Analysis: Special moment for Lewis Hamilton builds anticipation as Canadian F1 GP bursts into life
This weekend has built up nicely and the race should be one of the highlights of the season so far, with nothing to choose between the Ferrari and ...
This weekend has built up nicely and the race should be one of the highlights of the season so far, with nothing to choose between the Ferrari and Mercedes on race pace.
Lewis Hamilton's emotional 65th career pole equals Ayrton Senna and gives him the advantage at the start, but we all recall how Sebastian Vettel led into Turn 1 last season from third on the grid and statistically pole here is the least important of the season. Of the last 15 races here, only six of them were won by the pole sitter.
But that takes nothing away from his moment and the lap that won it. It was a sensational lap by Hamilton, improving on his previous run which was already very fast. Vettel raised his game to come within 4/1000ths of a second of the time, but that hwas his limit and when he tried to take more, he found that he'd reached the limit.
This track is unique in that you need an extra slice of daring to get the ultimate and both men were in that terrotory today, where their team mates could not reach the same level.
Hamilton is 7/10ths faster than Bottas and Vettel half a second up on Raikkonen. That's because certain corner exits need to be flirting with disaster to be really fast, like Turn 4/5 chicane and of course the final chicane with the wall of champions.
If Hamilton has a clean run in Baku and Austria he could equal Michael Schumacher's all time pole record at Silverstone next month. He will certainly beat it at some point this year.
Both men acknowledged after qualifying that they are pushing each other to new limits and because it is two different cars and very different characters, the battle is sporting and intense, with none of the toxicity of the Hamilton/Rosberg feud.
Interestingly Mercedes boss Toto Wolff spoke of a hypothesis after qualifying about why Ferrari seems to have found a better way to use the Pirelli tyres than Mercedes, which comes back to that bitter rivalry between his former driver line up.
He believes that the 2000+ kms of testing in the mule cars that Vettel did for Ferrari on the prototype tyres for 2017 meant that his feedback entered their development process more readily than Wehrlein's did on the Mercedes side. THe reason why Hamilton and Rosberg were unwilling to commit a similar amount of time to the mule car testing was because they wanted to focus completely on their title battle and not on some future planning exercise.
That has cost Mercedes, as it is clear to see and it's making a championship of it. The fear is that they fix the problem and find a margin again, but fair play to Ferrari, they are certainly keeping in their with their updates programme.
The fix on tyres is going to be critical to Mercedes' outcome as Pirelli is now (finally) moving towards softer compounds for the races later in the season. For example, they have acknowledged that the hard tyres are too hard and so for Silverstone they will bring medium, soft and supersoft, which will make things much more interesting strategically. Similar moves will be made later in the year to bring softer tyres, to encourage teams to use all three compounds and to bring some more variability into the strategies. This has to be welcomed as so far this season, most races have been two tyre affairs.
Max Verstappen again edged out a rather disconsolate Daniel Ricciardo who now trails 3-4 in qualifying this season and for the last three races in a row. That is a trend he has to arrest, otherwise Verstappen will have the upper hand. Ricciardo will need to get out of there if there is a route into Mercedes or Ferrari for next season, but the signs at present are that both teams will stick with the current line ups.
Another driver who is on the limit is Sergio Perez who managed to outqualify Esteban Ocon, but had to dig very deep to do it. Ocon has been terrific this weekend in the Force India, looking very much the 'real deal' and Perez' experience counted in the final counting, but as Ocon gains there we will have a similar situation to Ricciardo and Verstappen.
The race tomorrow
So what kind of race will we see tomorrow?
Well it's wide open between the two front row starter and I wouldn't rule out their team mates in the race either. Bottas looked very fast in the long runs on Friday, but the data is incomplete for most drivers as there was a red flag in the middle of the long runs so no-one has a clear idea of when the degradation will start to really kick in on the ultra softs. Probably from around Lap 25 onwards, but the timing and how you react to it will be important.
It's likely to be a one stop race and most teams were thinking that they would take the supersoft at the sole pit stop, but Bottas showed that the soft could work well and with the higher temperatures forecast for Sunday (Friday was cool) we could see some variability there.
What do you think? Leave your comments in the section below
Wehrlein set for grid penalty after Q1 crash
Wolff: Mercedes still hasn’t found “holy grail” despite Hamilton pole
About this article