Lewis Hamilton wins the 2016 Canadian Grand Prix. Image courtesy of Daimler Global Media

2016 FIA Formula One Canadian Grand Prix: What is it with Lewis Hamilton and Tires?

Lewis Hamilton pitted once at Lap 24 then smoked the field at the 2016 Canadian Grand Prix.  After almost blowing yet another start, jerking too close to teammate Nico Rosberg, he trailed Ferrari Scuderia’s Sebastian Vettel for a few laps.  Then, armed with new rubber, he went a stunning 46 laps on supersofts for the victory.  Upon victory, Hamilton honored the legacy of the late Muhammad Ali with some “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” footwork.

The brutality of the win was as breathtaking as his driving.  Hamilton is changing the way teams must think about tire strategy.  You kept watching and waiting for something to happen, and he kept driving.  And driving.  And winning.  Lewis is thumbing his nose at the competition, pushing his car past what the “crowd” thinks should be done. I’m sure Rosberg, Vettel and the like would love to drive an entire race on a set of tires.  Hamilton is trying, and coming damn close to it.  And if they can’t keep up,I’m sure they won’t enjoy looking at his back end.

On the first lap, Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari shot the gap created by Hamilton’s lunge to the right.  He was comfortably ahead of Hamilton for awhile, pitted on Lap 11, ceding the lead to Lewis.  At that point, it was over.  Seb spent the rest of the race trying to get past a man whose tires should have shredded around him.

But they didn’t.

Hamilton’s victory, second in a row, leaves him just 9 points behind Nico Rosberg. Vettel’s P2 was Ferrari’s best finish in 2016.  The finish leaves him in third place for the Driver’s Championship, behind Hamilton then Rosberg.  Ferrari remains in second place in the Constructor’s Cup, which goes to the best team.

Valeri Bottas of Williams took P3, claiming his and Williams’ first podium for the year.  The finish puts him in 7th place for the Championship, and the team in 4th place for the Constructors Cup.

And what of Nico Rosberg?  The pendulum of technical gremlins and bad luck is swinging back his way.  First came the near miss with Hamilton in the first lap.  Then came a bevy of sensor warnings caused by road debris.  Then he developed a slow tire leak.  Once he got past all of that, he struggled in a fight to get past Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.  The 17-year old gave no ground to Rosberg.  Once Nico made his pass, he locked up his brakes, spinning and sliding as Verstappen drove right by.  Rosberg managed to recover and take P5, but it was uuuuuu-gly.  This Saturday’s race in Baku leaves a virtual head-to-head with Hamilton for the season lead.

Following are comments from drivers and teams:

AMG Petronas

Lewis Hamilton

I don’t know what happened at the start. My practice start before the formation lap was perfect and I thought “this is going to be a breeze, getting off the line”. But when it came around for real it felt like I was going nowhere, so I need to figure out what happened there. I then got massive understeer into Turn One with cars attacking from all sides and had an unfortunate tap with Nico. After that it was just about trying to hunt down Sebastian. He was lightning on the first lap and we both had good pace from there. Other than one small lockup into Turn 10 I didn’t make any mistakes all race, so I was really happy with that. It was very much about managing tyres today and the team were spot on with the strategy call. I really enjoyed the race – everything went unbelievably smoothly. Every time Sebastian closed up I just had enough to keep the gap. I was just so in the groove. Over the last 10-15 laps all I could think of was Muhammad Ali – float like a butterfly, sting like a bee – because it really felt like I was floating. For me, and everyone I’m sure, he was such an inspirational figure, so that one was for him. I won my first ever race here in 2007 and this feels just as great. It’s such a blessing. Thanks to everyone who came out today. We come here every year and have the best week.

Nico Rosberg

Today’s race was really tough. Starting at the beginning, Lewis had a bad start, mine was decent and Sebastian got a super start. So, I was alongside Lewis and tried around the outside. I had to try the move or accept I’d be behind him. In Barcelona it worked but this time it didn’t. It was a hard maneuver from him but that’s racing and I need to do a better job next time. I lost a lot of places going down the escape road and that cost me a shot at the race. From there I did my best to fight back and I there was a chance of a podium – but then I got the puncture and had to pit again – dammit! I was pushing hard after that to regain the positions but it was a massive mission managing the car with brake warnings coming on and running low on fuel. It was a good battle with Max – again, on the limit but good racing. I tried everything to get past him and had a massive spin at the end. On that final lap I just about managed to drag it round for P5 ahead of Kimi, so a disappointing result as our car was awesome today but that’s how it goes sometimes. I’ve got two days at home now to get ready and go for it again in Baku.

