Et was a scene that seemed like a replay from last year’s dramatic title fight. Max Verstappen shot out of the pit lane back onto Circuit Gilles Villeneuve after 44 of the 70 laps of Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix. When he was almost back on the track, Lewis Hamilton’s Silver Arrow narrowly passed the Red Bull Honda. Verstappen was able to quickly catch the Brit again with fresh tires, but the visibly irritated leader from the Netherlands radioed excitedly to the pits, how that could be. In fact, it was a real-time maneuver and a special moment in the ninth round of the World Championship that Verstappen won just ahead of Carlos Sainz junior in the Ferrari.
Record world champion Hamilton made it to the podium in third place. Unlike the last time in Baku, when he needed help to get out of the cockpit, this time he made it with ease, downright elated. No more signs of back pain from the nasty bouncing motion of the car. “I almost feel young again,” said the 37-year-old record world champion after his second podium appearance this year.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff seemed touched, if not even touched, when he looked up at his driver from below for the trophy presentation. There is still a lot of longing in view, the Austrian is also professionally pessimistic enough not to conclude from the “one swallow” a whole summer. But the signal, in time for Formula 1’s return to the full European season, is a strong one. In football they would say: Mercedes finds its way back into the game through a fight.
In the meantime, Lewis Hamilton and his teammate George Russell, who was fourth this time, were even able to drive faster than Verstappen or Sainz. Despite the many setbacks, Mercedes did not give up. Rather, the most successful racing team machine of the past eight years is running at full speed. Even if the ideal vehicle balance has not yet been found, reliability seems to be an important trump card in the race to catch up. The ninth round of the World Championship is proof enough of this: Title candidate Charles Leclerc had to start from the last row of the grid in Canada after a complete engine change, and Sergio Perez, second in the World Championship, retired after eight laps with a damaged gearbox.
Mercedes is the only one of the ten racing teams that has so far been able to bring both vehicles to the finish line. George Russell’s streak of finishing in the top five at every race up until now has also endured. For the second time in a row, Mercedes won 27 championship points. The consistency and a technical upward trend are what Hamilton and his team are taking with them to the upcoming home game at Silverstone: “For the first time I was able to see the front runners right to the end.
The result gives us a lot of hope.” Hamilton’s personal career on the Île Notre-Dame illustrates how the morale of the factory squad, spoiled by success, is still. On the first day of training, he once again served the team as the best-paid test driver in Formula 1, experimented with the engineers’ daring vehicle settings in order to find a better balance in the car.