After a year of absence, Canada makes a popular return to the F1 calendar. Now that Bernie got his money, business can resume as usual. Fans and drivers alike love this track. Its flowing, demanding and has some unique features that we hardly see on any of the faceless “new” tracks. The most famous one being the “wall of champions” that always catches out a driver or two during the weekend. Getting close to these barriers is the key to speed around here.
The question before qualifying was if Red Bull could get its 8th pole position in a row. McLaren put in a strong performance in Turkey and was almost as quick as the Red Bulls there. Q1 passed by with the usual suspects from the new teams being eliminated. The surprise was Kobayashi in that group. Especially after being in Q3 in Turkey. The next big name to drop out in Q2 was none other than Schumacher. He found himself starting 13th. That must have been dissappointing for a man that has won 7 (!) times here.
For the first time this season we saw different tyre strategies in Q3. Through the course of the weekend the Gilles Villeneuve circuit had proved to be a real tyre chomper. The softs seemingly only lasting for a few laps before a severe drop in performance. This made some teams go for the harder prime tyre in qualifying. (The rules state that you must start the race with the tyre you qualify on.) Red Bull chose this strategy whereas McLaren did not.
Vettel had looked quicker than Webber in Q1 and Q2 but he struggled to get a clean lap in Q3. He got one on his final attempt but ended up one tenth and one place behind his teammate. The same happened in Turkey, quicker than Mark in Q1 and Q2 except there his lap in Q3 was hampered by a technical fault. This time Webber needed a gearbox change after qualifying which dropped him 5 places.
Lewis Hamilton was the driver that seized the day with a stunning final lap. On soft tyres and on fumes it would prove. He beat the Australian to the pole by two tenths and is told by the team to stop on the track so they dont run completely out of fuel since they need to have some left for a sample for the FIA. Then Hamilton does the first really cool thing I have seen him do in his career. He gets out of the cockpit and sits on the side while waving to the crowd. And then he gets off the car and starts pushing it down the long straight. That was great! Lol. Someone even made a small gif of him pushing the McLaren: http://i45.tinypic.com/15wjgvr.gif
You just went up a couple of notches in my book, Lewis. Now you just need to stop doing and saying silly stuff off the track.
Button qualifies a lowly 5th compared to his teammate and Alonso slots in 4th place. The high downforce track of Turkey was not the F10s cup of tea and Massa finds himself in 7th. He has never done well here and this year was no different. The big surprise was Liuzzi in 6th position. What a boost for the Italian after his poor showing in Turkey. The stage was now set for an exciting race!
The lights go out and midfield mayhem ensues. First we see Massa touching Liuzzi not once, not twice but three times eventually spinning him around. Liuzzis great 5th position after Webbers gearbox change was now vaporized.
We see Petrov going on the grass after the start which spins him right through the pack and its only down to luck that the only casualty is Pedro de la Rosa. Pedros teammate Kobayashi is doing a lot better. He has made it up from 18th to 10th position in less than a lap! Outstanding. Unfortunately his banzai attitude gets the better of him in a scrap with one of the Williams and he becomes a victim of the infamous wall of champions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yColVQWtHek
A darn shame. One wonders if we will see the Sauber team next year. I for one hope to see Kobayashi in F1 for a long time. If he just gets polished a little he is one heck of a driver.
What follows is a thrilling race. We have lots of incidents, overtakings and scraps going on. No need for the snooze button – this race was an instant classic!
There is the Kubica-Schumacher fight going over the grass in one of the chicanes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lx2osis5kfs
Then there is the wheel to wheel fight of Hamilton and Alonso in the pitlane. The Schumacher – Alguersuari battle part 2. Taking up where they left off in Melbourne.
The muscling of Sutil past Massa, Schumacher versus Buemi. (Come to think of it – Schumacher sure was in the mix a lot in this race.) The list goes on and this was just what we saw on TV. It is hard to imagine a dry race getting any better than this.
