After coming in for heavy criticism, even from his own fans, for the negative way in which he responded to defeat in Monaco, Lewis Hamilton was noticeably different in Montreal as he came to terms with Nico Rosberg’s surprising pole position, albeit by just 7/100ths of a second.
Hamilton has by far the stronger record here and had been ahead all weekend until the decisive final runs in Q3. And yet Rosberg found a way in and Hamilton now has to recalibrate and try to regain the initiative tomorrow.
As in Monaco, Rosberg did the better lap in the first runs of Q3; he did a 1m 14.946 to Hamilton’s 1m 15.054s, provisional pole was his and it was up to Hamilton to go out and set a better lap.
The Briton has had pole here three times and won three Montreal races, but he made a small mistake and lost time in the second sector, losing his chance of taking it from Rosberg, who only made a small improvement on his second run of 0.072s. It was enough to edge ou Hamilton, who did a 1m 14.953s lap.
“Nico did a fantastic job today, so congratulations to him,” said Hamilton, smiling in the post race press conference. “Just wasn’t the greatest qualifying session; sometimes you have good ones and sometimes bad ones. But it’s great that for the team that we have got the 1-2.
“I went wide a couple of times in turn six and then turn eight but Nico just did a better job today so I need to work hard.
“It’s not that easy (for the race), especially with Nico being so fast, so overtaking is going to be very difficult; to overtake the same car as mine.
For all the good sportsmanship in these answers, it is potentially a significant moment in the championship battle, as this is a track where Hamilton will have expected to beat Rosberg on pure pace and have the upper hand in the race.
He still might; overtaking the sister Mercedes won’t be easy without an error from Rosberg, but he will have a chance on strategy tomorrow. If Rosberg leads the opening stint he will have priority on the stop lap, but Hamilton can try to offset against him – as Rosberg tried to do unsuccessfully against Hamilton in Spain – and the Briton could pull it off.
A safety car is a distinct possibility here and he could try something there too. Mercedes are committed to giving the lead car on the road the priority on calling stops, but they also give the other car a chance to do something on strategy. The problem is that the lead car’s engineering team is aware of what that is and can take steps to cover it.
This is why it’s harder to race a team-mate for a win than a driver from a rival team.
Did Hamilton crack today, as some former drivers are saying in the Montreal paddock? It was only a few hundredths of a second, but he was up by a tenth and a half at the point where he made his mistake and it meant that he dropped 2/10ths on the lap.
Fine margins, but then that’s what it has been for most of the season.
Rosberg is strong at the moment and has a chance to build some momentum of his own; a win tomorrow takes him 11 points clear of Hamilton, should the Briton finish second.