MERCEDES driver Lewis Hamilton’s travails in Monaco were an ocean away as the Briton calmly pieced together a crushing lights-to-flag victory in an entertaining Canadian Grand Prix to bridge the deficit to Ferrari championship rival Sebastian Vettel from 25 points to 12.
It was a perfect fightback on a track that had always been one of his happy hunting grounds – this was his sixth win in Montreal.
“It’s a long race when you’re out there on your own,” the winner said. “I was just hoping the car held together, and fortunately it did.
“I’m not sure I have ever seen the team come together as it has in the two weeks since Monaco.”
Hamilton won by almost 20secs win over teammate Valtteri Bottas with Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo fighting off the attentions of Force India pair Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon to take his third podium in as many races.
“Today I only had fun when I saw the chequered flag,” Ricciardo told the crowd from the podium. “It was tough; we were defending the whole race. It was getting hot and my concentration was being tested.”
The 70-lap grand prix could have been a disaster for Ferrari but not for a brilliant, fighting recovery by Vettel who, whilst finishing out of the top three for the first time this year, fired back from an early setback to grab a last-gasp fourth ahead of the scrapping Force Indias.
Front-wing damage to Vettel’s car from an aggressive Max Verstappen off the start line dropped the German to 18th but he never gave up and treated his tyres well to in a rough afternoon of damage limitation.
Verstappen had his own terminal woes, his Red Bull Renault losing all battery power on lap 11. The Dutchman had wowed the crowd on the opening lap, making an adventurous move around the outside of Vettel and Bottas into second.
The Force India pair’s fifth and sixth may have been even better had Perez heeded the request to let through his faster teammate Ocon on fresher tyres for a shot at Ricciardo. Perez refused to cede a position and consequently Vettel raced up behind the pink machines, and then surgically dispatched one then the other back a place.
Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari had brake issues in finishing seventh ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.
Sometimes maligned rookie Lance Stroll brought home his Williams in ninth, becoming the first Canadian not named Villeneuve to score a championship point in F1.
Fernando Alonso kept intact his unwanted record of non-finishes, his Honda power unit failing just over one lap from the chequer.
Really, though, this grand prix was all about the peerless Hamilton and the resurgent Mercs, although Vettel may ponder what might have been had he got through the first few seconds of the race cleanly.
Vettel and Verstappen do have some form of magnetic attraction.
Qualifying in Canada is the least important of all, statistically producing the lowest pole-to-win conversion rate on the F1 calendar. But that’s not to suggest it isn’t treated seriously…
And it was dramatic Saturday afternoon, Hamilton taking his 65th pole to equal the score of Ayrton Senna, his idol in motorsport. In a nice touch, Senna’s family presented Hamilton with an old Senna race helmet.
“I dug down deep... It was a great lap, a sexy lap!” said Hamilton, who put in a super lap to fully capitalise on the Mercedes engine’s top 10 shootout power boost. The gap to championship leader Vettel was all of 0.336sec. Next were Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen and Ricciardo.
Will Power takes crash-marred Texas IndyCar
Australia’s Team Penske driver Will Power endured a crazy night of racing on the banked 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval, winning the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 in a race of survival that finished under caution.
Power’s victory is the 31st Indy car win by the Team Penske driver, and his second of 2017.
Power said he went to Texas concerned that the opposition Hondas may have an advantage. His poor qualifying position (ninth) gave him no reassurance. “But when the race went green, I thought we’re in this with a shot,” he said.
In a race neutralised for 66 of the 248 laps by cautions caused by a number of incidents, Tony Kanaan finished second but found himself under fire from officials and other drivers. He accepted responsibility, saying: “I don't do those kind of things. I race people clean, and I want people to race me clean.
“It was definitely an honest mistake. You never, especially in a place like this, crash people on purpose. And I've been around it way too long to do any silly things like that, and if I did, it was really a mistake, and I apologise for it.”
Under a full moon, the big shunt of the race came on lap 152 when the cars of Kanaan and James Hinchcliffe touched and Hinchcliffe’s car veered into the barrier. Within moments a further nine cars were embroiled in the wild high-speed pile-up which brought out the red flags for 31 minutes.
But it was a race Power deserved to win. The Chevrolet-powered Queenslander led for a race-high 180 laps and made what ultimately turned out to be the decisive pass for the lead on lap 243 when he edged in front of fellow antipodean Scott Dixon in the Ganassi Honda.
Only one lap later, Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato attempted an inside pass on Dixon for second place heading into the first turn, but his Andretti Autosport Honda clipped the grass and spun, collecting Dixon, Conor Daly and Max Chilton.
The crash triggered the final caution of the evening, allowing Power to tour to his second victory of the 2017 IndyCar Series season.
Behind Power and Kanaan at the finish were Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal, Gabby Chaves and Marco Andretti on the lead lap.
Dixon finished ninth and last but retained the unofficial championship lead after nine of 17 races with 326 points. Defending champ Pagenaud is second with 313, Sato third with 312, Helio Castroneves fourth with 303 and Power on the move up to fifth with 286.
