Scuderia admit risks need to be taken in Montreal, it’s looking good for Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc’s season is becoming a fast track of learning experiences
Mercedes team spirits
Mercedes came within a whisker of losing a win that was in their hands in Monaco. Having put Lewis Hamilton on the medium tyres, the team principal, Toto Wolff, admitted the British driver had saved their race in bringing his car home and preventing Max Verstappen having a chance to pass. It was welcome for giving the race a tense climax that would otherwise have been lacking. Hamilton was vocal about his concerns throughout, which have been criticised but are the understandable complaining of a driver in a pressure situation he could do nothing about. But perhaps what was most telling was just what type of team Mercedes are, as illustrated afterwards. The chief strategist, James Vowles, said with wry humour he hoped for a hug from Hamilton after the race. Hamilton duly burst into the engineers’ room and proceeded to spray Vowles with champagne. “That’s for fucking giving me medium fucking tyres for 68 laps,” he said, laughing, before they did indeed hug. Mercedes is an exceptionally efficient machine but one clearly functioning with very human relationships.
Ferrari at pressure point
The team principal, Mattia Binotto, insisted that while he did not expect a major step forward for the Scuderia at the next round in Canada, he was optimistic that his team could still fight for the championship even if they are defeated in Montreal by Mercedes, for the seventh time this season. He and Sebastian Vettel continue to talk up their chances but their qualifying blunder with Charles Leclerc suggested a harsher reality. Their miscalculation was an operational mistake but it had been prompted by their desire to save a set of tyres, as Binotto admitted because they now had to take chances to catch Mercedes. “We are facing a situation where we need to catch up points in the championship,” he said. “We need to catch up compared to our competitors and when you need to catch up you need to take some risks as well.” Such measures in round six suggest they know the title is already gone.
Verstappen makes the show
Poor old Max Verstappen will likely still be attracting the Mad Max tag when he is long into his dotage. He caught some flak again for his move against Hamilton as he tried to dart down the inside on braking at the entry to the Nouvelle Chicane. The pair touched briefly and Hamilton crossed the chicane in order to avoid turning in to the Dutchman. The stewards adjudged it a racing incident. Verstappen had given the race its tense finale by putting his Red Bull all over the back of Hamilton, probing and looking for a chance to pass at every opportunity. With two laps to go and a five-second penalty hanging over him, he simply had to try if he was to salvage something. He did it at the only place it was really possible and it was by no means an ill-thought lunge, he built to it and made a racing move. At Monaco, of all places, he should be applauded for at least having a go. The race and F1 itself would be poorer without that attitude.
Sainz and McLaren majestic in midfield
A home grand prix Charles Leclerc will doubtless want to forget in quick time will count at least as another moment in what is proving to be a barrage of difficult learning experiences the 21-year-old has dealt with this season. Alongside the pressure of driving for Ferrari, he has seen their car go almost inexplicably from the front of the field to an also-ran; a win snatched away with a mechanical failure in Bahrain; had a string of team orders go against him; was on the receiving end of Ferrari’s qualifying mistake and then in the race, determined to try and claw back a result, was harshly reminded that qualifying is so key at Monaco because coming back is almost always costly. He made a superb pass on Norris at the Loews hairpin, just pulled off another on Romain Grosjean at Rascasse and then was too optimistic on Nico Hulkenberg at the same corner the following lap, and that put him out of the race. He is an exceptional talent and will bounce back but if this keeps up he will end the year feeling as if he has completed three seasons in one.