THE MOTORSPORT LAP
Canada victory puts Lewis Hamilton in the running
Following a rather dismal performance at the Monaco Grand Prix two weekends ago, Lewis Hamilton looked forward to redeeming himself at this past weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.
Having historically been a strong race for Hamilton, the Mercedes-AMG driver had a good qualifying session that saw him start on pole for Sunday’s race. Not famed for having the best starts off the line, Hamilton managed to lead the race from start to finish ahead of team-mate and second place finisher, Valteri Bottas, who has shown consistency since joining the team at the beginning of the season. Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo rounded off the podium. Ferrari driver and championship leader Sebastien Vettel finished a credible fourth, having started from further down the grid.
After Sunday’s race, Vettel still leads the championship with 141 points, with Hamilton on 129 and Bottas on 93. At this juncture it looks as though it’s Vettel and Hamilton who are currently jostling for position. Of course, we are hardly halfway through the season and it is too soon to call as variables could still see plenty of changes. However, thus far, the season has proven worthwhile for spectators and teams alike and it will be interesting to see how it pans out going forward.
There are also rumours that Ferrari may be touting Nico Rosberg as their second driver for next season, but that is still unfounded so we’ll have to wait and see whether Rosberg will be coming out of retirement, let alone be joining the team.
In the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Ott Tänak held on in Sardinia to record his maiden WRC triumph. Victory in the four-day rough road encounter was his first success in 73 starts and he became the fifth different driver to win in seven rounds this season.
Driving a Ford Fiesta, the Estonian headed Jari-Matti Latvala’s Toyota Yaris by 12.3 seconds after 312km of action on scorching island roads. Thierry Neuville was a 55.4 seconds back in a Hyundai i20, closing the gap on championship leader Sébastien Ogier to 18 points.
It was Estonia’s first WRC win since Markko Märtin’s 2004 success in Spain and promoted Tänak to third in the standings as the season reached its midpoint. Märtin went on to become Tänak’s mentor in his climb to the sport’s top level.
His win was sealed after a late scare when a hole allowed the Fiesta’s cockpit to fill with dust in the sandy conditions. With his visibility impaired, Tänak overshot a junction on Sunday’s opening speed test and slithered into bushes.
It offered a glimmer of hope to Latvala, who was chasing down a 23.3 second deficit, but when the Finn stalled his engine in the next special stage, he conceded defeat. Tänak measured his pace through the final three tests to score an emotional win.
"It was a difficult weekend but the first half of this season has been great," said Tänak. "The new car and a strong team-mate is making me push hard. I hope it’s the first of many wins as it’s all coming together now."
Latvala headed a strong weekend for Toyota Gazoo Racing, with three cars in the top six. He avoided major problems in a rally of attrition to remain firmly in the title battle.
Belgian Neuville led initially and stayed in contention despite enduring the worst of the conditions on the slippery gravel roads on Friday. A brake problem on Saturday cost a minute and ended his bid.
Esapekka Lappi was a remarkable fourth in only his second World Rally Car outing. He won six of the 19 tests in his Yaris to finish 1 min 12.4 seconds ahead of Ogier. Reigning champion Ogier struggled for grip throughout the weekend, but claimed fifth when a power steering problem delayed Juho Hänninen. Sixth matched Hånninen’s career-best result.
Others falling by the wayside included two of the early leaders Kris Meeke and Hayden Paddon — both Citroën and Hyundai drivers crashed out of contention when heading the pack.
This weekend sees some big motorsport action. Locally, Zwartkops will host various championship events on Friday and Saturday, including the GTC series. Then it will be one of the biggest races of the year, the Le Mans 24 Hour endurance race in France which takes place on Saturday and Sunday.