‘Perfect storm’ a recipe for F1 despair
FIRST of all congratulations to Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel on a dominant and well deserved victory from pole position.
Together they totally owned the 2018 Canadian GP. In fact, it was so impressive they waved the chequered flag twice to underline the point.
There's no denying that it wasn't a great race, especially when the fastest lap of the race is suddenly uncorked by Daniel Ricciardo on the final lap, and then excluded from the record books because the rules state that if the flag is shown early the race finished at the end of the last complete lap. So it was a 68-lap race and Max Verstappen adds a fastest lap to his league table instead.
It was all rather dangerous actually as some drivers began to slow down after the false chequered flag while others in the know were still going for it. I interviewed model Winnie Harlow on the grid and she conceded that she wasn't big into F1, just Lewis (Hamilton). She was nonetheless chosen to wave the flag but it transpires it wasn't her fault that it was a lap early.
As race victor Vettel said afterwards every sport suffers the occasional disappointing event and I was reminded on Sunday night of the maxim of the great Alain Prost: "My job is to win the race at the slowest speed possible." Albeit in rather more fragile cars.
It wasn't as if the weekend didn't throw up some intriguing talking points and positives. It seems that at every race we arrive there's no clear way of identifying the likely winner. After Hamilton in Spain and Daniel Ricciardo in Monaco, this was the third race in a row in which we've had a different dominant star performer from three different teams.
Even if Red Bull remain the outsiders, I still think that all six drivers are in with a shout of winning the championship year and it's whoever gets their car dialled in and makes the fewest mistakes who will win it.
The problem comes sometimes when we have a perfect storm of evenly matched drivers, who make very few mistakes, driving reliable cars, meaning the reality is that unless there's a crash, inclement weather or an untimely Safety Car deployment the races can be uninspiring.
Whenever the FIA introduce an extra DRS zone - as they did this weekend - my heart sinks because, firstly, it's a necessary but fake sticking-plaster, and secondly, it's a giveaway that someone privy to a lot of critical data has done the calculation that there isn't likely to be a lot of overtaking.
It annoys me whenever the drivers suddenly pull out their fastest laps at the end of a race. If they had all that grip and speed, why haven't they been using it? The drivers should be crossing the line with nothing left - no brakes, no tyres, no fuel, and get out of the car saying, "Give me five minutes, I need to recover first."
In fact, Seb Vettel sounded like he was calling in from a Zen retreat when he radioed Ferrari about the early flag.
A couple of races ago I was concerned about Ferrari, they appeared to be slipping back from Mercedes and apparently had the FIA on their case for all manner of things. But Vettel now leads the championship again and Ferrari are right back in the constructors' fight. It's a good reminder for all of us of how car development works. We hear plenty going into race weekends about engine upgrades and new parts etc, but if a team can find three or four things that are worth half a tenth each then that adds up to two tenths of a second - and a dominant race. All these tiny little incremental improvements make the difference, but thankfully if they are outlawed it's not a big step back either.
Ferrari have to be concerned about Kimi. l know he's one of the most popular drivers around, but after another mistake in qualifying he finished nearly 30 seconds behind his teammate on Sunday. What are they going to do? In my view Kimi has reached the end of the road. He still shows a flash of real speed from time to time but he can't relentlessly deliver the required race pace any more.
Nor is he working as an effective rear-gunner to Seb. Winning the constructors' championship is super-important to Ferrari - they don't put the list of their titles on their road car dashboards for fun - and if they want to win it in this era against Red Bull or Mercedes they need a Ricciardo or a Charles Leclerc alongside Vettel next year. And Vettel needs to deal with that.
Leclerc looks the real deal to me. He is out-performing his Sauber car just like Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber did in a Minardi, like Ayrton Senna did in a Toleman and Michael Schumacher in a Jordan. He stands out a mile and really impressed me a month ago in Spain when he didn't wilt with Alonso on his tail.
He clearly has the head for F1, and he just looks like the complete package, even if his picture in the F1 grid graphics make him look like a startled Harry Potter. Ferrari don't often take risks on young drivers but there's a changing of the guard going on between generations - the field can be divided into three groups with the likes of Fernando and Kimi at one end, Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg in the middle ground, and a group of young flyers coming through - and Ferrari don't want to be caught out.
McLaren started the weekend talking about getting two drivers in Q3 but ended it going backwards. Red Bull, Renault and McLaren all have the same engines but on Sunday Red Bull lapped both Renaults while Renault annihilated McLaren. There's no dressing that up.
What do they do now? A bit like with Williams, it's all very good firing people but you need to have someone fresh who understands the problem to find a way out of it, which can take a year or two. This is a really challenging moment for both teams.
Something dramatic needs to happen at Williams. They should have joined forces with Honda when they had the chance. It pains me to see their plight right now, just as with McLaren. Alonso is a great bluffer but all my instincts at the moment are that he is heading out of F1 at the end of the year. When I interviewed him in Monaco he was down and exasperated with his F1 chances. I didn't see anything different in Montreal.
Next stop for me is Le Mans, where Alonso will be aiming to complete the second leg of the "triple crown", and I'll be getting scared and sweaty with my teammate Sir Chris Hoy in an Aston Martin race before the big event starts on Saturday.
After that, it's the first leg of F1's first-ever triple header and the return of the French GP to the calendar.