Fernando Alonso broke Renault's run of bad luck at the Canadian Grand Prix when he claimed victory in Montreal, leading from pole to flag save for the pit stop reshuffles. Michael Schumacher took advantage of Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren going wide on the penultimate lap and the Ferrari snatched second, which left a disappointed Raikkonen to come home third.
It was hot and sunny for race day at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with a track temperature in the high forties. Red Bull's David Coulthard started from the back after an engine change this morning. Second on the grid, Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella jumped the start and later got a drive through penalty for his efforts.
Raikkonen got up to second ahead of him and Jarno Trulli's Toyota remained fourth. Behind them it got a bit messy; the Williams of Nico Rosberg and the McLaren of Juan Pablo Montoya were on a charge from sixth and seventh. They muscled their way past Michael, the German having to take a bit of grass to avoid Montoya, and went side by side, dropping Michael to seventh.
Somehow you just knew it was going to end in grief and it duly did. The Williams and McLaren touched at the next corner; Rosberg hit the wall and retired while Montoya had to pit for a new front wing. While that was going on the MF1s also had a spot of bother when Tiago Monteiro nerfed teammate Christijan Albers at the hairpin, causing the Dutchman to retire with a damaged car.
It was debatable who was the culprit between Rosberg and Montoya but the safety car came out while the Williams was cleared. "I didn't want to lose the place and braked late," said Rosberg. "I didn't see him (Montoya) but I felt the contact. It was a shame for the team after qualifying gave us a good grid slot."
Montoya was none too impressed by the incident. "Sure, I don't mind racing hard, banging wheels," the Colombian commented. "But I was inside at the corner and he tried to keep the position and we collided." The race was not to last much longer for Montoya anyway.
The safety car went back in after a few laps and Franck Montagny was the next retiree when his Super Aguri pulled off spouting a copious amount of engine smoke. The top four order was retained and Michael was back to fifth, followed by Honda's Jenson Button, BMW Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve up to seventh and Ferrari's Felipe Massa up to eighth.
The second BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld was ninth and Mark Webber's Williams had climbed to 10th. Next was Tonio Liuzzi's Toro Rosso, Honda's Rubens Barrichello and Christian Klien, whose Red Bull had dropped a place. Scott Speed's Toro Rosso was 14th, Ralf Schumacher's Toyota 15th, Montoya down to 16th, Coulthard 17th, Takuma Sato's Super Aguri 18th and Monteiro 19th.
Fisichella served his drive through and rejoined in fifth, while Alonso and Raikkonen were pulling away on their own at the front. Trulli was up to third due to Fisichella's penalty and was holding Michael behind him. Montoya was working his way back through the field and dispatched Ralf for 15th.
Raikkonen had a go at Alonso and they went side by side down the back straight but Alonso held him off. Barrichello retired to the pits soon after. "We'll have to wait and see what it was," said the Brazilian. "But it felt very tight and I knew it was going to break anyway. I think it was a problem with the engine." Honda later confirmed it was indeed engine trouble.
Montoya's race ended when he clipped the Wall of Champions; he managed to nurse the McLaren along the pit straight and pull off on the grass at the exit of the pit lane. Some damage to the car from the earlier incident may have been a contributing factor but the Colombian's season really isn't doing him any favours.
Meanwhile, Coulthard was closing on Ralf and Massa had dispatched Villeneuve for seventh. Klien was up to 10th with Speed tagging along behind and Coulthard got level with Ralf down the back straight but locked up at the corner and the Toyota stayed ahead. Fisichella had caught up with the battle between Trulli and Michael and Alonso was the first of the front runners to pit, about lap 22.
Michael finally disposed of Trulli heading down to the last corner but had lost a lot of time to Alonso and Raikkonen while stuck behind the Toyota. Raikkonen was next to pit and a delay on the right rear cost him several precious seconds. Alonso regained the lead, while Ralf went in for the first of several stops.
Trulli and Fisichella visited the pits and Ralf was touring around once back on the circuit, suffering from a lack of grip. He went on to have a mystifying afternoon of random spins and trips into the gravel, starting with a spin at the hairpin. He managed to get back to the pits and duly got sent on his merry little disastrous way again.
Raikkonen's pit stop delay put the gap between him and Alonso to seven seconds and both BMWs managed to get ahead of Button during their stops. Massa was late into the pits on lap 35 and evidently on a one-stop strategy. The points scoring order was then Alonso, Raikkonen, Michael, Fisichella, Trulli, Massa, Villeneuve and Heidfeld.
There were a lot of marbles collecting off the racing line, little balls of rubber from the tyres, and it started to give a few drivers some problems. Raikkonen had a trip across the grass and narrowly missed one of the Toro Rossos, which lost him more time to Alonso. Villeneuve was closing on Massa and Heidfeld in turn was catching them both.
Trulli pitted for the second time, followed by Alonso and it was another good clean stop for the leader. Ralf had another spin at the hairpin and Raikkonen had a big wobbly moment, skidding on the marbles at the same place. Fisichella had a wander across the grass then dived into the pits for his second stop.
