Lewis Hamilton wins Canadian Grand Prix

June 9 2019 , 11:04 pm

The extraordinary occurred: Lewis Hamilton crossed the line in second place but won the Canadian Grand Prix – a result that caused Sebastian Vettel to lose the plot.

The Briton took his fifth victory of 2019 after Vettel was punished for pushing him dangerously close to the wall and perdition. The five-second penalty was enough for the Mercedes man to follow the red car home and still claim the time-adjusted triumph.

‘They are stealing the race from us,’ complained Vettel, steam coming out of his helmet. ‘No, no, no, not like that. Seriously, you need to be a blind man to think you can go through the grass and control your car.

‘We are lucky I did not hit the wall. Where was I allowed to go? This is the wrong world.’

That is one way to describe it and many observers here in the paddock agreed with him. But at the root of it all is this truth: Vettel made yet another mistake. While leading. On a dry track. If he hadn’t erred, it would not have mattered what the stewards thought.

Vettel’s fury lingered. He theatrically moved around the boards next to the cars in parc ferme, taking the first-place marker from in front of Hamilton’s machine and swapping it with the second-place one that would have been in front of his Ferrari had he not parked elsewhere.

He then planted a foot on the top step of the podium as the ceremonials began. Sections of the crowd, most of whose affections lay with Ferrari, booed Hamilton. This is how the controversy unfolded…

The grand prix simmered slowly in the heat next to the Olympic rowing lake before it suddenly came alive as Hamilton was right on the German’s tail 48 laps in.

Vettel, who had started on pole, flinched under attack and ran off on to the grass at the third turn. Hamilton was ready to barrel through for the lead at the following corner but the Ferrari man veered over to shut the gap. The Brit had to pull out of the move.

Back in the Mercedes garage, team principal Toto Wolff threw his hands into the air in exasperation at what he perceived to be a dubious move. Hamilton said: ‘He just came on the track. So dangerous.’ The stewards opened an investigation, while several minds turned to Adelaide 1994 and Michael Schumacher versus Damon Hill in their fight for the title.

It was a mistake by the German that day which prompted him to overcompensate by shuffling over to thwart Hill. Schumacher escaped with the title, but with his reputation compromised by the unbending nature of his driving.

Vettel insisted his innocence as soon as news of the punishment reached his ears. ‘I didn’t see him,’ he insisted. ‘Seriously, I had nowhere to go.’

His complaints were just beginning, mind. He missed the initial post-race interview with Martin Brundle before later showing up and then walking off prematurely again. He did, however, stay in front of the microphone long enough to ask fans to stop booing Hamilton, who was hardly responsible for the decision, as they both pointed out.

I find it hard to accept Vettel had no awareness, even in the rapid sequence of events, that he was putting himself in the only place he could to hold on to the lead. Hamilton correctly pointed out that he would have passed Vettel but for the block. Told that his rival had claimed he had nowhere else to go, he said: ‘That is his opinion. When you come back on you are not meant to go straight on the racing line. You are meant to come on safely.’

Vettel has history as a hot-headed miscreant, having steered deliberately into Hamilton at Baku last year, the lowest act of his career and one that provided a sliver of context to yesterday’s far, far less heinous – natural, even – act of lead-preservation.

You would need a heart of stone, though, not to understand the level of Vettel’s desperation to win. He has not achieved the feat since Spa last year, 16 races ago. His sense of being a racing driver itself has been chipped away at cruelly and publicly in the time since, when his form and that of Ferrari have withered as Hamilton and Mercedes have dominated totally.

That barren background is why Vettel had been singing deliriously over the radio when he grabbed pole on Saturday: I can still do this, it was if he was saying, and perhaps Ferrari are not out of this title fight just yet.

And then this latest, sobering error and all the doubts crowded in again. He now trails Hamilton by 62 points with a third of the season down. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished third, with Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s team-mate and closest title rival 29 points back, in fourth.

Yes, a Vettel win was the tonic a Mercedes-murdered season needed. The stewards did not serve that natural desire for a welcome flash of scarlet pushing its nose in to turn a procession into a competition. Nor should they have, really.

The final point that needs to be underlined in all this talk of right and wrong is that without the stewards’ intervention Vettel would have been rewarded for running off track and Hamilton denied victory for applying the race-defining pressure. And where would the justice have been in that?


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