The image of Lewis Hamilton at the end of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix left everyone stunned: that seven-time Formula 1 champion who only last year got up from his Mercedes and celebrated each victory over his car, now came down with difficulty from the W13 and he kept touching the lower back of his spine. The rebound that the car was seen on the streets of Baku was something that he had to deal with, who also finished fourth, and George Russell, who again finished in a better position (in third place on the podium) than his experienced teammate of equipment.
Hours before the Canadian Grand Prix, which begins Friday in Montreal at 1 p.m. with first practice, Mercedes director of strategy James Vowles admitted that the team had taken its configuration direction to the extreme in Baku, pushing “the whole team and our drivers too far” in pursuit of performance.
Lewis Hamilton was heard complaining of back problems on the team radio throughout the course of the race, with the former world champion driving through the pain to finish fourth. Vowles, speaking on the Mercedes YouTube channel, confirmed that the Englishman is now recovered and “will get back in the car in Montreal”before admitting that Mercedes cannot afford to repeat that kind of performance in the future.
“(Lewis) is an elite athlete who will push the limits of his endurance and that of the car” remarked Vowles. “That’s what Formula 1 drivers do, that’s what makes them exceptional. On this occasion, however, we pushed the aero package and our drivers too far.”
Lewis Hamilton finished the Azerbaijan Grand Prix with a lot of back pain. Photo TV Capture
According to the engineer, Mercedes is putting Hamilton and Russell “in significant discomfort”. “And we just can’t do that again. Our drivers aren’t the only ones suffering, you’ll see a number of comments in the media from various drivers who are equally uncomfortable and in pain. And now we have a responsibility to make sure this doesn’t continue.” plot.
Looking towards Montreal, meanwhile, Vowles said he hoped the Mercedes pair would be closer to the championship-leading cars of Red Bull and Ferrari.
“Perhaps we didn’t expect to go back as far as we did in Baku, but that provided a platform to learn.. Montreal is not going to be substantially different from the last two races (Monaco and Baku). I think we will still have a package that is not in the lead on merit. Red Bull and Ferrari will continue to be the benchmark we have to compare ourselves to,” he explained.
Hamilton’s extravagant look in Canada. Photo Geoff Robins/AFP
“However,” he asserted confidently, I think the big gap we saw in qualifying in Baku might not be as big in Montreal.; it will be back where it was and as we go through every race from then on, I am pretty sure we will find small steps and developments that push us forward.”
Mercedes is third in the Constructors’ Championship, despite his problems and having neither a pole nor a victory so far this year, and is only 38 points behind Ferrari but a distant 118 behind the leader, Red Bull. Will they finally lose the leadership after 8 consecutive titles?
Leclerc forced to react before Red Bull escapes
Leclerc has not been having a good time and arrived late in Montreal. Photo Jim WATSON / AFP
After the Ferrari debacle last Sunday, with the withdrawals of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, the Monegasque arrives in Montreal -late, after losing his plane- with the intention of relaunch its candidacy for the Formula 1 World Championshipalthough for that he will have to overcome Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez on the track, his Red Bull rivals who rule in the classification.
At Montreal’s challenging Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, returning to the calendar after three years away, much of the focus will be on whether Leclerc can withstand the pressure and end his recent run of misfortune.
The 24-year-old had to retire on Sunday in Azerbaijan and has not climbed to the top of the podium since April 10 in Australia, despite starting from pole position in the last four races.
Engine failures and strategy errors they have caused their initial World Cup lead to become a 34-point deficit over defending champion Verstappen of the Netherlands and 13 against Checo Pérez.
Verstappen, who has 150 points and five wins, and Pérez, with 129 and a win in Monaco, struck the big blow on Sunday by taking the top two spots in Baku, with George Russell third.
With his sights set on a new title. Now, Verstappen’s rival is Checo, his teammate at Red Bull. Photo Clive Rose/Getty Images/AFP
“It’s nice to be back in Canada. It’s a track I enjoy driving on, and taking such a competitive car to race this track is going to be fun,” Perez said. He added: “This car is really performing on the street circuits so we’re confident we can put in another strong performance this weekend and keep the momentum going.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner made a clear call to avoid any overconfidence and focus on the fight against Ferrari, which dominated the start of the season thanks to Leclerc’s victories in Bahrain and Australia. “They have a very fast car. On Sundays we have been up to them this year, in most races. But they will fix their problems, I have no doubt,” he recalled.
“There’s a long way to go and we have seen big changes in the points in the last four or five races. That shows how quickly things can change.”