Raikkonen did likewise and had another bad one when the engine cut out. The pit crew quickly got it going again but it lost the Finn yet more time, although he managed to slither back out in front of Michael. Heidfeld cleared teammate Villeneuve in their second stops and Michael retained third after his second trip in.
Villeneuve was the next victim of the strange track conditions; coming up to lap the wayward Toyota of Ralf the Canadian got off the clean line and the front of the BMW locked solid and he went straight into the wall at turn seven. It was a bit of a messy impact, although Villeneuve was fine, and the safety car came out again.
Ralf, meanwhile, had yet another spin at the hairpin and managed to continue his adventures but it was short lived and he soon retired to the pits for good. The safety car went back in and Alonso had Trulli and Heidfeld between himself and Raikkonen at the restart. Trulli was napping when Alonso leapt away and the Spaniard gained more time before Raikkonen could clear the Toyota.
With seven laps to go Michael was back behind Trulli again and further down the order Button was eighth with Klien and Coulthard breathing down his neck. However, Klien went wide struggling with his gears, letting Coulthard and Speed dodge past. Coulthard jumped into the fray with Button and after a brief tussle the Scot moved ahead of the Honda.
On the penultimate lap it was Raikkonen who went wide at the hairpin and Michael made the most of it, charging past to take second. Sato was a very late retiree when he whacked the Wall of Champions shortly afterwards but it was race over anyway. Another impressive drive by Alonso for the win, it was just a shame we didn't get more of a scrap between him and Raikkonen.
"Well, it was good, perfect all weekend," said Alonso. "Obviously, without the safety cars, the gaps would have been much bigger, an easier race but you know the safety car sometimes helps you, sometimes not. But the main thing is to win the race as we did again and we had perfect Michelin work again, giving us a fantastic tyre."
"All the victories are nice but this one, after the last two or three years, having the opportunity to win and always something happened, mistakes coming from me or mechanical problems, it was one of the races that we should have had in the previous years and now we have it."
Michael was quick to take advantage of Raikkonen's late troubles and drove a good race overall but Ferrari wasn't up to its usual form in Canada. Massa behaved himself and came home fifth but his one-stop strategy didn't really pan out as well as Ferrari probably hoped. Alonso has stretched his lead over Michael to 25 points.
"Thanks to the safety car everybody got together again," the German commented. "It was just a shame that there wasn't another ten laps left which could have made it a little bit more entertaining. It was very easy to go off line and then to lose a lot of time."
"A tough race in a way but due to the beginning, it was sort of pre-decided and at a certain moment I just had to drive according to the situation which I did. There was not much more I could do. Obviously when the safety car came out, we went a little bit more on the attack and luckily we gained a position."
Naturally it was disappointing for Raikkonen. His two overly-long pit stops lost him the chance to consistently take the fight to Alonso and losing second to Michael just added insult to injury. Montoya seems hell bent on a course of self-destruction at the moment, whether due to his own fault or the actions of others.
"It wasn't the easiest race," said Raikkonen. "The car was pretty good to start with but then at the first pit stop we had a problem with the clutch and when we put the clutch in the wheels were still spinning so it took a long time for them to get the rear wheel on and then at the second pit stop the car just stopped because the clutch wasn't working any more."
"I also lost second place to Michael on the second last lap or something. I just got on the sand or whatever you call it. The circuit was breaking up in a few places, so when I got on that there was nothing I could do. It wasn't ideal but anyhow we got some results and for me it doesn't really matter whether it's second or third if we cannot win, so I don't really worry about it."
Fisichella scuppered his own chances with the jump start but performed consistently afterwards to take the chequered flag in fourth. Trulli did well enough to finish sixth but no doubt those 'mobile chicane' complaints will be hanging around. Why Toyota didn't retire Ralf earlier was baffling, as the German wasn't doing himself or anyone else any favours by being out on track.
Heidfeld notched up another two points for BMW Sauber in seventh but will there be any complaints? The grumbling about overly-flexible wings moved to BMW this weekend and it was speculated that other teams might protest. Motorsport director Mario Theissen said the FIA was happy with the car but this tiresome saga is dragging on.
Coulthard deserved his one point in eighth; starting from the back of the grid is never an enjoyable prospect but the Scot battled hard to work his way up. Honda failed to impress yet again, Button only managing ninth, while Speed rounded off the top 10. Klien was unlucky and finished 11th and Webber was unnoticeable in 12th. Liuzzi crossed the line 13th, followed by Moteiro and Sato was classed 15th.
Montreal was quite entertaining -- there's something about the North American rounds that always seems to produce unusual races. But after last year's fiasco at Indianapolis, F1 could do with a clean and tidy event in America in a week's time. Final top eight classification: Alonso, M. Schumacher, Raikkonen, Fisichella, Massa, Trulli, Heidfeld, Coulthard.