Dixon refrained from criticising Sato, but no such constraints applied to his wife Emma who launched a Twitter attack on the Japanese.
WRC: Tanak breakthrough win on Rally Italia Sardegna
Estonian Ott Tanak has avoided the dramas that took out several of his rivals to take an impressive maiden World Rally Championship victory in a tough and challenging Rally Italia Sardegna held in scorching early summer conditions.
The Ford up-and-comer won with a margin of 12.3 seconds over Jari-Matti Latvala in the improving Toyota Yaris, with the Hyundai of Thierry Neuville a further 55.4 seconds back in third.
Latvala headed a strong weekend for Toyota, which had three cars in the top six. He avoided major problems in a rally of attrition to remain firmly in the title battle.
Esapekka Lappi claimed a remarkable fourth in only his second World Rally Car outing. He won six of the 19 tests in his Yaris to finish 1min 12.4sec ahead of Sebastien Ogier.
Championship leader Ogier (M-Sport Ford) was a victim of his own success. Because he led in the standings, he was stuck with the role of being first on the road, “sweeping” the loose gravel and rocky stages. He was just seventh at the end of the opening day, and (after a puncture) sixth on Saturday night.
Victory in the gruelling four-day rough road encounter was Tanak’s first success in 73 starts and he became the fifth different driver to win in seven rounds during a season notable for no clear favourite.
The 29-year-old's win came despite a late scare when the Fiesta’s cockpit filled with dust and with his visibility seriously impaired, Tanak overshot a junction on Sunday’s opening speed test and slithered into bushes.
The rally was led at different times by six different crews.
Tanak took over the lead on Saturday afternoon after New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon ruined what had been a great run, clipping a bank and destroying the right rear of his Hyundai i20.
“Amateur mistake,” said an emotional Paddon. “I turned in too early and clipped a bank on the inside. I’ve let everybody down.”
Citroen’s Chris Meeke had earlier rolled out of the lead – his third such crash of the year. Either Meeke is trying too hard or else the Citroen is not an easy machine to tame.
Belgian Neuville led initially and stayed in contention despite having to deal with the slippery gravel roads on Friday. A brake problem on Saturday cost a minute and ended his bid.
Ogier’s lead over Neuville in the championship has been cut to 18 points, with Tanak now third.
MOTOGP: Ducati’s Dovi does it again in Catalunya
Andrea Dovizioso has taken Ducati to a second MotoGP win on successive weekends, adding another maximum points haul in the Catalan GP to his triumph a week earlier in Mugello.
With air temperature at 33 degrees Celsius and a track temperature of 54, conditions were very tough on the riders, the heatwave and slippery tarmac making serious demands on their Michelin rubber.
But the smooth-riding Dovizioso managed his tyres beautifully from seventh on the grid, getting away well with the leaders and then passing Honda men Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez, and slipping into the lead with nine laps remaining.
“I’m so happy but also a bit surprised by this win,” said Dovi later, adding that it was a strange race because no-one could push on any lap due to the grip limitations.
Marquez, who’d accumulated no fewer than five crashes over the weekend (four on Saturday and another in the Sunday warm-up) stayed aboard throughout, led for some laps but ultimately elected to settle for second and 20 championship points.
Pedrosa took third ahead of Ducati’s Lorenzo, with Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) again performing well in his first season fifth, barely in front of his team-mate Folger.
Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) was seventh, with Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) coming home in eighth ahead of the Ducati of Hector Barbera (Reale Avintia Racing).
The final top-10 place went to current world championship leader Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), as he retained his lead in the title chase, but now with a reduced margin ahead of Dovizioso.
Australian Jack Miller crashed his Honda out of 10th place, doing nothing for his bid to secure a contract for 2018.
The opening day was largely a “lost” day for the riders following a safety-related decision after Friday practice to revert from a new chicane to the older, established Formula One chicane.
A new chicane, designed and built since last year’s race to provide a more generous run-off zone, proved to be unpopular, leading to the reinstatement of the old diversion used by F1 cars.
The chicane – old or new – was the least of the riders’ worries though; the tired and slippery old track surface leading to unprecedented numbers of falls.
It was easier to count the number of riders who didn’t bite the bitumen rather than tally those who did. Across all classes there were 27 crashes on Friday and Saturday, with race day to come…
It was no great shock to see local Pedrosa take pole on a track that seems to suit the Hondas. Or so we thought.
Jorge Lorenzo pulled his best quali result of the year to take second while Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Pedrucci took the last front row starting spot.
A nice quote from fourth-fastest Marquez says much about his mentality: "I'd rather be fourth on the grid and fast and crashing, than 10th and slow."
The factory Yamahas were nowhere on Saturday, Vinales just ninth and a struggling Rossi 13th.
Local Spaniards dominated the smaller-capacity classes.
From pole, Alex Marquez stormed away from the pack to take Moto2 race. Aussie Remy Gardner was 20th.
The Moto3 maniacs again turned on the action, with championship leader Joan Mir coming from third to snatch a spectacular win on a weekend in which he signed a three-year deal to graduate to Moto2 with the classy Marc VDS squad.