Lewis Hamilton won the Canadian Grand Prix, the most exciting race of the season so far. He led home team mate Jenson Button in McLaren’s third 1-2 finish of the season. Hamilton now leads the drivers’ championship, the fifth different driver to do so this season and McLaren head the constructors’. Fernando Alonso finished third for Ferrari but felt he would have won but for problems with slower cars.
It was Hamilton’s second win in three visits to Montreal, ” I don’t know why I go well here, ” he said. “For me this is one of the best races of the season. Maybe I can dial the car in and get a better feel for it here.”
It was a sensational race with a spirited duel between Alonso and Hamilton at the heart of it. There was some very hard racing further down the field, with Schumacher and Kubica also engaged in a furious battle which saw both of them on the grass at the Turn 3 chicane at one point.
Tyre degradation played a huge part in the story, with drivers adopting different strategies to cope with the fading tyres, both soft and hard. It gave us an idea of what F1 might be like if tyres were deliberately chosen to degrade quickly, as some would like to see.
Red Bull thought they had the right strategy starting on the hard tyres, but it turned out that they didn’t last much better than the soft. This handed the initiative to McLaren and Ferrari, Vettel going from P2 on the grid (after Webber’s penalty) to P4. This was because the hard tyre didn’t perform any better at the start than the soft tyre, against expectations.
It was the warmest day of the race weekend with the track temperature up at 38 degrees when the race started.
Mark Webber started seventh on the grid after taking a five place drop due to a late gearbox change. The team found particles of the input shaft in the oil analysis and that meant it was going to fail.
The start was full of incident, with Liuzzi and Massa being very aggressive with each other, banging wheels like touring car drivers. Both had to pit for repairs.
Jenson Button was in trouble from early on with the soft tyre, and made an early stop on lap 7. Hamilton led from the start, but pitted himself early, as did Alonso. The pair exited the pits side by side and it was the start of a fantastic battle between the old adversaries. Alonso took the place on the way out of the pits.
We now had two races, the Red Bulls and Kubica in one race and Alonso and Hamilton in another. But the hard tyres were not lasting well either and the race started to swing back towards Hamilton and Alonso, who closed quickly on Vettel and Webber.
The Red Bull pair pitted – Vettel opting to take his soft tyres at this early stage – leaving Buemi in the Toro Rosso in the lead.
Alonso made a move to pass the Swiss at the hairpin, but lost momentum and this gave Hamilton the chance to get past him again on the long straight into the final chicane.
Alonso looked more comfortable on tyre wear than Hamilton and on lap 23 came on the radio to say, “It’s looking good” to his engineer.
Sutil battled with Kubica for sixth place, while Vettel on the option tyre was faster than the leaders, but the problem with the softs today was that once they started to go off, they fell off a cliff so it was important to pit as soon as possible when the driver felt them going.
Webber led on lap 30 having made only one stop to the two of his rivals by that stage. He was the only one of the leaders not to have used the option tyre at this stage. His lap times were stronger than his rivals at this stage and it was a question of how he could minimise the pain of the soft tyre when he took it.
By lap 40 his tyres started to go off and Hamilton was reeling him in quickly. It looked at this stage as though Hamilton, Alonso, Button and Vettel were all trying to get to the end of the race on their second set of hard tyres. As Webber’s tyres faded, Hamilton started catching him at a second a lap, he was on him by lap 48.
Hamilton passed Webber for the lead on lap 50 and the Australian pitted a lap later, rejoining fifth behind Hamilton, Alonso, Button and Vettel.
Alonso got boxed in behind a slower car for the second time in the race with 15 laps to go and Button took the opportunity to pass him for second place. Button’s tyres looked to be in better shape than Hamilton’s and he closed on him.
With nine laps to go, Sebastian Buemi pulled off a brilliant pass on Schumacher for 8th place, a remarkable performance in a Toro Rosso car which looked horribly off the pace in the practice sessions. Buemi started 15th on the grid. Schumacher lost a further two places at the end to the Force Indias, Liuzzi enjoying his strongest weekend of the season and he surely would have scored more points if it were not for the collision with Massa at the start.
After being outclassed on the downforce dependent Istanbul circuit, Ferrari were good here and Alonso felt that a win was possible. “Everyone saw that we had the pace to win. It was a race decided by small details, traffic in particular. Some times it helps you some times it’s against you,” said Alonso. “I think we did a perfect race, we did very quick pit stops, especially the one to pass the McLaren. We proved we are strong and there is a lot more to come.”
CANADIAN GRAND PRIX, Montreal, 70 laps
1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1h33:53.456
2. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 2.254
3. Alonso Ferrari + 9.214
4. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 37.817
5. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 39.291
6. Rosberg Mercedes + 56.084
7. Kubica Renault + 57.300
8. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
9. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap
10. Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap
11. Schumacher Mercedes + 1 lap
12. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
13. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth + 1 lap
14. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth + 1 lap
15. Massa Ferrari + 1 lap
16. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth + 2 laps
17. Petrov Renault + 2 laps
18. Chandhok HRT-Cosworth + 4 laps
19. Di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth + 5 laps