Our man in Europe, Nick van der Meulen, takes a look back at the return of the Formula One Grand Prix circus to Montreal in his report F1 Review Canada 2022.
The F1 circus returned to Canada for the first time since 2019, following the mayhem Covid-19 spread over the world. There is a magical connection between Ferrari and Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Canada. Carlos Sainz even stated that there was extra Ferrari support in Canada “for some reason”. It may be that the Canadian hero, and track namesake, won his first Grand Prix at this circuit, driving a Ferrari, in 1978.
There have been memorable victories at the Ile Notre Dame circuit involving the magical number 27, the racing number Gilles is mostly associated with. Ferrari tried to have this number retired when the diminutive Canadian passed, without success. Michele Alboreto took a famous victory here in the No. 27 Ferrari in 1985. Jean Alesi claimed his only victory a decade later at the same track with the same number. To commemorate the Canadian legend’s 40th anniversary since his passing, there were special commemorative markings in front of each Ferrari on the starting grid for the race.
World titleholder Max Verstappen was peerless throughout the weekend. He claimed pole position in inclement weather conditions and following it up with victory on race day in the dry. He was comfortable throughout the day. The only way the rest of the field could pressure him was due to three safety car events.
The first two virtual events due to teammate Sergio Perez’s technical failure and Mick Schumacher’s (Haas-Ferrari) technical failure while running in the points. The third event had the safety car deployed following Yuki Tsunoda’s (Alpha Tauri) contact with the wall in the latter stages of the race. Despite these potential setbacks and the attempts from Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) to attack the Dutchman, the Red Bull racer snatched victory by a second.
Ferrari had a solid day at the office. Charles Leclerc had to start from the back of the grid following an engine change. His previous engine was damaged beyond repair following the blow-up at Baku. Sainz gained experience leading the field for the first time this season, while Leclerc charged through the field to finish fifth and claim the “Driver of the Day” accolade.
A Return to Form?
Mercedes looked strong on race day. Lewis Hamilton finally managed to gain the upper hand over George Russell for the first time since Bahrain. The seven-time champion chased Sainz to the chequered flag to take a well-deserved third place ahead of Russell. In the process giving the team their their best points haul since Australia.
Alpine had a strong weekend. However, the team will rue stopping Fernando Alonso so late where they could have done so with the first virtual safety car. The team opted to split strategies. So they pitted Esteban Ocon and this benefitted the Frenchman.
Alonso enjoyed the attention in qualifying on Saturday. He qualified on the front row for the first time since the German Grand Prix in 2012. Despite being quicker than Ocon throughout the weekend and having an issue with straight-line speed in the closing stages of the race, the team ordered the disgruntled Spaniard to follow his teammate to the chequered flag in seventh place.
Edit to add:
Alonso was given a five-second time penalty after the race by the stewards, dropping him from seventh to ninth. The Spaniard was called to the stewards’ room, after he was seen to be weaving on the straight on the penultimate lap of the Grand Prix, as he defended from the charging Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas.
Alfa Romeo will be pleased to have had both their cars come home in the points. Zhou Guanyu had a particularly strong race, running ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas for most of it. But it was the Finn who got the better of his rookie teammate to claim eighth position, Zhou finishing ninth.
The final point on offer was claimed by local lad Lance Stroll (Aston Martin). The Canadian passed Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren-Mercedes in the closing stages after a slow pit stop for the Australian.
The next round of the F1 world championship takes place at the historic Silverstone circuit on 3 July. This is a circuit where Hamilton has always excelled. It is also the venue where THAT clash between Hamilton and Verstappen took place, the Dutchman will be looking for redemption…