Lack of rain, safety cars in Montreal contributed to Vettel benefit

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Two things didn’t happen on Sunday in Montreal that would have otherwise spiced up the first “Sebastian Vettel benefit” since Bahrain: rain, and safety cars.

The mixed conditions that had hit Circuit Gilles Villeneuve all weekend created something of a jumbled grid, notably with Valtteri Bottas taking his Williams FW35-Renault to heights it could never have hit in dry conditions in third.

Still, with Vettel on pole, all he had to do on Sunday was his usual task of pulling out a big enough gap in the first few laps to avoid having the car behind him close enough to use DRS. A gap of more than two seconds after lap one was pretty much all he needed to set sail on what has traditionally been a “bogey track” for him and the Red Bull Racing team.

Bottas’ presence, too, was always going to throw a monkey wrench into the plans of the faster cars behind him. Sixth-starting Fernando Alonso was desperate to get past in the opening laps and even though the Spaniard did, he was already too far back of Vettel to have a proper chance of catching the Red Bull.

That Alonso made it to second, but still some 14.4 seconds back by the checkered flag, was a testament to both of their races. Alonso did everything he could but was never in with a chance against the Red Bull.

The other thing to note was the obvious lack of safety cars. A frequent staple at Montreal, the safety car never made an appearance on Sunday, and thus never had the chance to wipe out Vettel’s insurmountable lead.

Adrian Sutil got off lucky when he spun at Turn 3 and 4, not getting collected or hitting the wall on his own. The Giedo van der Garde/Mark Webber dust-up at the hairpin was a clumsy moment but not worthy of bringing out the safety car.

Vettel’s domination and the cleanliness of the Formula One field ensured there weren’t the necessary ingredients to spice up what’s usually one of the more intriguing Grands Prix of the year. 

F1 2017 driver review: Sebastian Vettel

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Sebastian Vettel

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 5
Races: 20
Wins: 5
Podiums (excluding wins): 8
Pole Positions: 4
Fastest Laps: 5
Points: 317
Laps Led: 286
Championship Position: 2nd

2017 was supposed to be the year Sebastian Vettel finally fulfilled his ambition of emulating Michael Schumacher by returning Ferrari to its championship-winning heyday.

Instead, it ended in disappointment and frustration – once again.

Ferrari arguably made a greater step across the change in technical regulations for 2017 than any other team, living up to its pre-season tag as favorite by winning the opening round in Australia in fashion.

Vettel and Ferrari led their respective championships following the Monaco Grand Prix as the German ended a 16-year win drought for the Prancing Horse in the principality, and even heading into the summer break, a shot at both championships was looking good.

However, cracks had started to appear. Vettel’s remarkable antics behind the safety car in Baku sparked controversy after driving into Hamilton, suggesting the tension of the title fight was beginning to take its toll on the German.

The final run of flyaways was where things really fell apart for Vettel, though. Singapore looked to be a slam-dunk win, only for a start-line crash also involving teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen to put 25 free points in Hamilton’s pocket.

Reliability woes then struck in Malaysia and Japan – two more races Vettel could realistically have won – to make it game over in the title race, with Hamilton wrapping things up in Mexico.

Vettel only finished the year 46 points back from Hamilton, proving the impact the three bad races in Asia had. Realistically, this was a title race that should have gone down to the wire in Abu Dhabi. Instead, Vettel remains a four-time champion, level with Hamilton, who had just one to his name back in 2013 when his rival secured his fourth.

Ferrari’s internal issues will come under the microscope over the off-season, and Vettel himself knows there is plenty to work on. Staying cool under pressure and not letting things boil over as in Baku is the most obvious area for improvement.

But there is reason for hope. If Ferrari can keep up with Mercedes and repeat its impressive step into 2017 through the upcoming off-season, we may well be treated to another Vettel/Hamilton scrap at the front of the field, perhaps settling once and for all who is the greatest driver of the post-Schumacher era.

Season High: A crucial win in Hungary despite battling with a broken steering column.

Season Low: Letting tensions flare in Baku and hitting Hamilton behind the safety car.