Canadian Grand Prix: Can Vettel's engine upgrade help him overhaul Hamilton?

Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
Ready for an upgrade - Sebastian Vettel's gleaming red Ferrari at Monaco
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Canada is arguably Lewis Hamilton's favourite track but Ralph Ellis thinks title rival Sebastian Vettel could be a huge threat in Montreal...

"Montreal, a track where the drivers are on full throttle for 60 per cent of the circuit, is an opportunity to make a statement of intent for the rest of the season with Vettel [3.3] just 14 points behind Hamilton [1.56] in the Drivers Championship."

If this is a big Formula One weekend for Sebastian Vettel, then it's arguably an even more critical moment in time for Corrado Lotti.

Who? You might well ask. He's the Italian who became the engine technical chief for the Prancing Horse team about 18 months ago following their disastrous 2016 campaign when they didn't win a single race. In something that sounds like a scene from a Godfather film the previous fellow in charge, Lorenso Sassi, was "promoted" to work with Fiat to make way for him.

Signor Lotti is one of those men who stays out of the limelight. Google isn't even sure how to spell his name, suggesting it might begin with an "I" rather than an "L".

But a bit of research shows he's had a meteoric rise through the ranks at Maranello since first joining the company after he'd graduated from the University of Bologna with a degree in Mechanical Engineering back in 1999. He's been moved up the ranks every couple of years since.

It's a ruthless world. There were suggestions he might be out last Christmas after Lewis Hamilton had run away with the world title in the second half of the season.

Hamilton must wait for his upgrade

But Ferrari's bosses chose to keep their design team together for one more crack at chasing down Mercedes. They probably all know if they don't do it this time, they won't get another chance.

So that's the background to this week's Canadian Grand Prix, the race where many of the teams are bringing engine upgrades to this season's Formula One campaign.

Red Bull are expecting better performance with a new Renault unit, Honda will bring more power to the Toro Rosso cars, although Mercedes are actually postponing their new power unit because of some reliability issues.

Ferrari, meanwhile, are expected to upgrade their engine but are being very secretive about what they are doing and what it might bring. And that's where all the pressure is on Signor Lotti and his team to deliver.

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is one of Hamilton's favourite tracks. He's taken pole there for three years in a row, and has six race wins to his name. Since the start of the hybrid era it's been perfect for him, almost custom designed for the strengths of his car.

Ricciardo has a grid penalty

This year he is still favourite but odds-against [2.36] to take pole again, and [2.5] to be the race winner. He's only not odds-on because nobody knows how much extra speed the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel [3.2] will have.

It looks like being another duel between them. Daniel Ricciardo would doubtless have loved to have built on his Monaco success a fortnight ago, but instead has to take a grid penalty that will be at least 10 places, and might be 15 if it turns out his hybrid battery needs replacing. He's [27.0] to pull off a miracle win against that handicap.

When Lotti's team did their work over the winter they found an extra 10 horse power for the engine compared to last season, mostly by making the turbo charger lighter.

Now they are bringing more refinements, and Montreal, a track where the drivers are on full throttle for 60 per cent of the circuit, is an opportunity to make a statement of intent for the rest of the season with Vettel [3.3] just 14 points behind Hamilton [1.56] in the Drivers Championship.

Ferrari's bosses will be watching, and they will expect results. For Vettel there will always be another race - for Lotti the success of his latest engine upgrade could be make or break.

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