Mercedes masters Montreal strategy

2016-06-15 06:00

AS the 2016 Canadian Grand Prix developed, Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel found themselves in front of an open goal. But a dubious strategy call saw the Italian team score an own goal instead.

From third on the grid Vettel rocketed into the lead of the race leaving the two Mercedes to bang wheels into turn two. Here Nico Rosberg got off worse and dropped down to tenth by the end of the first lap.

Vettel looked to have a solid grip on the race and was comfortably holding off the second-place Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. But Vettel had committed to a two-stop strategy and dived into the pits on lap eleven.

Hamilton continued to lead until he pitted for soft tyres on lap 24.

It brought him out in second place and eleven seconds behind Vettel where he simply bided his time with the knowledge that the Ferrari had a second-stop to make. Vettel’s second stop on lap 37 had him rejoining roughly eight seconds behind Hamilton.

Despite being able to reduce the gap to about four seconds, Vettel was nailed into second place as Hamilton ran his one-stop strategy to completion.

At teams like Mercedes and Ferrari nearly six hundred people attempt to combine the best of their abilities to put two cars onto the track. One of these people has the job of chief race strategist.

This is the person who makes the call on when to pit and what tyres to run during a stint. It’s not an easy job by any stretch of the imagination. It’s trying to make the right call under extreme pressure in the fastest sport in the world. But this high-speed game of chess demands absolute precision and anything less is catastrophic.

Without some unreliability or a bit of argy-bargy between its two drivers Mercedes has proven near impossible to beat over the last two years.

So when the opportunity arises to do just that it has to be snapped up. While the circumstances may be different from the opening round of the season in Australia the result in Canada is the same – Ferrari find themselves in the lead of the race and surrender the initiative without rhyme or reason.

Although Sebastian Vettel is refusing to blame the team for the strategy, the reality is that Ferrari’s call handed Lewis Hamilton victory on a silver platter. Most galling of all is the fact that Vettel had the pace to beat Hamilton on track.

More than 40 seconds behind Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas also made the best of a one-stop strategy to secure third and the ninth podium of his career. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen drove a brilliantly defensive final stint to hold off Nico Rosberg for fourth.

The second Merc of Rosberg finished fifth after spinning ahead of the final chicane in an unsuccessful attempt to pass Verstappen. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen took a disappointing sixth place in a race where he was constantly asked to “take it easy” and save fuel.

Daniel Ricciardo completed a fairly lacklustre run into seventh ahead of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg in eighth. Carlos Sainz delivered a stunning drive from 20th on the grid to ninth by the chequered flag.

Sergio Perez wrapped up the final point in tenth for Force India. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso ran a 55-lap stint on the soft tyre but ultimately finished eleventh while teammate Jenson Button retired early on with a suspected engine fire.

As Formula 1 heads to Azerbaijan for the inaugural race in Baku this weekend, Hamilton dedicated his fifth win in Canada to the great Muhammad Ali. A resurgent Hamilton leaves Montreal nine points behind Nico Rosberg and with a definite and ominous spring in his step.

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