Let’s imagine a Canadian Grand Prix without the infamous episode of lap 48, a Grand Prix decided without the stewards. The official confirmation of the penalty arrived when Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel started lap number 58 (with 12 laps to go until the checkered flag) and unsurprisingly froze the finishing order, deciding the battle for victory in Montreal. After having debated the controversy event, we hypothesize a normal race without disciplinary measures, and the first question is about the possibility of victory that Hamilton would have had without the benefit of the infamous five seconds.
The answer is … zero, as Hamilton himself confirmed. Lewis, despite being potentially faster (also confirmed by Sebastian), never had the chance to try an attack on Ferrari’s SF90. All this despite having practically covered half the race in the DRS area, an aid that allowed him to approach Seb but without ever reaching the distance necessary to try an overtake. The speed of the SF90 on the Montreal straights made the difference, and in addition to this, whenever Hamilton tried to stay close to the leader for more than two laps, he had to slow down due to overheating of the braking system and front tires.
Curiously in Mercedes they did not believe in the possibility of trying the undercut on Sebastian Vettel, because they thought that the hard tire (scheduled to be used in the second sting) was too slow to bring into the ideal temperature. A choice that proved to be wrong, because Ferrari (with Seb) confirmed the opposite. Mercedes deliberately waited for Sebastian Vettel to stop (lap 26) deciding to continue, also to see if Hamilton would have had the rhythm to try the overcut on a clear track. But the tires of Lewis were now finished, and after two laps the Mercedes (which in the meantime had lost about three seconds to Vettel) also recalled Hamilton to the pits. Three seconds that could have given Lewis the victory on the track, if he had anticipated Seb with the pit stop.
After the change of the tires of the Mercedes number 44, they knew that to win the race the only possibilities were linked to a possible error of Vettel or a technical problem on the Ferrari, since between Lewis and Seb there was no tire difference. An important variable, thanks to which Bottas was able to overtake the Renault (after a first phase of the race during which he was stuck behind Hulkenberg who managed to complete 18 laps with the softs) otherwise also for the Finn the chances of a comeback would have been very low.
Charles Leclerc winning in the event of a well timed Safety Car
The strategy that Ferrari chose for Charles Leclerc was also intriguing. Before the stop of Hamilton, the Monegasque driver found himself two seconds behind the Mercedes (lap 28) but after Lewis’ pit stop, Charles remained on the track for five more laps, returning from the pits eleven seconds behind Hamilton. A choice that seemed strange, but a reason for the lengthening of Charles’ stint was there.
Charles was in fact out of the window that would have allowed him to change tires and get back on track in front of Bottas, and only after the Finnish driver stopped (lap 31) did Leclerc return to the pits to replace the tires. Moreover, with the five extra laps, the Monegasque would have had the race in his hand if the safety car joined the track at a certain moment during those laps, which would have allowed him to change tires, losing only sixty percent of the usual time.