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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Pink panthers on the prowl - Force India impress but did pitwall blow golden podium chance?


As ever, Canada didn’t disappoint. While Lewis Hamilton was dominant at his favourite circuit with a sixth win – though Hungary could equal that record later in the year – there was drama through the pack.

Let’s not forget that on Sunday morning, Hamilton was ready for a fight, he raised his game in qualifying to set a monumental lap time and once Vettel was wounded and Verstappen was halted, the Brit did everything he could to cut Sebastian Vettel’s championship lead. He lapped everyone up to tenth and beat everyone, including Bottas in the same machinery by 20 seconds, leaving us to focus on great drives to secure points.

Ocon establishes himself

Esteban Ocon, Sahara Force India F1 Team: Started 9th, Finished 6th

Ocon showed his maturity and was sensible
Credit: Sahara Force India

The Frenchman made a name for himself as he continued his great run of points to start his Force India career and put Valtteri Bottas on notice. It’s odd to include a driver who followed his teammate home in Class of the Field but were he not behind his teammate in his second stint, he would have finished on the podium.

The Force Indias coasted into Q3, benefitting from a powerful Mercedes drivetrain, boosted by an upgrade, with Ocon consistently within a tenth of his far more experienced teammate. Pérez edged the gap out just over a tenth in Q3 as the men in pink qualified eighth and ninth.

Come Sunday, the pair made a good start as luck was smiling on them, with Sainz narrowly avoiding them and hitting Massa ahead instead. Pérez got past Räikkönen and Vettel was forced to pit early for damage. All that left the pink panthers fifth and seventh and that was before Verstappen’s battery failed!

Then came a turning point. Force India split their strategy in the hope of picking off Ricciardo and Räikkönen in Ocon’s case, pitting Pérez on lap 19 and leaving Ocon out for an extra 13 laps on the ultrasofts he started on. The Frenchman’s pace in clear air on worn tyres was sensational, maintaining and beating Pérez’s pace. Ocon even managed to fend off Bottas on fresh tyres for nearly ten laps before it was time to stop. Despite the Silverstone squad’s strategic efforts, the order remained the same. Ocon passed Räikkönen as the Finn made his second stop and now the battle was on.

For Ocon to show such pace and play the team game is truly impressive

Ocon cruised up behind Pérez but he knew he couldn’t make any risky moves with up to 25 points on offer for the team. As the team ummed and ahhed with Ocon on 13 lap fresher tyres, the chance gradually slipped away for Ocon with Pérez becoming increasingly aggressive in his defence, most notably on lap 65, where he chopped across the Frenchman on the back straight and the move helped Vettel get through into turn one. Ocon showed his maturity and was sensible, knowing he could only go for a sure-fire move against an identical car. Pérez put in a good performance but for Ocon to show such pace and play the team game is truly impressive.

Vettel recovers after early scare

Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Ferrari: Started 2nd, Finished 4th

Vettel deserves a lot of credit for his performance in Canada
Credit: Ferrari Media

Rarely do you give credit to a driver for dropping two places from their grid spot, especially when it more than halves their championship lead. Regardless, Vettel deserves a lot of credit for his performance in Canada. He went toe to toe with Hamilton in a great qualifying session as both drivers raised their game and just couldn’t match Lewis's second unbelievable effort.

He expected to be in a racelong battle with a slight edge over Mercedes until turn one. Verstappen made a lightning start and with Bottas to his inside, Vettel was the jam in a turn one sandwich, breaking his front wing and forcing an excruciatingly early stop on lap five. Having dropped to 18th before the VSC, Vettel jumped 10 cars in 11 laps to move up to 8th by lap 21. Some were through stops but most of it was the pace advantage of the Ferrari blended with Vettel’s determination to rescue a good haul of points.

Passing the rest of the field wouldn’t be nearly as easy without such a pace advantage, as well as an extra stop to make. After breezing past Alonso, Vettel was able to get within a few seconds of Räikkönen and then the Force Indias but with 44 lap old supersofts, it was clear he needed to stop again.

On fresh supersofts Vettel could really get the hammer down, closing a second a lap, sometime more on Ricciardo and the Force Indias. He passed Räikkönen as he had a brake problem in the final corner before setting off to complete his comeback. A daring, nothing to lose move into turn one got Vettel past Ocon on lap 66, when really there were valuable championship points at stake, before passing Pérez for fourth with three laps to go to complete the recovery and earn 12 valuable points.

Smart strategy secures Renault points

Nico Hülkenberg, Renault F1 Team: Started 10th, Finished 8th

With Renault’s power deficit, Montreal didn’t look like it would be a happy hunting ground for Hülkenberg and the Enstone squad. But with a great drive and clever strategy, the German was able to snap up four points for the team. The Hulk had snuck into Q3 by beating the Toro Rossos at the end of Q2 and just about managed to keep up with the Force Indias as he ended up in tenth on the grid. After an early safety car, Renault took a gamble on lap 11 under the virtual safety car, pitting for supersofts in a bid to get a ‘free’ stop. The move dropped them from eighth to 12th and with a mammoth second stint.

Crucially, Hülkenberg came out in from of Vettel and was the first of the drivers who didn’t need to stop again. As expected, the Hulk showed that he can be fast and conservative on tyres. He was quickly up to ninth before losing out to Vettel and Stroll but Hülkenberg had the advantage of less time lost in the pit lane to come. Stroll, Magnussen and Alonso all lost out as they stopped, jumping the German up to eighth, more than could have been expected, albeit a minute behind the winner.

Hulk showed that he can be fast and conservative on tyres
Credit: Renault Sport F1

Alonso’s efforts go up in smoke

Fernando Alonso, McLaren Honda: Started 12th, Retired

Alonso was just a few mere miles from finally getting McLaren’s first point of the season

What more can Alonso do? On a triumphant return after gaining many fans south of the border (following a race in which he succumbed to another Honda engine penalty), the Spaniard starred in qualifying, putting a lacklustre McLaren in 12th despite losing 15 miles per hour down each of Canada’s long straights.

In the race, partly helped by high attrition, Alonso was just a few mere miles from finally getting McLaren’s first point of the season. Then, guess what, his engine went bang, ruining a stunning drive and leaving McLaren and Honda to lick their growing wounds as Alonso considers his immediate future.