Waking up this morning I felt like a kid again. Images of last nights race was swirling around in my head. It reminded me of when I had seen a great movie as a child and the images was still flickering around in my infantile mind the next day. This was not Indiana Jones or Empire however, except Grand Prix racing at its very peak. Yesterdays race proved to me why the old saying is true: “There are only 3 true sports in the world. Mountain climbing, Bull Fighting and Auto Racing. All the rest are merely games” – Ernest Hemingway.
Lets get this out the way, shall we. We all know Vettel took pole position here, right? Well, he did but it was not with his usual big buffer down to his competitors. The Ferraris put up a fight here and took 2nd and 3rd only 2 tenths behind Sebastian. The McLarens were surprisingly down the order in 5th and 7th for Lewis and Jenson. Could it be that they put on some more wing in anticipation of a wet race? They had a longer 7th gear as confirmed by Hamilton. This was not optimal for qualifying but great for passing during the race.
Lights out and we are ra.. oh wait – its a safety car start.. Wet race and since the Pirelli full wets is still a bit of an unknown territory the organizers think safety and opts for a rolling start instead. After 4 laps Mr Maylander goes into the pitlane and Vettel holds up the field. Alonso gets a good run on him and due to a shaky exit from Seb on the final chicane the Spaniard is almost alongside the Red Bull lining up for a pass at turn 1! Some late braking from the world champion prevents that from happening and he starts pulling out a lead.
Massa has a reputation of being utter crap in the wet. But he is looking quite feisty around Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve and is keeping close to Alonso being all over him at most parts of the track. The Brazillian clearly faster than the Santander ponyboy. Stay golden.
Webber gets spun around by Lewis Hamilton in turn 1. Its a race incident but Lewis doesnt really need more attention drawn to him after the Monaco debacle and punishments. On lap 7 he finds himself behind his teammate and when he gets a better exit from the final chicane he goes for a gap on the inside of the McLaren. Unfortunately, it is also the racing line that the drivers take to even out the curve down to turn 1. Mix that up with some spray from the wheels, meaning Button has no idea where Lewis is – and the result is contact and a squashed rearwheel on Ramiltons car. Button is lucky to escape with his car intact.
With Hamilton stopping on the track, the SC comes out again. Button pits for intermediates and also picks up a drive-through for speeding behind the SC. The restart commences on lap 12 without any drama this time. Kobayashi has somehow made it up to 6th place from his 13th starting position.
Button takes his penalty but only loses 5 places – even with a tight packed grid. The reason for that is a short pitlane that also avoids taking the final chicane and turn 1 but instead feed into the traffic at turn 2.
Button starts to go fast on the intermediates and makes up places. So much that it tickles Alonso and Ferrari to take on inters as well on lap 18. This proves to be a very bad call as the rain just starts to pour down heavy around lap 19. In fact it gets so bad that the SC is deployed yet again. Alonso and Button pits again for the switch back to full wets. Alonso is in 9th and Button 11th after that. Sebastian Vettel pits for a fresh set keeping his lead. Massa pits too but gets out in 3rd behind Kobayashi who runs a sensational second in his Sauber, having not pitted.
Lap 25 and they red flag the race due to undrivable conditions. Ironically we have the exact same red flag situation as we did at the last race in Monaco. And we know know that the teams are allowed to change tires and setup during that period. That plays well into the hands of Kobayashi in 2nd place. We now go through a tedious 2 hour suspension time while we wait for the rain to die down and the standing water to leave the track. As it would turn out, it was well worth the wait.
The race finally gets underway again under the safety car. It stays out for 8 laps – in fact long enough for the conditions to get good enough for intermediates again. Kobayashi does some fantastic defensive driving to keep Massa behind him. Button pits and tries the inters yet again hoping for some better luck this time. Alonso also pits for inters but he doesnt even get half a lap on those before we see him beached on a kerb.
Button is limping back to the pits with a front wheel puncture. 5th pit stop for the Briton actually. Replays show Alonso and Button touching and neither giving way. Unbelievably Button escapes another clash without damage to the car. He is in very last place in 21st. Martin Brundle on the BBC proclaims that Jenson will not score any points today. And who could blame him for thinking that at the time. We get told the incident is investigated by the stewards.
Bernd Maylander leads the race once again in the Mercedes SC while Alonsos car is removed from the track. Race resumed on lap 40. Kobayashi still in second and Vettel starts pulling out a familiar gap. Schumacher is looking fiery on the inters. Using every ounce of his experience he pounces on his competitors when they make a mistake. He is a 7-time winner around this track so surely that counts for something. Lap 50 we see a brilliant move from him where he takes advantage of Kobayashi running wide and passing both him and Massa in the progress. The veteran is now in 2nd place!
