Monaco could not have been much worse for Max Verstappen, he finished in the wall three times in Monte Carlo, the third, in the race, ending his afternoon.
1) Max bounces back
Worse still that final crash was virtually identical to his first, suggesting he was failing to learn from his mistakes. It had been a sobering weekend after the elation of a debut F1 win in the previous round in Spain, and in Montreal the Mercedes’ executive director, Toto Wolff, stirred things further. “Max Verstappen acts more like a teenager. In the car he’s extremely good but, when you interact with him, he’s a kid,” he said. Already doubtless banned from a night on the cider, hanging around outside the chippy trying to impress girls with the moves on his BMX after Monaco, this will have stung. His reaction was a drive of exceptional maturity to hold off the charging Nico Rosberg at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Verstappen defended fourth from Rosberg for several laps toward the end of the race with all the skill of a seasoned pro and was so successful that eventually a frustrated Rosberg was forced into a spin. “Monaco was a tough weekend for him,” said Red Bull’s team principal, Christian Horner. “But the way he has bounced back here, the confidence he has had, throwing the car around, was great. It was a pretty mature drive for somebody that Mr Wolff said was not quite as mature as he thought. He looked pretty mature to me when he was fending off his very experienced driver.”
2) Sebastian – the bird man
Lewis Hamilton’s relationship with his team-mate, Nico Rosberg, will not have improved after they touched at turn one, indeed a “pissed off” Rosberg left the track without doing his usual press briefing. Seeing his championship lead almost disappear in the space of two races will not have helped. But a frosty atmosphere between team-mates is nothing new, especially when there is a world championship at stake. However, in contrast, Hamilton’s relationship with Sebastian Vettel seems to be reaching new heights of mutual appreciation. Vettel had explained in the post-race press conference how he had swerved to avoid two lackadaisical and one assumes, deaf, seagulls that had settled on the track. “There were two seagulls. I think it was a couple that wanted to commit suicide. They were at the apex of turn one. I didn’t want that couple to say goodbye for good, but by the time Lewis came around they just flew off. It wasn’t fair! I brake for animals, Lewis doesn’t,” he said to his and Hamilton’s amusement. He went on to interrupt jocularly a TV interview the world champion was conducting to bring up the seagulls again and the pair turned on a double act like old pals. “I’m like Dr Doolittle, I told them to be there and they were there,” Hamilton rejoined. Seeing the pair taking genuine enjoyment in one another’s company was a pleasure, if one at least partly prompted by the fact that Vettel is, as yet, still not a real threat to Hamilton’s title.
3) Real pace revealed
But Vettel might yet make a challenge. As Hamilton pointed out after his win, there is still a long way to go this season – 14 more meetings. Ferrari’s step forward in power was obvious in Canada. The new turbo they had brought to the race put them just under 0.178 seconds off in qualifying compared with five-tenths last year and they were closer in race-pace. But equally encouraging for the chances of a proper fight at the front were the steps Red Bull have made with their Renault engine. In 2015 they finished a lap down from the leaders in Montreal. Yet this year they already have one win and but for the pit stop mistake in Monaco would almost certainly have two. A full one and half seconds off the qualifying pace last year they were within three-tenths last weekend. Indeed, the improvement was plain to see in Verstappen’s defence against Rosberg. “In previous years Rosberg would have gone past no matter which side he picked. So for Max to be able to defend the way he did – he wouldn’t have been able to do that 12 months ago,” said Horner. He expects more as well. After the rancour that surrounded Red Bull’s relationship with their engine manufacturer last year, the future is looking much more positive with Horner confident that personnel and structural changes have made for a very encouraging trajectory. The more of this the merrier and while neither team is there yet, Wolff admits the advances will keep Mercedes on their toes.
4) Williams successful but they still need more.
Valtteri Bottas did a fine job to secure Williams’ first podium finish of the season and, despite Rosberg dropping places at the start, it was well-deserved. The team’s head of performance, Rob Smedley, made it clear before the race that they would not compromise their design philosophy that favours high-speed circuits such as Montreal, to look for performance at the low-speed tracks such as Monaco, where they scored only one point. He accepts that they will pay the price to make gains at the power tracks because it “plays into where we have developed this car and where we will continue to develop it”. It paid off in Canada, as did the team’s bold decision to one-stop Bottas. Having done so they had the pace on track and beat both the Red Bulls to the line as well as Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari. They are a solid fourth in the constructors’ championship, 49 points behind Red Bull and 39 ahead of Force India. Having gone down the high-speed route, they must now make the most of it at the next three races – all of which will favour their design: Azerbaijan, Austria and Silverstone.
5) Hard times for tyres
It appears the exciting new ultrasoft tyre is actually quite dull and not very soft, in cool climes at least. After failing to garner praise at Monaco, Pirelli’s brand new compound for 2016, designed for maximum mechanical grip, continued its rather damp squib performance in Canada. Drivers struggled to switch the rubber on at its debut in Monte Carlo although the wet conditions which cooled the track were not perfect. Then in Canada the same thing happened. The temperatures were low for qualifying and the tyres needed a lap of running before they could be committed to a quick run in qualifying. Lewis Hamilton, who did exactly that on his way to pole, said that “the ultrasoft is not particularly soft for whatever reason, they’re just such hard compounds; it takes us so long to get the temperature into them.”The tyre is designed to run in the race and for that purpose may just have too much durability built in. Nico Rosberg said he believed they should have been built far more towards being a qualifying special – to differentiate them further from the other compounds on offer. The temperature, both here and in Monaco, was certainly playing a part but, with their next outing in Austria where a hot track is not to be guaranteed, it may not be until Singapore where they function at their optimum.
This article was written by Giles Richards, for theguardian.com on Monday 13th June 2016 22.08 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010