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Ferrari’s Vettel Keeps Climbing With Win No. 50

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, June 13 2018

Four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel gave Canadian Ferrari/Gilles Villeneuve fans a thrill over the weekend. (File photo)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Sebastian Vettel’s landmark 50th career Formula One victory in Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix rekindled memories of revered native son Gilles Villeneuve on the race course that bears his name.

Vettel, of Scuderia Ferrari, won Round 7 of the 21-race FIA Formula One World Championship in convincing fashion over Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas. Vettel qualified on-pole in record-setting fashion and led all 70 laps around the 2.710-mile/4.361-kilometer/14-turn Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal en route to a massive 7.376-second margin of victory.

And if that was too boring, as suggested by a journalist during the post-race press conference, Vettel suggested he “write about something else.”

Vettel’s fast lap Saturday of 1:10.764 set a new track qualifying record and was 0.093-seconds better than Bottas. It was Vettel’s 54th career F1 pole, his fourth of the season and fourth in Montreal.

Vettel’s 50th career F1 win placed the German fourth on the series’ all-time list, just one victory behind fellow four-time World Driving Champion Alain Prost of France. Prost posted his 50th victory in 1993. Retired Ferrari superstar Michael Schumacher of Germany leads with 91 wins and Great Britain’s Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes AMG is second with 63 victories. Schumacher, a seven-time world champion, earned his 50th win in 2001 while four-time world champ Hamilton reached that figure in 2016.

“Perfect is a really good way to describe it. Unbelievable,” Vettel said. “I said (Saturday) how much this place means for Ferrari. We saw it from the moment we touched down and to have a race like we did was unbelievable. OK, 50 for me…I think after a long stretch where Ferrari didn’t win here, I saw the people around and they were super-happy, so I’m sure they had a blast. I’m just happy.”

Jacques Villeneuve, Gilles’ son and the 1997 world champion, demonstrated his father’s race-winning Ferrari 312T3 prior to the race _ a prophetic lead-in to the Scuderia’s first Canadian victory since Schumacher’s in 2004. Vettel ended Ferrari’s longest winless streak at any current venue, which Hamilton had made his personal playground.

With that background, Vettel and Canada’s “tifosi” celebrated his series-leading third win of the season and second in Montreal. Vettel also turned a 14-point deficit to Hamilton into a one-point lead in the driver’s championship after the Brit finished fifth.

The Scuderia also closed its gap to Mercedes to 17 points in the constructors’ chase heading to the French Grand Prix at Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet. Practice begins June 22, qualifying takes place June 23 and the race will run June 24.

“I think I dedicate it today to the team, to the guys in Maranello and to the Canadian fans, the Canadian tifosi _ I think they have been waiting long enough for Ferrari to do well here,” said Vettel, whose Ferrari team brought an engine update to Montreal. “I think, yeah, 40 years after Gilles won his grand prix here, I think it’s great to show that Ferrari is still alive, that Ferrari is still there, winning races. I’m just extremely proud to become part of that story, step-by-step, hopefully a bit more in the future.

“But I think I remember the race in 2004, I think I was watching on TV, so it’s crazy to realize. Therefore, I think rather than dedicating to one person, I think it’s better to dedicate to, as I said, to our team in general and to the people here.

“I think there was a little bit of confusion, because they waved the checkered flag one lap too early. That was funny, because on the steering wheel I have the lap-count. I have the pit board as well and it showed one more lap to go. I even watched on TV after I saw the checkered flag and it said final lap and then I was a bit confused, but then I told them, ‘I think the race isn’t over yet’ and they said, ‘No, no. no, keep pushing!’ Some of the marshals were already celebrating so…I think they peaked a bit early. Most of them are men, so it might happen. Overall, it has just been a great day.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen of Germany completed the podium, followed by teammate Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and the second Mercedes of Hamilton. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion from Finland, placed sixth.

“So, yeah, second place as a driver when you really want to win races is not the best place to be,” said Bottas, also of Finland. “But you know, honestly from today where we started, with the start we had, with the pace we had, there was nothing more possible. That’s where we are as a team now. Ferrari was better this weekend, Red Bull very close to us, so I think today nothing we could have done better. Our car is just not quick enough, so I don’t get too upset being second but no doubt I really want to win.”

When asked to explain why the race was “not the most exciting,” Vettel decided to school and ultimately admonish the questioner.

“I think the answer to your question is…life,” Vettel said. “Life’s like this, or racing. Racing’s probably like this. I don’t think it’s justified to criticize the racing, or criticize this race. I don’t know if it was ‘boring.’ From my point of view, obviously, it’s still busy inside the car no matter where you are but I don’t like…I don’t know why people today are so shortsighted.