And I havent even mentioned the fight for victory among the front runners. Red Bull vs McLaren with Alonso in the mix. It was all down to tyre choice and who would preserve them the best. Everyone thought that Red Bull had been the smart ones opting to start on the harder tire. But once the race was evolving it became clear that the softer tires on the McLarens lasted a lot better than expected while the harder tyres on the Red Bulls went off a lot sooner than expected.
The McLaren boys pitted on lap 6 and 7 and had their soft tyre stint out of the way and found themselves in a race with Fernando Alonso. Vettel was then in the lead for a short while but had to come in and went on the softer tire on lap 14. Webber came in the lap before but stayed on the harder tyre. Was the Red Bull team just gambling with the different strategies? They didnt seem to have a clear picture on how the tyres would behave.
Hamilton does a great pass on Alonso. Helped a little by Buemi who slowed the Spaniard down a smidge. Vettel was now running behind the McLarens and Alonso. Sometimes closing in and sometimes losing time. The laptimes were very inconsistent for several drivers but perhaps Vettel the most. We hear a frustrated Vettel on the radio asking how he was going to pass anyone if he has to go slower all the time. It later emerged that he had a gearbox problem and yet another race sees Vettel nursing a stricken car over the finish line.
Webber is leading the race and is on a very long stint on the harder tyre – trying to make the final stint on the softer tyre as short as possible. But he is unable to keep a lead big enough for another win. In fact he is being caught by the previously mentioned trio and Vettel. Eventually he is caught up and passed by Hamilton and when he pits for his final stint, he finds himself well behind Vettel in 5th position.
Alonso gets passed again by another McLaren. This time Button takes advantage of a slow HRT car and gets the jump on Alonso before the first chicane. Nicely done.
Near the end we get a super slo-mo glance first on Hamiltons tyres that look completely spent and then on Buttons that look very smooth in comparison. I was sure Button was saving for an attack on Hamilton. But when he ups his pace, so does Hamilton accordingly and Jenson are only able to put in laptimes that are matching his teammate. Hamilton controls it and takes the chequered flag making it another McLaren 1-2.
I dont think we will see any of the big teams starting on the harder tyre again this year. It just didnt work.
Alonso was visibly disappointed after the race. We heard him on the team radio during the race going “Its looking good” but it was not to be. But it seems we will see Ferrari in the fight for the big points again in Valencia.
Vettel must have been even more downbeat. His prospects for winning looked quite good but he ended up having to be happy just to finish the race. He could not even complete the parade lap but had to pull over.
Red Bull is looking more and more like a team that doesnt know how to manage the best car in the field. Strategy mistakes, bad quality control of parts and not the best management of driver rivalry either. It is baffling that they are now 22 points behind McLaren in the constructor standings. The RB6 was just as dominant as the Brawn last year, if not more. And that car had a Mercedes engine bolted on in a quick-fix solution. It looks like McLaren have pretty much caught up with them and the advantage they should have capitalized on in the beginning is gone. They will have to grit their teeth and eradicate all errors, both of team and of technical nature to win the big one. McLaren is a machine in the developing race and they are not letting up.
DRIVER OF THE DAY
For me, its clearly Lewis Hamilton. He provided entertainment as usual and controlled the race on very worn tyres.
I do have to mention Schumacher here too. He drove a pretty mediocre race compared to his teammate. But for sheer entertainment good old Schumi takes the prize for providing it in spades on Sunday.
DOUCHE OF THE DAY
No real douches this time. It was an epic race in which every driver contributed to making it enjoyable and memorable for all the fans 😀
SORENS RACE RATING
There are so many things I havent touched upon. Kubicas insane dive into the pitlane. Schumachers tussle with Massa that destroyed the Brazillians front wing. The outstanding fightback of Liuzzi from last to 9th place. Both of the Force Indias passing Schumacher on the final lap and more. But time eludes me.
My race rating: 10 out of 10. Instant classic.
In two weeks there is the track of Valencia to look forward to. Judging from the 2 previous years it will be the mother of all anti-climaxes compared to this race. But its still racing. See you there!
Soren says: Cheer for Denmark in the world cup. You know you want to.