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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Sebastian Vettel's Montreal dominance shows he is on track for fifth F1 world title

The German's strong form has not always been backed up by the results on track, but in Canada he and Ferrari underlined they are the class of the field at present

Sebastian Vettel's performance during his Canadian Grand Prix victory proved his world championship title credentials. Valdrin Xhemaj / EPA
Sebastian Vettel's performance during his Canadian Grand Prix victory proved his world championship title credentials. Valdrin Xhemaj / EPA

The Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday was the race that Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari have been threatening to have all season.

The four-time world champion dominated the seventh round of the Formula One season, leading every lap after starting from pole position to claim his 50th career victory.

Vettel won the opening two races of the season in Australia and Bahrain, but had not won since that triumph in Sakhir in early April.

However, that does not tell the whole story. Vettel and Ferrari have been a consistent force throughout the season, they just did not have the results to show for it.

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Were it not for ill-timed safety car periods in China and Azerbaijan he would have finished second and first, instead of eighth and fourth respectively. Instead of 43 points he scored 16.

World champion Lewis Hamilton led Vettel by 14 points going to Montreal, but even the Briton himself would have known that advantage was misleading, given the actual performance on track.

What we saw in Canada showed that the performance level has largely been there from Ferrari all season.

Hamilton and Mercedes have been quick at times, namely in Australia and Spain, while the tight confines of Monaco were always going to suit Red Bull Racing.

But Vettel and Ferrari have always been competitive. They were the fastest package in Bahrain, China, Azerbaijan and Canada, but were usually best of the rest, on outright pace, everywhere else.

Vettel now leads the standings by one point after seven races. Hamilton will be disappointed to have been usurped at the top, but given how the first seven races have gone, he should be grateful he is not further behind.

This is looking like Vettel's best chance to win his fifth drivers' title, having won four in succession with Red Bull between 2010-2013.

He was a match for Hamilton for much of last season, but the big difference this year is that Ferrari have excellent qualifying pace. Saturday was Vettel's fourth pole position of the year, and he has started ahead of Hamilton five times.

With overtaking still very difficult in F1, track position is critical. Unlike last year when he was chasing plenty of races and having to come from behind, this year he has been able to control more from the front.

Sunday was a masterclass once Vettel took the lead at the start. He built up a seven-second lead and was content to match what his nearest challenger, Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas. had to offer.

Anytime Bottas got too close he had an answer. The winning margin ended up being 7.3 seconds, but it was more emphatic than that.

Vettel was in a strong position last year, leading by 20 points after nine races, but a mixture of unreliability, driver error and a strong run of form from Hamilton sank his title chances.

Vettel has impressed with his mindset this season. He did not get angry, at least publicly, after being hit by Max Verstappen's Red Bull in China. He supported Ferrari's attempt to go for a two-stop tyre strategy in Spain, even though it backfired and dropped him to fourth.

The German certainly appears more relaxed. It probably helps the mindset when you have the best car in the field.

Hamilton and Mercedes, judging by their miserable expressions on Sunday night, know that they face a real challenge to prevent Vettel being crowned world champion after the season-ending Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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