A combination of factors saw Mercedes face its "biggest struggle" of the 2019 Formula 1 season at the Canadian Grand Prix, yet it was still able to prevail.

Heading into the weekend on the back of six straight victories, the German manufacturer was wary of a resurgence from Ferrari at a track that was expected to play to the Scuderia's strengths, with the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve dominated by long straights. 

Its predictions were realised during Friday practice as Ferrari topped the timesheets and the speed charts, despite Mercedes introducing its first engine upgrade of the season in a bid to maintain its superiority over the field. 

On Friday, team boss Toto Wolff said Mercedes had traced its deficit to Ferrari to be worth as much as 0.6s per lap on Montreal's long straights, which was backed up by the performance of the Prancing Horse.

Already seemingly on the back foot, the first major speedbump occured in second practice, when Lewis Hamilton made a rare error and slammed into the outside wall at the fast right-left kink of Turns 8 and 9. 

Hamilton described the uncharacteristic crash as an "innocent mistake", though it was one that would not come without consequences as the Briton was forced to miss the rest of the session with Mercedes carrying out a complete rebuild of the rear of his car. It meant Hamilton was unable to conduct any of the all-important race runs, nor qualifying simulations.

With the reigning world champion's car back on track in time for final practice on Saturday morning, there was soon to be another concern for Mercedes. One of its usually-reliable power units - newly introduced in Canada - had given up the ghost in the back of Lance Stroll's Racing Point machine. 

Mercedes was unable to diagnose the issue heading into qualifying and the race, leaving it with "some question marks" over its latest power unit, though Wolff insisted the works squad would not turn down its engines as a precaution. 

After Hamilton had been narrowly beaten to pole position by Vettel - underlying Ferrari's improved performance - another worry surfaced late on Saturday afternoon, with Mercedes discovering a hydraulic leak on Hamilton’s W10.

The news was confirmed by the team just hours before lights out, leaving Mercedes facing a race against time to get the car ready for the start of the grand prix. A herculean effort saw Hamilton's car successfully rebuilt for a second time in two days with less than 10 minutes to spare. 

Despite completing the mammoth task with a number of team members struck down by an outbreak of flu within Mercedes' ranks, there were still issues remaining. With attentions diverted, it meant the usual pre-race configurations had not been completed, resulting in Mercedes mechanics still frantically working on making adjustments to Hamilton's braking system on the grid.

Wolff revealed after the race that Mercedes had been left with serious doubts over whether Hamilton's car would be able to make the start, and then complete the 70-lap race distance. 

“We’ve had one of the most difficult weekends this year,” said Wolff.

“Part of the team is ill with flu. We had a hydraulic that we discovered overnight. The car was in a million bits in the morning and we weren’t sure if we would make it to the race or whether the car would finish.

“All of this was happening behind the scenes, so what appears to be a solid victory behind closed doors was the biggest struggle for a long time.

"We had the engine that blew up on Lance [Stroll’s] car [in FP3], which we didn’t know if it would affect us.

“Overall the most difficult race weekend I can remember even though it didn’t look like this from the outset at all."

Hamilton went on to record his fifth victory of the campaign to further enhance his championship lead after a controversial time penalty for Sebastian Vettel handed the Briton a record seventh win in Canada.

He had hounded Vettel for most of the race when the German cracked under pressure and ran wide across the grass at Turn 3 on Lap 48, before correcting a slide of oversteer as he rejoined marginally ahead of Hamilton, who slammed on the anchors to avoid contact, with the wall looming ever closer to his right-hand side. 

Hamilton, who prior to the weekend had made headlines for his comments on wanting F1 to be more physically demanding, emerged from his Mercedes looking drained as he crouched down next to his car to collect his breath - and thoughts - following an intense and emotionally-charged race both on and off the track. 

“My team worked so hard to get the car ready,” Hamilton added. “I nearly didn’t start the race because we had an engine problem.

“So, the guys have really had their work cut-out this weekend because I crashed the car on Friday – which is rare for me – and then had a good Saturday and then had that problem.

“To take the engine apart and rebuild it, was very, very easy to make mistakes and so, I just wanted to deliver them the best race I could possibly deliver.

"I don’t feel in life I need credit to be happy. I feel I did a great job this weekend, I didn’t leave anything on the table, apart from FP2 that was not very good, but I’m not perfect. I haven’t crashed for a long time.

"But what I can say is the races have been really really strong, really consistent, and even on weekends where we’ve not had the car to really win I’ve been able to put it right there with the front-runners.

"My goal on the race weekend is to do the best job I can for the team but to extract above and beyond."

While Mercedes did not win a race outright on-track for the first time this season, and despite cracks threatening to derail its hopes, it once again emerged on top - serving as another indicator of the vast strengths that make it the successful world champion-winning juggernaut it is. 

 

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