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Formula One

THREE TAKEAWAYS: 2017 Canadian Grand Prix

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The look of the Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship has changed again after Lewis Hamilton gained vital points on Sebastian Vettel by winning the Canadian Grand Prix.

Hamilton dominated the race for his sixth victory in Montreal, becoming the second driver to do this following Michael Schumacher (seven).

It is the first track he has won at on six occasions, and the third time in his career he has taken three straight victories at a circuit (Britain, United States 2014-16; Canada 2015-17). After placing 25 points behind the German after Monaco, the gap lies at just 12, marking a critical moment in stopping Vettel’s momentum as soon as possible.

Further down the grid, fan favorite Fernando Alonso again suffered a DNF for McLaren-Honda, classifying 16th. It was ironic that Alonso was in the top-four after 21 laps of this race, where he would have expected to be in the final portion of the Indy 500 had his engine not blown on Lap 179. This season is the first time that McLaren has not scored points in the first seven races of a year as its pace/unreliability crisis grows.

Hamilton Changes Record, Again

On Saturday, the Brit equaled his hero Ayrton Senna’s tally of pole positions (65) and is set to break Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 in coming months.

His pole time was an all-time venue record at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a 1m11.459s, while his race fastest lap of 1m14.551s was the quickest since Kimi Raikkonen in 2005 (1m14.384s).

Hamilton led every lap of a race for the 11th time in his career, moving to joint-fourth on the all-time list alongside Schumacher and Jackie Stewart. He also achieved his best lead of the year, 19.783 seconds, after triumphing by just three and six seconds in Spain and China. It was also the biggest difference between Hamilton and another driver since the 2015 Italian Grand Prix (Vettel, 25.042s behind), 36 races ago.

He completed the ‘grand slam’ of having the pole, win, fastest lap and leading every lap for the second time this year, and fourth time overall. Hamilton is the first driver to do this twice in a season since Nico Rosberg in Russia and Baku in 2016.

Important Drive?

Although just seven races have passed in 2017, Vettel will already be thinking about the long game.

The German finished just fourth after being forced to make two stops because of front wing damage, ending his run of six podiums. It was his 12th consecutive top-five finish, continuing the second-best streak of his career (19, 2010 Brazilian – 2011 Indian Grands Prix).

Vettel made one of the overtakes of the year at the left-handed first turn on Esteban Ocon on lap 66 after six laps behind the Force India driver.

Ocon was stuck behind teammate Sergio Perez, moving to his right while Vettel attacked the left. It was incredible that Vettel managed to stay away from contact by expertly braking, while Ocon was forced to run out of track and go across the run-off. This lost Ocon momentum and allowed Vettel into fifth before attacking Perez on Lap 69.

Stroll’s Breakthrough

During 2017, the story has always been that Williams has relied on Felipe Massa for points.

For the first time in Canada, Lance Stroll led the team when Massa’s race ended after just one lap through a crash with Carlos Sainz.

Stroll made many confident overtakes throughout the race, not making any errors, before finishing ninth to become the third Canadian to score in F1 after Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve. Canada now has 338 points in the sport.

Williams’s chief technical officer Paddy Lowe believed Stroll’s result was one of the team’s best of the year, especially after Stroll started with three straight DNFs.

“It’s a great story,” Lowe said. “Given the difficult start Lance has had to his F1 career, this feels like a race win to us. It was an incredible drive. I think this result will boost his confidence going forward and will give him some real momentum.”

F1’s next round, the first official Azerbaijan Grand Prix, could produce anything with no current drivers winning at Baku in the past, and the circuit where Hamilton had one of his ‘off days’ in 2016.

EMAIL CAMERON AT @cpatersonf1@gmail.com

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Cameron Paterson

Cameron Paterson has been a watcher of Formula 1 since 2007, a casual television watch evolved to watching and reading anything related to something with wheels and an engine. A fan of writing, it was a no-brainer about what to do to try and get into motorsport, consistently discussing things about this great sport since 2016.