Throughout winter testing, Ferrari looked really strong in Barcelona, so could they continue that brilliant form. Hamilton looked to up his game as he threw down the gauntlet in qualifying, fastest in all three sessions. But as it was becoming clear in every race so far, the gap between Hamilton and Vettel was just a tenth.
However, for Verstappen and Red Bull, hopes that the first European race of the season would bring them close enough to challenge both Ferrari and Mercedes. However, while they closed up on the top two it proved not enough to allow them to fight for pole.
Hamilton translated pole into leading the race as Vettel fought off his teammate Raikkonen. That pushed the Finn into the path of Verstappen, with the two making contact and causing terminal damage to their cars. It was not only Ferrari and Red Bull who lost a car, Bottas was forced to retire after a water leak.
At the front, the battle continued, with Hamilton hanging on to take victory from Vettel. That narrowed the championship to six points. A major benefactor from three of the top six cars retiring was Force India, who were rewarded with an impressive result as Sergio Perez finished fourth and Esteban Ocon fifth.
While Fernando Alonso wanted points in his home race before his trip to Indy, he could only manage thirteenth. However, it was the best result of the season for McLaren so far.
Throughout practice, it looked as if Vettel and Ferrari had the slight edge over Mercedes. But for the first time since Mangny-Cour in 2008, it was Kimi Raikkonen who took pole. Red Bull was in the mix too as Verstappen was third fastest ahead of Bottas, while Hamilton was only thirteenth.
Mercedes were expecting this race to be difficult because of the low-speed nature of the circuit. However, they must have been surprised by how far they were off the pace, especially as Hamilton failed to make it into Q3. But, he was struggling for grip in Q2 going off at Massenet, then lost time as he was pulled over by the FIA to the weighbridge leaving him unable to give it one last go and putting him out in Q2.
Raikkonen led most of the race, until a late safety car meant Vettel got ahead. Vettel had gone longer than his teammate on his first stint on the tyres. Also using the same method was Ricciardo, as he jumped Bottas using the overcut to get ahead of the Finn.
Meanwhile, Hamilton got ahead of the Haas of Grosjean to finish seventh. In his final Grand Prix, Button was certainly having fun, he attempted a move on Wehrlien’s Sauber.
However, he failed to make the move, tipping the German over landing him in the barriers at Portier and breaking the suspension of his McLaren. Things would get worse for the Swiss team, as Marcus Ericsson crashed under the safety car at Ste Devote.
Montreal has always played to the strengths of Hamilton, he had won the race five times before could he make it six. However, with Ferrari’s dominance of street circuits, this season stop the Mercedes driver claiming another win or would the high-speed circuit favoured Mercedes.
It was a close fight between the two men, but Montreal’s high-speed straights put the Englishman ahead once again by three tenths. That allowed Hamilton to take a sixty-sixth career pole, after which he was clearly speechless. He had equalled boyhood hero Ayrton Senna, with the family of the late three times champion presenting him with a race-worn helmet. That session also smashed Ralf Schumacher’s pole record.
Hamilton went onto once again dominate the Circuit Giles Villeneuve, pulling away from teammate Bottas from the very start. The threat Mercedes expected following Monaco never materialized, following Vettel being forced into an early stop after brushing against Verstappen.
That also meant the Ferrari was forced into a two-stop strategy. Verstappen’s recovery was short-lived, as a battery problem forced him into retirement. Chaos shortly followed as Sainz tangled with Grosjean forcing Alonso to take avoiding action.
Alonso’s return from Indy was going well until the same ugly problems with the Honda power unit raised their head forcing him to retire. But, after six difficult races and at his home race Lance Stroll sealed his first points of his career.
Until now, it had been a friendly and respectful fight between Vettel and Hamilton, but would that boil over in Baku?