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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.”

F1’s Valtteri Bottas to compete in first-ever rally race in his native Finland

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Formula One’s “Flying Finn” is going back home for the first time.

More precisely, Valtteri Bottas is returning to his Finland homeland to compete in his first career rally race in the Finnish Rally Championship season opener.

Bottas, teammates on the F1 Mercedes team with five-time champ Lewis Hamilton, will compete in the World Rally Championships’ Arctic Lapland Rally from January 24-26.

He’ll team with two-time World Rally champion Timo Rautiainen in a M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC on rally roads of the Finnish Arctic Circle.

“This is a unique opportunity to take a peek into the world of rallying,” Bottas told Finnish rallying website Rallism.f1. “I would like to thank everyone who has made it possible.

“It’s totally new territory for me too, as I have no prior experience of a World Rally Car. Still, being the race car driver that I am, you always go flat out whatever the vehicle you’re driving in.”

Added Rautiainen, “In my life, I’ve sat in a rally car with only three drivers, but this is such an interesting mission that I just had to accept the challenge. I believe that for a talented wheelman like Valtteri, we’ll be able to establish a good basic driving routine in testing.”

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