Race Recap: Canadian F1 Grand Prix is one story with a thousand dramas
The Canadian Grand Prix has the distinction of being historic, fun and a race that Infiniti Red Bull Racing has never won. After this weekend, we're looking at two out of three on that list. Qualifying was a greasy misadventure, with no one but Sebastian Vettel and three midfield drivers able to get through the sessions without at least one muck-up. In mixed conditions that saw just about every session get wetter, Vettel put Infiniti Red Bull Racing on pole position and, according to what we were told, didn't have too hard of a time doing it. He was followed by Lewis Hamilton in the first Mercedes-AMG Petronas, who flubbed the last corner on his flying lap just before qualifying ended.
Valteri Bottas reminded us all that Williams is still on the grid, darting through the three qualifying periods and parking his FW35 third on the grid. Nico Rosberg came fourth in the second Mercedes, victim of a broken radio, Mark Webber was fifth in the second Infiniti Red Bull, victim of misjudged timing for his hot lap, Fernando Alonso put the first Ferrari in sixth, victim of a lack of pace, Jean-Eric Vergne planted a flag on the Circuit Gilles Villenuve in lining up seventh, Adrian Sutil continued to prove he knows how to handle the Force India by lining up eighth, Kimi Räikkönen – like Alonso, having to endure a car off the pace - took ninth and Daniel Ricciardo in the second Toro Rosso slotted into tenth. Räikkönen and Ricciardo would get two-place grid penalties for the same pit-lane infraction, but because of their positions and the way it was enforced, they both only lost one spot, but it gave Nico Hülkenberg the tenth position for the race. If not for that, both Red Bull and its junior team would have had all four cars in the top ten.
Come race day, the weather was substantially gorgeous, 72 degrees, sunshine and a dry track making it hard to believe that the day before had been a gray pall of rain and wind.
Have you heard the one where Sebastian Vettel takes pole then runs away with the race, absolutely unbothered from the green light to the checkered flag? Oh, you have? Well then we probably don't need to spend a lot of time on it. Vettel rushed away at the start, slid over in front of Hamilton before the first turn, had a two-second lead at the end of the first lap and had it at about 15 easy seconds by the end of the race. He provided his only scare of the race when he overran the track and went through the grass after having out-braked himself into a corner – something he might have done just to give himself some kind of story to tell in the post-race interview.
Likewise, Jean-Eric Vergne made headlines for finishing in sixth, but if he hadn't been listed in the final order, you might have forgotten he was in the race at all. He moved up a place as Bottas went into freefall, but he roamed the entire race somewhere in the huge gap between Rosberg and Paul di Resta and the cameras paid him no attention. As for Bottas, the dry weather ripped all the camouflage off the Williams, Bottas losing three places on the first lap and continuing to plummet until the flag, pulling up in 14th when time was called.
The rest of the top ten finishers either made their marks or took their knocks. After qualifying sixth, Alonso said a win was still possible, but few outside of his fan club thought he was talking any sense. After getting around Bottas in the early laps, he simply ran down the other cars in front, setting quickest laps in the process. By Lap 57, he was clawing his way up to Hamilton, looking for second place, a few laps later he was looking for a way around the Mercedes. When Alonso went for the pass on Lap 63 into the first turn, their cars kissed for a brief second as Alonso pulled over for the corner, and they'd kiss again when Hamilton tried to retake the spot two laps later. It wasn't happening, though, Hamilton staying close to Alonso at first but the Ferrari eventually putting a little time into the Mercedes over the final five laps. Hamilton, never happy about not winning and especially not happy to lose a place so late in the race, looked like a kid who'd been docked half his allowance during the podium ceremony.
Mark Webber, who ran like a digger at Gallipoli when the lights went out and looked like he could claim second place, had his RB8 remodeled when Giedo van der Garde in the Caterham ignored blue flags and turned in on him at the hairpin. Webber lost some pieces of his front wing and a bit of performance to go with it, but held on to finish fourth. Behind him was Nico Rosberg, who said he couldn't do anything more than work to halt the slide back, but he'll be happy that the Mercedes has come far enough in its development that he only had to give up one place.
Paul di Resta turned in a Highland Charge, turning 17th on the grid into 7th at the finish, coming in behind Jean-Eric Vergne. For the second race in a row, the Scotsman was mugged by a blown call on qualifying strategy, the team opting to fix a gearbox issue that di Resta said didn't need immediate fixing, the repair taking so long that he didn't get to set a lap time that would advance him to Q2. Whereas every other runner who finished in the top ten stopped at least twice, di Resta stopped once, making his first set of tires last for 56 laps of the 70-lap race.
Felipe Massa took eighth, climbing eight positions after a brain-fart crash in qualifying left him 16th on the grid. For at least one stint it looked like he would have finished higher, but the eternally beleaguered Ferrari driver will be happy to get points.
Lotus team principal Eric Boullier had said after Monaco that that race was a one-off and that Lotus would be back to form in Canada. Yeah, not so much. Räikkönen, who had said after qualifying that "It can't get much worse," watched it get worse when Lotus' rare tire issues in qualifying turned into brake issues during the race, and he had to drive cautiously with a fading pedal. He lost out on eighth place when Massa passed him on the next-to-last lap, causing Lotus to fire off this tweet when it happened: "Dammit."
The tenth little Indian was Adrian Sutil, who did well to drop only two places from his grid position. He spun on the first lap while trying an inside move on Bottas, then got punted by Maldonado at the hairpin on the same lap, then served a drive-through penalty for not getting out of the way quickly enough on Lap 63 when the Hamilton-Alonso battle was bearing down on him.
That means we've got to the end of the top of the charts and we still haven't mentioned McLaren - the first time in 64 races that the team from Woking hasn't had at least one car in the points. Throwing hot poo all over the team's repeated assertions that they're working to get ahead, Button started the weekend saying he was excited for the new parts due to be fitted to the car, but they couldn't test the parts because of a geabox issue, qualifying went awry when he missed the time cut in Q2 before setting a lap time, and after the race said he felt like he had been racing "in a different category" and had "never been so pleased to get out of a car."
The final order means Vettel extends his lead in the Driver's Championship to 36 points, his 132 points looking down on Alonso's 96 points, Räikkönen's 88 and Hamilton's 77. For his efforts, which include winning a race he has never won and that Infiniti Red Bull Racing has never won, the Montreal crowd booed him during the post-race interview. Infiniti Red Bull also stretches its gap in the Constructor's Championship with 201 points, Ferrari 56 adrift with 145 points, Mercedes-AMG Petronas with 134 and Lotus Renault at 114.
The next race is at Silverstone in three weeks, the venue quite a few teams consider home. Hopefully that will give them the edge - or even the magic beans - to put up better fights against the outfit that looks to have found its season-dominating groove again.
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