This weekend saw Formula One hop over to Montreal for the 2018 Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
With the driver market starting to intensify and some drivers facing fierce criticism, this weekend promised to be a proper test of speed, so what lessons were learned throughout the weekend?
Heading into this weekend, Max Verstappen faced tough criticism from the media over his driving style, culminating in him threatening to “head-butt” the next reporter who questioned his performances.
Well there certainly won’t be any head-butting after his performance this weekend, particularly following a clean sweep in Free Practice before finishing P3 in Qualifying and 0.2s off pole.
When it came to the race, Verstappen’s strategy might of failed to work as expected but he kept his cool and took a solid podium, plus fastest lap to cap off a strong weekend.
If ever needed a solid performance to shut doubters up then Verstappen has done that this weekend, leaving him feeling “very pleased” because “when you feel confident with the car then you can do a good job.”
With Mercedes still running their first engine, Ferrari really needed to make inroads with Sebastian Vettel on a fresh engine if are to seriously mount a title bid despite having a Canada hoodoo hanging over them.
Friday was quite tough despite the Scuderia sandbagging as usual but Saturday saw them hook it together with Vettel taking pole and ending 17 years of qualifying heartache around this circuit.
That didn’t stop the German from being critical in wishing that he ‘could of been even faster’ despite acknowledging that it was a great result for Ferrari.
Although natural that all drivers wish that they had been faster than they were, pole is still a fantastic achievement particularly given Ferrari’s recent record around here so he should be happy with his pole time.
Sunday meanwhile saw him drive the perfect race to claim Ferrari’s first Canadian Grand Prix win since 2004, and control of drivers’ championship from Lewis Hamilton by a point.
This result however could well prove ominous come Abu Dhabi for both team and driver if title fight goes to the wire.
On each of four previous occasions when Ferrari won Canadian Grand Prix this century, they have gone on to win the driver and constructor’s titles in those seasons.
Could this weekend therefore be looked back upon as the defining moment in the respective title battles?
After positive steps forward in Baku and Monaco, you would be forgiven for expecting Williams to have a decent performance here at Lance Stroll’s home race.
Sadly those expectations didn’t materialise in results with both drivers struggling throughout the weekend to get the tyres working.
Head of Performance Engineering, Rob Smedley however found one positive from this weekend in terms of aerodynamics.
Speaking to Williamsf1.com after FP2, Smedley reported that the team had managed to collect plenty of ‘important data which will be fed into the development programme…’ with some pleasing discoveries amongst that data.
Race Day meanwhile showed glimmer of hope with great starts but Lance Stroll’s hopes of impressing his home fans ended when Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley took him out after clattering the barrier near turn 6.
Sirotkin meanwhile endured a “difficult race” and summed up the race by saying that he was “the slowest car of the day”, which shows how badly Williams are struggling with this year’s car.
Chief Technical Officer, Paddy Lowe again has said that the team “have a lot of work to do” and that they “intend to come back stronger as soon as” possible.
This isn’t the first time after a race this season where Lowe or someone at Williams has said stuff along those lines, so we have to wonder just how poor this car is compared to its immediate rivals like Sauber and Toro Rosso.
If there are even any light positives to take from this weekend, it is that Williams are the best when it come to raft racing, after winning the annual Canadian Raft Race held here.
Whilst several teams struggled compared to usual standards, Force India made massive strides forward with their car this weekend.
Both cars were firmly around the top ten from FP2 onwards after Sergio Perez skipped FP1 so Canadian driver, Nicholas Latifi could get some practice with the VJM11.
Latifi’s time might of been slowest out of all to set lap times due to more focus on ‘aero runs’ but his performance did draw praise from Chief Operating Officer, Otmar Szafnauer.
Speaking after Friday’s running, Szafnauer commented on Latifi’s FP1 effort, saying; “Nicholas did a very good job during his first FP1 session with the team and gave helpful feedback, which allowed Sergio to be on the pace straight away in the afternoon despite limited track time.”
Saturday brought another double Q3 appearance for both drivers although Sunday proved to be mixed with Ocon bringing two points home whilst Perez struggled to recover from a clash with Renault’s Carlos Sainz and finished in 14th.
Nevertheless, there has been real progress this weekend for Force India, who should head to France confident of giving Esteban Ocon a solid weekend in front of his home crowd.
Ocon in fact intends to “focus on the positives” as he heads into his home race after a “strong performance by the team this weekend” but feels that they “need to keep pushing.”
Sauber might not be the strongest constructor out there but they have quite a solid youngster in Charles Leclerc, after the Monegasque impressed again in Canada.
Throughout free practice, Leclerc quietly went about his business in Q2 terrority before managing to qualify ahead of both McLarens and extend his Q2 run to four races.
The fact that he had beaten both McLaren cars certainly surprised Leclerc himself let alone anyone else in paddock or watching at home. When speaking to Motorsport.com post qualifying, the 20 year-old found it to be “a bit of a surprise” having expected them “to be on top of the midfield”.
When came to race day and having avoided Hartley and Stroll’s clash, the Ferrari Academy star did a solid job in defending against ex Ferrari driver – Fernando Alonso before going on to clinch a solid point in tenth.
That point moves him within a point of Force India’s Esteban Ocon after seven races, which is brilliant compared to likes of Stoffel Vandoorne, Romain Grosjean and teammate, Marcus Ericsson.
Leclerc definitely has to be in mix for next year’s Ferrari seat alongside Kimi Raikkonen without any doubt.
Missed any of the first six race weekends and want to get up to date? Click on any of the hyperlinks below to go and check out my round up of the weekend/s.