“We had seven races this year, I think some were phenomenal, some were boring _ but next week the World Cup (of soccer) is starting and I promise you that a lot of the games will not be exciting _ but still people will watch it _ but some games will be incredible. That’s what we always look forward to, but it can’t just always continue to go up and get better.

“So, I don’t know, there’s no reason, don’t even look for an answer, don’t write anything. Write about something else. I think we do our job inside the car and if we can race, we race but obviously, we also do our job inside the car and try to avoid racing. Disappear, stay in front, or not get overtaken. And then some races are just exciting and others are not.”

American-owned Haas F1 Team’s Romain Grosjean finished 12th despite starting 20th and last, while teammate Kevin Magnussen finished 13th. Grosjean actually climbed to as high as seventh after running the first 48 laps on a set of Pirelli P Zero Purple ultrasoft tires before pitting for a new set of Red supersofts.

Grosjean stayed out longer than any driver in hope of a full-course caution that would bring out either an actual safety car or the virtual safety car. That never happened and after wringing all that was available from his ultrasofts, Grosjean made his necessary stop. That decision dropped the Frenchman to 12th, where he returned to the track in front of teammate Magnussen.

“We didn’t really know quite how long we could go,” said Grosjean, driver of the Ferrari-powered No. 8 Haas VF-18. “We had been planning to go long, but not as long as that. The tires were holding quite nicely. There was only a bit of front degradation. I was happy with the pace. I was easily managing keeping up with the Renault in front and the Force India behind.

“If qualifying had been as I was expecting with a P7, it would’ve been a P7 today, for sure. Anyway, we tried to come back but our strategy didn’t quite work. When we came out of the pit we had a lot of blue flags and so on. I couldn’t really come back through the field. We did our best. The car is fast and I enjoyed driving it.”

Magnussen started 11th, but lost a position on the start when Frenchman Charles Leclerc successfully maneuvered his Sauber past Magnussen’s No. 20 Haas VF-18. Magnussen held steady in 12th, particularly on Lap 5 when Sergio Perez of Mexico worked to collect his sideways Force India during a dicey moment in Turn 1. Magnussen later came under threat from the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly, whose Pink hypersoft tires _ the grippiest and fastest rubber in Pirelli’s lineup _ proved to be quicker than Magnussen’s ultrasofts. Gasly, of France, eventually got by Magnussen on Lap 9, dropping him to 13th.

Scheduled pit stops began, allowing Magnussen to climb to eighth before he made his own pit stop for supersofts on Lap 22. This dropped the native of Denmark to 15th.

When two-time world champion Fernando Alonso of Spain was forced to retire his McLaren from his 300th grand prix after 40 laps, Magnussen picked up 14th. Alonso had fought his way into the points after a poor qualifying result, but was instructed to retire his McLaren when the team identified an exhaust problem. Alonso now has more retirements in Montreal than at any other circuit in his career _ it was his seventh official retirement, or eighth, if you also include last year when he was classified.

When Perez made his second and final pit stop on Lap 44, Magnussen rose to 13th and later in the race held off Perez who ultimately finished 14th.

“Not a brilliant weekend for us,” Magnussen said. “We were thinking that P11 in qualifying was a good result. We thought that would be an advantage for the race _ being on a different tire from the top-10. It didn’t really turn out to be that way. I didn’t get a great first lap. I was overtaken by one of the Saubers. They had a really good start, and then a couple of laps after I had a Force India that spun and I couldn’t get on the inside, so I was on the outside and got done by Fernando on the inside.

“Things just didn’t go our way today. It’s a shame. I think the car was pretty good, especially on the supersoft, the pace was good. I think we just didn’t get it right today.”

Seven rounds into the schedule, Haas F1 Team is tied with Toro Rosso for seventh in the constructors’ standings with 19 points apiece, nine points behind sixth-place Force India with a seven-point advantage over Sauber, the nearest pursuer.

Haas F1 Team debuted in the FIA Formula One World Championship in 2016, becoming the first American-owned F1 team since 1986. Haas F1 is based at the same Kannapolis, N.C., campus that houses Stewart-Haas Racing, the championship-winning NASCAR Cup Series organization Gene Haas co-owns with retired three-time champion Tony Stewart.

Founded by Haas in 1983, Haas Automation, Inc., is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools and the team’s primary sponsor. Haas Automation employs approximately 1,300 at its 1.1-million square-foot/102,000 square-meter headquarters in Oxnard, Calif. Haas Automation exports its machines to more than 60 countries through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, June 13 2018
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