately, to be unpleasantly involved in this decision is the former Formula 1 driver, Emanuele Pirro, who is indicated as the main culprit of this unpleasant circumstance. In the following hours a denigrating campaign started against him, which was completely avoidable, since, as said, the former Italian driver was simply forced to appeal to a regulation that was perhaps too stringent, forgetting, moreover, that in the race direction, in Montreal, the judging panel was also composed of Gerd Ennser, Mathieu Remmerie and Mike Kaerne.
"All four of us felt the same way. Before we made the decision we analyzed how much Hamilton had to brake to avoid Vettel, then how much Vettel was in control of his car thanks to all the images and telemetry that we can access. The penalty at the end was nothing but a way to give back that position that Hamilton, without the wall, would have gained in a few meters. Unfortunately looking in all there was no handholding to absolve Vettel and his maneuver. I have based not only my racing career but my very life on questioning myself, and on the fairness of the penalty I have never had the slightest doubt. If I had, I would not have awarded it. Thinking about it all night following the Canadian Grand Prix, I always came to the conclusion that the penalty to Vettel was sacrosanct. Fortunately, that was always out of the question".
Although many have criticized the choice of the Italian technical commissioner, FIA president Jean Todt immediately showed him his support:
"The President of the Federation called me to find out how I was feeling and to give me his support and solidarity. At that time the insults were already quite well known and widespread. The perception of what happened was so negative that the whole of Formula 1 lost a little bit from the episode, including Mercedes, because unfortunately many did not understand my decision and that of the other three stewards who were with me. And then, since the health of motorsport is what I care about most, I thought: if I went back I would not do it again. Because I didn't do Motorsport a good service. I did a good service to the justice of the sport but not to the image of racing. I told the President and Todt gave me an answer that opened my heart: Don't think like that, because the most important thing is to do the right thing. Even if it can cost you dearly. You always have to be right with your conscience. Remember: the best thing you can do is to do the right thing. These are words that touched me. Of course, even after so long, I can't say that I think about the insults with a smile. The thing that really disappointed me and somehow opened my eyes was the lack of competence and the superficiality with which a part of the media described the story, reporting facts different from reality. And without even being interested in understanding better, coldly, calmly, afterwards, what was behind my decision and that of the other three stewards".
Having said that, Pirro adds a consideration that is entirely personal, and humanly shareable:
"To those who are in bad faith, who in I would like to say football style have written and spoken looking only for controversy or easy and discounted consensus from the Ferrari fans, I do not say a damn thing. Because what I have to say they would not want to hear. To those who wrote or said what they said because they didn't know any better, I would say a few things. First, everyone has my phone number and everyone can reach me. If there's something they think they didn't understand or want to elaborate on, they can call me. That way they don't just make comments based on superficial impressions, but delve deeper into the issues. I spent several hours responding to each of the strangers who politely asked for explanations. I suffered a very ugly media pillory, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, with personal threats and I had to go and make a complaint to the Police. It was a scandalous thing, not related to sport, and shameful. Certain aggressions denote rancor and little education. Since last Sunday my life has changed and I don't know if it will go back to the same way because I try to do this job - which is not a job because it is not paid - in the most correct way possible, but when it comes to Ferrari and Valentino Rossi in our country (referring to Italy, the main place from which these denigrating gestures come from), the football fan that blinds people is also present in our sport".
Then he explains in detail the choice made in Montreal:
"The rule is clear: whoever leaves the track can re-enter, if he is able to do so, as long as he acts safely and without taking an advantage: trying to maintain the position at all costs means taking an advantage. First of all I wanted to understand how much Vettel's re-entry maneuver prevented Hamilton from overtaking. And there I saw from the telemetry, in real time, that the Mercedes driver had repeatedly acted on the brakes until he had reduced his speed by over 70 km/h. If he hadn't had to brake to avoid a collision he would have easily overtaken Vettel. The second thing I tried to understand was why Vettel had followed that trajectory. So I went to check the throttle opening of his Ferrari. And I saw that from the moment he hit the grass, after a very quick hint of counter-steering, he immediately started to accelerate. Trying to minimize the loss of time. As everyone would have done, including me. Vettel did a perfect counter-steer and put his single-seater back straight, which is the only way to survive, competitively, an excursion on the grass. The moment he had the car straight, his priority was no longer to not spin but to not lose his position, accelerating as much as possible. Everyone would have done that. Vettel lost the rear for a moment, then immediately thought about staying in the lead. And he cut Hamilton off just enough to make him brake without causing an accident. After all, these are not World Champions by chance. They know very well what they are doing".
