F1: Mercedes faces ‘major wake-up call’ after Canadian GP, loss of points lead

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MONTREAL (AP) — Mercedes arrived at the Canadian Grand Prix without the correct tires or an expected engine upgrade and left Montreal trailing in the Formula One championship standings.

Ferrari returned to the top of the podium at the track named for Gilles Villeneuve for the first time since 2004, with Sebastian Vettel going from the pole to the checkered flag to finish six seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes on Sunday.

Erstwhile points leader Lewis Hamilton, who was aiming for a record-tying seventh victory in Montreal, struggled to finish fifth and fell one point behind Vettel in the standings.

“I’m the opposite of confident,” Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff said. “I think this is a major wake-up call for every member of the team. Everybody needs to assess how to improve performance. … Those marginal gains are going to make all the difference.”

Despite having the championship leader and the three-time defending Montreal champion, Mercedes leaves Canada second-guessing its strategy to bring fewer sets of the softest tires to the track, a move that Wolff conceded left Hamilton and Bottas at a disadvantage in qualifying. The team also was unable to deliver a reliable engine upgrade in time for the race.

Without it, Hamilton found himself losing power even up until the end. Adding to his problems was a cooling issue that required an early pit.

“From the start I was down on power and my engine was overheating. I couldn’t get the temperatures down, so I just thought it was going to fail,” he said. “Every single lap I was waiting for the power to just drop away and disappear, but it kept going.”

Vettel was never really challenged, picking up his third victory of the season and 25 points to erase Hamilton’s 14-point lead; the Briton salvaged 10 points with his worst result of the year. Bottas finished second for the fourth time in seven races.

“It was a tough day in the office today, but I’m just very grateful that I finished today’s race and score some points,” Hamilton said. “I’m sure in the next couple of days it will get more and more painful. But it could get a lot worse. I could have had a DNF (did not finish). I’m just grateful the engine made it.”

Hamilton said he would never doubt the team’s ability to fix its problems.

“That would be the first sign of weakness, and my mind is not weak,” he said. “I have complete confidence in my guys, and I’m putting all my energy toward them.”

Travis Pastrana leads flag-to-flag in Nitro Rallycross as the series returns to America

Pastrana Nitro Rallycross
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Travis Pastrana waited until the final trip around ERX Motor Park to take his Joker Lap – a longer way around the course that all drivers must do at least once in a race – and came out cleanly to win his first Nitro Rallycross race of 2022. With this win, Pastrana is the third driver to visit Victory Lane in the first three rounds of the 2022-23 season.

“This is the closest to a motocross track,” Pastrana told Katie Osborne on Peacock. “Thank you so much for a beautiful facility. It’s been a rough start to the season and I’m so thankful to be back out here. We had a good run in the side-by-side and now for this. This is much needed.”

Another thing needed was the sense of improvement. And Pastrana earned that affirmation each time he completed a lap around the course.

“I get my lap times read out and they said ‘fastest time of the week,’ ‘fastest time of the week’ (each time around) ” Pastrana said. “This is really special. We’re a long way behind in the championship, but welcome to America.”

In a pre-race press conference, Pastrana said that as Nitro Rallycross heads back to America, it was time for an American to win and he made good on his promise. Pastrana took the early lead over Robin Larsson and let the back of his Subaru hang out, taking risks he might not otherwise take if not for his need to win.

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Larsson’s second-place finish completed a perfect sweep of the podium in three rounds. In fact, he has not yet finished worse than second after winning the opening round at Lydden Hill in the United Kingdom and finishing second at Strangnas in Sweeden.

Fraser McConnel rounded out the podium for his best result of the season. He finished fourth in each of the first two rounds.

Last year, Pastrana finished second in this race to Scott Speed before narrowly edging his teammate for the championship.

Andreas Bakkerud crashed in prelims, but rebounded to finish just off the block in fourth. Bakkerud won the second round ahead of his teammate Larsson.

Oliver Bennett completed the top five.

Minneapolis is the first of three rounds scheduled in the United States. Next on the schedule is Glen Helen, Calif. on Octo 30 and then Phoenix at Wild Horse Pass on November 12th. Nitro Rallycross will then head to Saudi Arabia in December to continue their 2022-23 season.