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes Benz Motorsport

That was a fantastic, action-packed race like we expect in Montreal – and a sensational drive from Lewis to take the win. As we went into today’s race, it wasn’t clear whether one stop or two stops would be the way to go in the cold conditions and depending on how the tyres warmed up. But when Sebastian stopped behind the VSC, then it was clear that making just one stop was our best chance of winning – and then it was up to Lewis to keep the tyres alive, stretch the stints and do the pace we needed. He did a brilliant job of that and, when we could see from other cars on older soft tyres that they were holding on well, it was clear that the win was really on. As for Nico, his day was defined by Turn One and the fight-back from there. Lewis reported on the radio that he had understeer and cold front tyres going into the corner – and there was some risk for Nico to be running on the outside line. It was a hard move and clearly you don’t want or expect to come out of Turn 2 with cars in 2nd and 9th positions when you start from the front row; but to be honest, these discussions after each race give me a feeling a little bit of deja vu. After that, Nico got his head down and did a fantastic job; he was on course for the podium before he suffered a slow puncture, which meant we brought him in for a second stop, then he was managing the car and also marginal on fuel, so he couldn’t attack every lap. He had a great battle with Verstappen, who was defending very well, then lost the car under braking into the final chicane, fighting hard for every point. From the team’s perspective, a number of factors meant we didn’t take a double podium, though we did score the most points of any team today. But the pace of Ferrari and Red Bull showed that the competition is right there with us – and we need to get everything right in order to maintain our position at the front.

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

An eventful and entertaining race from start to finish. It was far from the perfect start, of course. We knew it was going to be tricky with such cold conditions, as it’s difficult enough to warm the tyres up at this circuit even on a hot day. Sebastian, however, had an outstanding start, coming straight past both of our drivers well before they ran out of road at turn two. From there, it was very much a recovery drive for us. We opted to put both cars on a one stop strategy once both Ferraris appeared to have committed very early to a two stop. This worked well and played a big part in the victory for Lewis. For Nico, however, a late puncture forced a second stop. It looks like he also collected some debris in one of his radiators, as he had overheating throughout the race. While this may not necessarily have affected his performance, it would have been quite a big distraction to manage. A podium was a possibility for him today – but unfortunately it didn’t work out. Our congratulations to Lewis for yet another Canadian grand prix victory – and also to the team in the garage and on the pit wall, who were flawless in their pit stops and strategy calls.



Scuderia Ferarri

Sebastian Vettel

The car felt ok today, but it was quite nervous, which is normal around this track with all the curbs and the bumps. But overall it was a good day, all the things we brought seem to work, even if I am not yet entirely happy. But then show me one driver that is entirely happy with the car on Friday…you always have the feeling you can improve.

Kimi Raikkonen

It was not an easy day, one of those days when you keep making changes and nothing seems to work exactly as you hoped. We struggled to make the car handling better but we did not manage to do it. It’s difficult to talk about the updates in the car, we are in a different place and in different conditions, but as I said before we wouldn’t use new parts if they didn’t improve the car. Today we tried many different things, now we have to go through them, analyse all data and pick the right things for tomorrow.

 

Williams Racing

Valeri Bottas

“I’m really pleased with today,” Bottas commented.  As a team it was a really strong race for us; we had a really good strategy and a really good pit-stop, where the timing and everything was perfect, and the car felt really good to drive.  I felt I was pretty on it today, so it’s great to be here [on the podium].  I really want to thank Williams, everyone made an amazing job.” Bottas hopes that more podiums will follow for Williams in future races. “It’s difficult to say, it’s going to always depend a little bit on the track,” he said. “For the next few races this gives us a lot of confidence. We are a good team and we can do good results, so there’s no reason why we cannot be on the podium again this year.  “I’m really happy for us as a team. It’s a big boost – we need it.”

 

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Sebastian James

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