The cars now start to gamble on going to slicks, Webber being the first. Perhaps as a bit of a guinea pig for Red Bull? Massa pits for slicks too but it doesnt work out that well as he goes into the wet trying to clear a backmarker. He aquaplanes into the barrier damaging his nose while being very lucky not to crash out altogether.
Vettel also pits for slicks while Button has amazingly made it up to 4th place closing down on the battle between Schumacher and Webber. Vettels lead of 11 seconds is about to be eradicated as Heidfeld tries to imitate Petrov getting his Renault almost airborne over his own frontwing. His contact with Kobayashi was the reason for that. The SC is called out due to no small amount of debris on the track.
Race is resumed with 10 laps to go. This is where history is made. 10 laps of glorious racing down to the very last corner. Schumacher gets a look on Vettel at the restart but he soon enough has his hands full with keeping Webber behind him. A sensational podium would be just what the doctor ordered for his F1 comeback. Jenson Button joins in the fun and its a 3-way battle behind Vettel. Vettel had every opportunity to pull out a large gap while the 3 scrap amongst themselves. He would later be sorry he didn’t.
Its a treat to watch the German pull out all his tricks trying to keep his pursuers behind. Webber gets past him but cuts the chicane and has to give the place back. On the next lap he cuts it again and Button takes advantage and passes the Australian. I believe if Button had not made it past him at that time, he would not have won the race. The McLaren being so much faster on the straight makes an easy pass on Schumacher and now takes up the hunt on Vettel with 5 laps to go.
Vettel is just 3 seconds ahead of Button now and one can only wonder why Red Bull has not told him to push to get a comfortable gap. It is only with 3 laps to go that he seems to realize the seriousness of the situation and picks up the pace. Button was lapping 1,5 seconds quicker at one point and Vettel is now lapping almost the same lap times. So the pace was there to ease out or keep a gap – it was just not being utilized.
Button seems like a shark that has gotten a sniff of blood. The pace he is setting is astounding as he is pushing like hell to get within the 1 second gap to the Red Bull. He knows that he can pass him if he just gets close enough to engage the DRS. With 2 laps to go Button is close enough to open the rear wing and this gets him even closer to the Red Bull in front.
Last lap and it all unfolds. There is a great stationary shot of Vettel powering and sliding out of turn 4 absolutely on the limit trying to keep the lead with Button hot on his heels. His exit much more smooth and controlled. And in turn 6 Vettel does indeed overcook it and goes wide – Jenson Button inherits the lead with half a lap to go! Unbelievable. 5 pitstops and a drive-through penalty. From being dead last he now crosses the line as the winner of the Canadian Grand Prix! What a race and what a performance from the Brit.
Webber gets 3rd and Schumacher a respectable 4th place. Petrov a solid 5th place in a crazy Grand Prix. But we are treated to a great finish from another two racers. Massa and Kobayashi have been dicing for a greater part of the race. Massa uses the DRS on the long straight to get right up on his tail. With a second DRS zone on the start-finish straight its a photo finish for the two! Wow – Massa just edges ahead for 6th place. 7th for Kobayashi is a great result though.
SORENS RACE RATING
You almost have to catch your breath after a race like that. It was epic in every way. A surprise winner and excitement and action all around. This is why we love motor racing. Every race is a treat but every once in a while there is a race like this. Fantastic. I have to do a Spinal Tap and crank it up to 11. Deduct a point for the long wait and its another 10 out of 10 race. Now I really feel like I have been too generous on my previous race ratings. But I guess this is the bar that I can judge future races from 🙂
DOUCHE OF THE DAY
It has to be Lewis Hamilton. He clearly had the car to win this race for the third time. But threw it away by being too eager getting past Button on the wrong side. Jenson knew it was a long one and he calmly made it through loads of traffic all through the race. Passing cleanly and at the right moment. Button only made one questionable move – the one that took Alonso out. But he had the racing line and Alonso gambled that he would somehow yield. It was a racing incident and the stewards agree. One might ask what would have been done if Lewis had made that move on Alonso – but thats another topic.
DRIVER OF THE DAY
Surprise, surprise. Its Jenson Button. His Hungary 2006 win was great but this was greater. A fitting 10th win aniversary. His smooth driving style while pushing hard on a very narrow dry line is incredibly hard and that is one of the things that won him the race. Vettel drove an amazing race too. He kept his lead and cool under gruelling conditions but showed that he is human after all in the end. However, Button is by far the driver of the day. This photo is from that win in Hungary, 5 years ago.
Edit: After watching the race again, I don’t feel right not mentioning Schumacher in this segment. He was brilliant and would have kept his second place if the track had stayed damp. Hope to see more of this from him.
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Til next time, take care y’all.
Images © Lorenzo Bellanca, Steven Tee/LAT Photographic/Pirelli, Paul Gilham, Red Bull, Getty Images/McLaren/Mercedes