There is this unsettling, overpowering sense of a feeling when you stare down the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
70 laps, 305.2 kilometres, a capricious challenge at racing next to the wall of the champions and, the start-finish line saluting a true hero of the sport- Gilles Villeneuve: you want to put nothing else but your very best at the home to the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, a track that’s so often seen exultation of indomitable names in the past.
The scintillating prospect of racing at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
The heartbeat can skip a bit given the dicey challenge to navigate and crisscross at lightning fast speeds at longer straights and trickier, slower bends with the task to maintain stability at the tantalising chicane at Turn Ten.
Such onerous can be the challenge of ruling at the Canadian Grand Prix that only the best among the best have managed to secure an aerial view from P1 at the podium. Little surprise then that a certain Lewis Hamilton, with 6 race wins, sits atop at Canada akin to an emperor overseeing his pupil.
Can Hamilton’s superior show be halted by Ferrari?
But how can there not be any twists and turns to a promising, dominant narrative? And one wonders, whether Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has managed to render the first dent to Hamilton’s unperturbable supremacy here in the 70-lap contest, where cars fly at maximum speeds of 320 ks/hr.
In the final lap drama, often the picturesque plaque that unfolds unto something stronger, smouldering on Sunday’s at Montreal, Vettel put his Ferrari on top, right ahead of second-placed Valtteri Bottas and, the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, the blue-liveried car, bisecting the two Mercedes.
How the final session of qualifying panned out
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel edged Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by a margin as thin as 0.093 seconds as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen sneaked ahead of Hamilton with his final lap. But even as the front row stays true to the hitherto 2018 racing narrative, indicating a three-way fight to the world championship, one cannot rule out Lewis Hamilton’s chances.
When you run past the math associated with the Canadian Grand Prix you understand why it imposes the will of the most consistent.
Through sheer weight of performances here at the Canadian Grand Prix, yet another track quite like the Silverstone where Hamilton’s enjoyed an iron-fisted prominence, on three occasions in the past the Briton has gone on to win from pole position. No other driver in the history of Formula 1 has feathered such a remarkable stint at Montreal akin to Hamilton, who completed a hat-trick of wins starting 2015-17.
Could the Canadian Grand Prix be called Hamilton’s second home?
Against this narrative, does then Sebastian Vettel’s clinching of the pole render a slight twist to a Lewis Hamilton-dominated saga? Ferrari, whose Kimi Raikkonen ran over to the grass toward the start of the final qualifying session endured a botched up lap, would certainly hope so. One reckons had Raikkonen, whose most favourable Canadian Grand Prix performance came in 2015, where he produced the fastest lap (and no podium places in nearly past five seasons) may have looked strong to clinch the third spot on the grid failed to do any better than occupying a P5.
Meanwhile, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton put his car ahead head of the Finn, sitting right on the tail of Verstappen’s Red Bull that could be expected to lend a narrative of its own in what’s once again clearly a Ferrari versus Mercedes duel at the front of the grid.
Hulk impresses, what’s on for El-Nino?
Meanwhile, further back down the grid, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, in a season marked by vastly-improved races and qualifying sessions secured a fantastic P7, driving home the possibility for a tough fight inside the points as the other Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, for the present moment sits tucked in behind Raikkonen’s Ferrari.
Meanwhile for Spanish fans in particular, what’ll matter most would be a great drive for Fernando Alonso, a titan of the sport slated to drive his 300th Grand Prix. Although on Saturday, all the Spaniard could manage was a lowly P14.
Strategy-wise, the 2018 Canadian Grand Prix could be a classic 2-stop strategy, with a definitive difference expected to be etched from the tyre compound choices. Can Hamilton continue his supremacy running on ultrasofts rather than the hyper-softs?
Will we see the grid-leader at the front maintain an over-cut above others? So far, Vettel, in whose hands now rests the chance to turn around his 14 point gap to Hamilton has declared, the “Car feels incredible”.
Could this, therefore, fetch moments of invincibility for the German driver, whose only triumph at the Canadian Grand Prix came way back in 2013?
For starters, there’ll be optimism since for Sunday’s race, Hamilton is enduring his lowest starting spot since 2011.