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via Reuters

With 7 wins around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Lewis Hamilton holds the joint record for most wins around the circuit in Montreal. Before the 2024 Canadian GP qualifying, Hamilton had never qualified outside the Top 5 at the race held on the Ile Notre Dame Island. However, Hamilton didn’t qualify inside the Top 5 since the 2024 season started and one of these stats would be broken during the 2024 Canadian GP qualifying.

It was the latter record that stayed intact as Lewis Hamilton struggled in the qualifying and did not put his car in the Top 5. The race wasn’t anything to write home about either as the 7X champ finished just one position off the podium. Since the race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Mercedes has been at the gunpoint where many fans have slammed the Silver Arrows for sabotaging Lewis Hamilton. But did Mercedes really put away Hamilton’s podium chances?

Hamilton’s poor qualifying result put him on the backfoot for the Canadian GP Main Race

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During the practice sessions at Montreal, Lewis Hamilton looked like a man on a mission posting the fastest times throughout the three sessions. But as soon as qualifying arrived, Hamilton seemed to have lost the spark. The Briton could only manage P7 on his best lap in Q3 and started the race behind the likes of Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo.

After the qualifying during the interviews, Lewis Hamilton was asked if there were any issues with the car or if anything was changed between practice and qualifying that led to the drop in performance. The Briton replied that no changes were made as the frustration of having a bad qualifying was clearly visible on his face. The 7X champ and Alonso got past Ricciardo as they left the grid. 

Lewis Hamilton then spent the first stint behind Alonso, as they dropped chunks of time to the leaders. Hamilton overtook Alonso in the pits, but a third of the race was already gone by this point. After the race ended, Hamilton talked about how he could’ve been in the fight for the win if he had qualified better and was not stuck behind Alonso, as the Mercedes definitely had the pace to beat McLaren and Red Bull. 

Hamilton also revealed the reason for the qualifying struggle after the race as he explained that his tires were a few degrees off what they were in practice. Hamilton said, “Well, the tires were working throughout the weekend, then we got to qualifying and every time I went out of the garage, my tires were for some reason below on temperature. Every set was two or three degrees lower than it should have been, and you can’t catch it up and I couldn’t switch the tires on after that.”

So the qualifying was a reason why Hamilton was on the back foot. But did the Mercedes race strategy cost Lewis Hamilton anything?

Mercedes’ Canadian GP tire strategy: Was putting on New Hards the right choice?

After getting past Alonso in the pits, Lewis Hamilton was P5 behind Max Verstappen, George Russell, Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri. Hamilton was amongst the first lead runners to pit for the slick tires, followed by all the 4 drivers in front of him. Except for Russell, everyone was on the medium tires in the Top 5. The front 5 built a huge gap to Alonso in P6 and a late safety car meant Hamilton had enough of a gap for a free pit stop.

Mercedes decided to pit both its drivers, even though it meant Russell would lose track position to Piastri. George Russell went onto the mediums whereas Lewis Hamilton was sent out on hard tires. During the radio call, it seemed as if Hamilton was happy to stay out on the old mediums rather than going for slower but fresher rubber. This pit-call is what is being doubted by many.

However, if we look at Pirelli’s chart for the tires available for the Canadian GP Main Race, both the Mercedes had 1 New Medium and 2 New Hard tires available. Hamilton opted for the medium tires while transitioning from Intermediates whereas George Russell went on the hard. When the late safety car came out, Hamilton only had 2 new sets of hard tires, whereas Russell had 1 New Hard and 1 New Medium set. 

Mercedes decided that the fresher rubber, despite being the harder compound, would benefit Hamilton, and it did. Had the 7X champ opted to stay out on the medium tires, his tire age would’ve been the same as Piastri and it would’ve been extremely difficult to overtake on a partly damp track. The new tires gave him the advantage as he easily made it past the Australian.

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With Russell making a mistake, Hamilton was up into the podium position with his teammate behind him. Having the softer compound, Russell overtook Hamilton into the final chicane towards the end of the lap and chased Lando Norris down. The fighting between the two Mercedes for the final podium positions and the mistake by Russell did cost both the Silver Arrows drivers huge chunks of time.

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Had Russell been patient with the Piastri move, both the Mercedes on the fresher tires could’ve hunted the Top 3 in pair. George Russell definitely had a shot at winning the race and Hamilton was in for a guaranteed podium. The Ferrari-bound driver actually set the fastest lap of the race on his hard tires and had multiple fastest mini sectors. Had the race been a little longer, we would’ve seen a Mercedes double podium.

Still, Mercedes can take many positives from the Canadian GP as the new front wing works. Mercedes did not make a strategic blunder and actually had the best strategy for both its drivers. The poor qualifying and the late-on fighting with Russell is what cost Hamilton a podium at the Canadian GP.