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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.

Redemption for Maldonado - Mixed up Montreal grid puts limelight on the midfield


It may not have been the best race of the season so far but with Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel chasing through the field after mechanical gremlins on Saturday and others out of position compared to their race pace, there was still plenty of action and incident. Montreal proved why it is a favourite on the F1 calendar with good overtaking and close racing. And with a mixed up grid, it gave a few of the drivers who haven’t had the best of starts to 2015 a chance to shine.

Finally it all comes together for Pastor

Pastor Maldonado, Lotus F1 Team: Started 6th, Finished 7th

It’s fair to say that 2015 hasn’t been Pastor Maldonado’s year. While team officials admit the cashflow that he brings to Lotus is starting to be outweighed by his errors on track, he has had rotten luck with unreliability so far this season. Much of the time when he has been on track, he has been fast. Finally it all came together for Maldonado in Canada.

A strong drive from Maldonado as his machinery finally allowed him to show his pace
Credit: Lotus F1 Team

The Montreal circuit was always going to favour the Lotus with long straights and little need for aero. Both cars were consistently in the top ten throughout the weekend. Both cruised into Q3 for the first time since Australia, Maldonado making the top ten cut by four tenths of a second. In the final session, however, came issues as a communications breakdown meant both drivers were released from their garage at the same time and raced down the pitlane to get out first. The confusion and far from ideal preparation for their final lap in Q3 cost a shot at the second row; though locking out the third row was a welcome return to form for the team.

Maldonado ran eighth in the first stint having lost out to a great overtaking manoeuvre by Nico Hülkenberg around the outside of turn three on the opening lap. The Venezuelan chose to change strategy and gain from the undercut, pitting on lap 17, leaving himself on a two stop strategy or a very long stint on the soft tyres. By the time the pit stops worked out, Maldonado was back in eighth until Sebastian Vettel made his second stop (after an even earlier first stop on lap 7). Thus began a stint-long battle with teammate Romain Grosjean. The Venezuelan hounded the Frenchman for 20 laps until an error came. Grosjean pulled in to take the racing line for the final chicane having not fully cleared the Marussia of Will Stevens, puncturing his left rear tyre and forcing a late dive into the pitlane.

A strong drive from Pastor Maldonado as his machinery finally allowed him to show his pace

That left Maldonado in fifth place but with Sebastian Vettel bearing down on him, five seconds behind on fresher tyres in a quicker car, with Felipe Massa also not far behind. Having run on his set of soft tyres for 38 laps already, Pastor couldn’t do much to prevent the Ferrari from coming past and Massa followed suit with six laps to go but it was still a strong drive from Pastor Maldonado as his machinery finally allowed him to show his pace and be rewarded with his his best finish since the 2012 Abu Dhabi GP and points for the first time since Austin last year.

Bottas saves day for Williams

Valtteri Bottas, Williams Martini Racing: Started 4th, Finished 3rd

The Finn is fantastic at defensive driving

After a dire Monaco GP for Williams, the Grove squad were desperate for a strong result on a track that suited their car well. Luck didn’t look on their side when Felipe Massa was knocked out in Q1 having lost power before being able to post a competitive time. On the other side of the garage, there were smiles as Bottas secured fourth place, beating the Lotuses and finishing less than a tenth of a second behind compatriot Kimi Räikkönen in the Ferrari.

Bottas ran a good pace in the first stint having maintained fourth at the start. He kept Räikkönen in his sights and preserved his super-soft tyres well. When Bottas came in, he knew that it was time to push in clean air. But when Räikkönen spun at the hairpin his lead evaporated. Williams reacted and pitted Bottas immediately, knowing the Finn is fantastic at defensive driving and could hold a Ferrari back if he had track position (having already done so in Bahrain and Barcelona).

After Bottas had withstood all Räikkönen could throw at him, Ferrari were forced to change strategy and pit the ‘Iceman’ with 30 laps to go to see if fresh tyres could make the difference. But Bottas stood firm and in the end despite Kimi setting comfortably the fastest lap of the race, he never got within five seconds of his fellow Finn, leaving Valtteri Bottas to claim the first non-Mercedes or Ferrari podium of the year and give his team a much needed boost.

Good drives thwarted by unreliability prevents Merry Merhi

Roberto Merhi, Manor Marussia F1 Team: Started 20th, Retired

It is very hard to judge the performance of Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens, even harder now that we can’t even compare the Marussias to the Caterhams. Are they both driving at the limit of the car or are they part of the problem? Over the last couple of races, Roberto Merhi has closed the gap to his teammate. Once both cars were running, Stevens held the edge within the team but Monaco started to show that the Spaniard was at least as quick. He outqualified Stevens for the first time in Canada by a mere two hundredths of a second (albeit over a second behind the next car, and over two seconds behind the next slowest ‘healthy car).

A great in-lap by Merhi helped him come out in front of Stevens

Qualifying 16th and 17th set the pair up for a racelong duel, briefly interrupted by Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel after early trips through the pitlane, as well as cars lapping the backmarkers.

The two Marussias were never more than a second apart on the track until both hit trouble. Merhi held the advantage for the first six laps until Stevens got through as the pair jumped Sebastian Vettel. And the Spaniard harried his British teammate for the rest of the first stint, when they weren’t coasting to allow faster cars through, before a great in-lap by Merhi helped him come out in front of Stevens who had already stopped. The battle continued at close quarters for another 13 laps until Grosjean broke the Brit’s front wing while lapping him before Merhi was forced to retire with 13 laps to go, leaving Roberto with no reward for a great drive.

Hülkenberg back on song

Nico Hülkenberg, Sahara Force India F1 Team: Started 7th, Finished 8th

Before jetting off to Northern France for the second of two drives for Porsche at Le Mans, Nico Hülkenberg was back to his best with a solid drive to eighth for his best result since Melbourne. After qualifying a magnificent seventh, comfortably ahead of the Red Bulls and teammate Sergio Pérez, Hükenberg put himself in a great position to score points with a fantastic move on Pastor Maldonado at the first chicane on turn one.

He lost out to Maldonado performing the undercut at the stops, but put up a good fight against Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel as the pair came through the field, eventually being forced into a spin when Vettel left him with no room at the chicane. Once Felipe Massa got through as a result of his spin, Hülkenberg was left to manage the gap to Daniil Kvyat, Romain Grosjean and teammate Sergio Pérez behind, eventually finishing eight seconds ahead of the chasing pack and 30 seconds ahead of Pérez.

Hülkenberg qualified a magnificent seventh, comfortably ahead of the Red Bulls and his teammate
Credit: Sahara Force India