Canadian Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton aiming for seventh Montreal win

By Lorraine McKennaBBC Sport
Michael Schumacher win the 2002 Canadian Grand Prix
Between 1994 and 2002 Michael Schumacher was the master of Montreal

Six races down and a familiar face is positioned at the top of the F1 tree.

Lewis Hamilton said his Monaco win, his 77th career victory, was "the hardest race" and "biggest challenge" he's faced so far - although whether there was a little divine intervention at play is still up for debate.

With back-to-back race wins and four victories this season, Hamilton now has a 17-point lead over Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the World Championship.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said the Briton's driving "saved" the team after a medium compound nightmare left him under siege from Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

The Dutchman now seems the most likely driver to challenge the Silver Arrows' dominance following his aggressive performance in Monte Carlo.

Despite dropping from second to fourth due to a five-second time penalty (and receiving two points on his licence), Red Bull team boss Christian Horner feels Verstappen is a "phenomenal force" in the car this year.

The law of averages suggests Ferrari are due a grand prix free of incidents after Monaco served up yet more drama and head-scratching strategy.

A triumphant homecoming was dashed as early as Q1 on Saturday for Charles Leclerc when the Monegasque driver was ironically given the boot by his own team-mate Sebastian Vettel.

The 21-year-old showed his prowess for courageous racing come Sunday but, in the end, Leclerc's dogged determination resulted in a first retirement for Ferrari.

Lucky number seven

Situated on the man-made Notre Dame Island and originally built for the 1967 World's Expo Fair, the site was turned into a race track following the 1976 Montreal Olympics Games.

After the tight restrictions of Monaco, drivers can embrace the high-speed straights and snaking corners on this mix of semi-permanent course and street circuit.

However, beware of the exit of Turn 14 - the so-called "wall of champions" - where Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve all crashed at the same spot in 1999.

Mercedes head to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve as firm favourites. The consecutive one-twos may have been curtailed in Monte Carlo, but the successive wins shared between Hamilton and Bottas keep stacking up at an alarming rate.

Hamilton can match Schumacher's tally of seven victories in Canada if he can secure another chequered flag this weekend.

Twelve months ago, Hamilton was on for making history by becoming the first driver to score four consecutive pole positions and - if converted - race wins in Montreal.

Fate didn't get the memo on this occasion and it was Ferrari's Vettel who dominated the weekend with a victory from pole position. Hamilton finished-up in fifth place after struggling with engine temperatures.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto is cautiously optimistic the Scuderia can improve on recent performances this weekend.

"I think we will be in better shape [in Canada] compared to Barcelona," Binotto said.

"The best car is still the Mercedes and should be ahead - but maybe the gap will close."

A sure way of narrowing that gap would be the heavens opening. Gilles Villeneuve still holds the record for the longest race in F1 history at four hours and four minutes because of a heavy downpour in 2011.

McLaren's Lando Norris has already posted his wishes on social media. "Another new track for me this weekend," he tweeted. "I've ran plenty of laps of Montreal on the sim and it's one I've always liked but a bit of rain wouldn't go amiss."

Early weather forecasts for the weekend? Sunny with a gentle breeze, Friday through Sunday. Never mind.

Two seagulls sit on the track as Sebastian Vettel drives by at the Canadian Grand Prix in 2016
Forget team strategy, Ferrari need to look sharp for rogue wildlife. Sebastian Vettel was undone by two pesky seagulls in Montreal in 2016. "By the time Lewis came around, they just flew off. Wasn't fair. I brake for animals, Lewis doesn't," Vettel quipped.

'Please hands and feet...still work'

Nico Rosberg has gone from 2016 world champion to F1 podcaster extraordinaire.

For his Beyond Victory podcast and YouTube series, Rosberg sat down down for an in-depth chat with former Red Bull and now Renault man Daniel Ricciardo.

Among the many topics covered, the two drivers discussed what it is like to win your first grand prix?

The Australian was podium topper in a thriller at the Canadian Grand Prix in 2014, passing Rosberg's struggling Mercedes with two laps to go.

"The race was crazy," Ricciardo says in the interview. "Winning's winning, but to win a race that's eventful and that does get remembered, that's also quite cool."

Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo at the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix
"You dream about it as a kid," Canada was the first of seven victories Daniel Ricciardo (right) has celebrated in his F1 career

Ricciardo had started sixth on the grid but an incident-packed affair saw his Red Bull suddenly in the mix with race leader Rosberg on lap 68.

"Passing a Mercedes down a straight... that was pretty rare; far and few between," Ricciardo jokes.

"I passed you [Rosberg] on the DRS straight before the last chicane, and I think because I had such a run and the DRS was on, I braked quite late into the chicane.

"I remember literally losing the rear into the chicane and thinking: 'Oh my gosh, could you imagine if I put it into the wall going for the lead?'

"I told myself: 'Please hands and feet, still work.' I was worried in a way I'd forget upshifting and my hands would just freeze.

"I believed I could do it, but I had a fear maybe I would just disintegrate under the pressure of winning my first race."


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