So, in the opinion of the four stewards, Vettel intentionally closed the trajectory to Hamilton, gaining an advantage:
"Vettel closed Hamilton. It's a fact, you can see from the images. But our question was: did he do it voluntarily or because his Ferrari was out of control? And, I repeat, when you see the throttle throttle open you understand that the driver is in control. Many have pointed out that he never turned the steering wheel to the right: he didn't need to. The two cars, in fact, had trajectories converging by thirty degrees: they were heading towards each other, it was enough to go straight. If he wanted to be sure not to run into Hamilton or slow him down, Vettel would have had to steer left".
Responding to the comparison between the Vettel-Hamilton episode of the Canadian Grand Prix with the one that involved Hamilton and Ricciardo in the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix, in which Pirro was also on that occasion race commissioner, the former Italian driver replies:
"Always in the perspective of not wanting to go deeper, many have compared the two episodes but in reality they have nothing to do with each other because Ricciardo, analyzing the telemetry and the images, had not even gotten to the point of being able to attempt to overtake Hamilton. I understand that from the frontal shots Hamilton's maneuver could seem to be sanctioned, but in reality Ricciardo, on the right, found wet and damp, so it was not Hamilton who closed Ricciardo towards the rail, but Ricciardo hit a puddle, losing all the acceleration advantage and had to give up trying to overtake: no fault of the Mercedes driver".
Pirro and Vettel, however, will clarify between them:
"Yes. He was very nice. At the Grand Prix after Canada, in the paddock, he came up from behind me on his bike, patted me on the back and shook my hand. We said to each other: Shall we have a coffee together? Yes, with pleasure. Then it didn't happen because I didn't look for him anymore, so as not to disturb him. He made a nice gesture that was not required and was not accidental. The problem in Canada came from the rest of the world. With Ferrari there was no problem. Camilleri gave very sporting statements. Binotto idem".
Finally, it must be underlined that the former Italian driver was also supported by Renè Arnoux:
"After Canada, among others, René Arnoux called me, and I was really pleased about that. He told me he was sorry for what had happened and added: "Few people have understood what happened in Canada. In my time these things would not have happened. That challenge has always been the example of how you should race wheel to wheel respecting each other. Arnoux also told me: In Dijon I put my life in Gilles' hands and Villeneuve did the same. We knew that respect would never be lacking and that we could trust each other. I would like to add that running fairly does not mean running without a show. The duel between Albon and Kvyat, teammates, in Hungary is the proof that if you apply the rules properly, racing does not lose but, on the contrary, it gains".
In any case, it seems that the controversy surrounding the outcome of the Canadian Grand Prix will not end anytime soon, as Ferrari decides to appeal against the decision made by the race officials:
"At this moment we can only be disappointed, as a team as a whole but especially thinking about Sebastian and the public. As for Seb, I think he could not have done anything different from what he did, which is why we decided to appeal the stewards' decision. We leave Canada with the knowledge that today, as throughout the weekend, we have shown that we are competitive and this has given a dose of confidence to the whole team".
This means that Ferrari now has ninety-six hours to gather the necessary evidence and make a final decision on whether to appeal. This does not mean that, according to the regulations, it is not possible to appeal the five second penalty, but by appealing, it would at least be possible to cancel the accessory penalty of two points taken off the German driver's license. Not all the details of Ferrari's plan are known yet, but it seems that the main idea is to challenge the procedure, i.e. having given the ruling during the course of the race, without having heard the opinion of the two drivers.
In any case, this does not erase the magnificent work done by Sebastian Vettel during the entire Canadian weekend, as he was the author of an almost perfect race, which saw him, however, keep behind an extremely competitive car such as Mercedes. Also for this reason, and not for a mere polemical stance, Ferrari decided to display the flag with the prancing horse at the entrance of the door of the Maranello Sports Management, to symbolize the achievement of a virtual victory.