Robert Kubica, Poland's pinup boy for the rest of us, registered his first Formula One victory Sunday, winning the Canadian Grand Prix a year after from suffering a massive, barrel-rolling crash at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Robert...
Robert Kubica, Poland's pinup boy for the rest of us, registered his first Formula One victory Sunday, winning the Canadian Grand Prix a year after from suffering a massive, barrel-rolling crash at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Kubica led teammate Nick Heidfeld in a sweep for BMW Sauber. Along with Kubica's maiden victory, it is the first after 42 races for BMW Sauber, the manufacturer-backed team that bought out independent campaigner Peter Sauber. Kubica leaps ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the World Drivers' Championship table, 42 points to 38. Felipe Massa also has 38. Current champ Kimi Raikkonen follows on 35.
"I'm very happy at having won the first race for BMW Sauber," Kubica said. "I'm also happy for Poland and all my fans." The first Pole in Formula One, who moved to Italy as an adolescent to further his racing career, is a celebrity in his native Krakow.
Oldest driver in the field David Coulthard, 37, came third in scoring his first points of the season for Red Bull and proving with a 62nd podium appearance that age do not inhibit results.
Rounding out the points positions were Timo Glock, scoring his first points of the season for Toyota and balking his teammate, Jarno Trulli; Felipe Massa, pulling off impressive passes after his Ferrari team's pit work cost him points; Trulli, suffering late-race brake trouble; Rubens Barrichello, battling at the front and earning points for Honda in a second consecutive race, and Sebastian Vettel, who powered his Toro Rosso from a pit-lane start.
"First of all, I have to thank the mechanics who did a great job to rebuild the car after my mistake on Saturday morning," said Vettel, whose final-practice crash kept him out of qualifying. "They did an unbelievable job, working through the night to get the work done. It's thanks to them I raced today. Starting from pit lane wasn't easy, but straight away I was able to catch the field." The youngest F1 driver, Vettel, 20, said he thought he lost two places when a balky fueling rig slowed his single pit stop. "Nevertheless," he said, "it was a great day."
Also running at the end were Heikki Kovalainen, who missed points for McLaren Mercedes despite earnest effort including passing Barrichello and Massa at Turn 10; Nico Rosberg, whose season-best fifth-place start suffered on lap 19 when the race turned; Jenson Button, who started from the pit lane and suffered a drive-through penalty; Mark Webber, who failed to score points for Red Bull for only the second race this season, and Sebastien Bourdais, who made up the numbers for Toro Rosso in what the Frenchman called "the worst race ever for me, the worst weekend of my entire career."
The race began with pole-holder Hamilton sprinting away with Kubica holding his second spot from the dirty line and managing to keep out of the clutches of a pressing Raikkonen, who set fast lap of 1 minute, 17.387 seconds in pursuit of the Pole. Hamilton built a five-second lead in his McLaren MP4-23 as the field prepared for the first round of pit stops.
Then race form was thrown out the window. Not by predicted rain that didn't arrive or by a disintegrating track that underwent overnight, postqualifying surface repairs but by McLaren's Hamilton. The drivers' points leader smashed into the back of Raikkonen's Ferrari as the world champion waited patiently for the pit-exit red light to change during the race's lone safety-car period.
The fun began on lap 15 when Force India's Adrian Sutil, so cruelly punted out of a fourth-place finish by Raikkonen two weeks ago in Monaco, came to a halt on track with a gearbox that wouldn't select second or third. The car caught fire. On lap 17, the safety car deployed on a course where safety cars tend to affect outcome. When the signal came two laps later to open pit lane -- too late for Button, who had stopped a lap before thereby incurring the penalty -- the top seven runners headed in.
Raikkonen and Kubica, who had pitted from third and second, respectively, cleared their pits first and headed to pit exit, where they encountered the notorious traffic signal that DQ'd Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella last year when they ignored its red shade. Raikkonen and Kubica were not so hasty. But after they stopped on red to await green, heretofore race leader Hamilton, the man who appeared to have the race won in a walk, smacked into Raikkonen. Nico Rosberg then crashed his Williams into Hamilton. The McLaren's right front suspension was broken and the Ferrari's rear-end was too damaged to continue.
Kubica, who had known he would need a lucky intervention because the BMW Saubers arrived in Montreal down on speed to the McLarens, was unscathed. ("I have to be grateful to Lewis as he chose Kimi and not myself," Kubica would say.) He restarted on the green signal. Rosberg circled around and stopped for a new nose, but Hamilton and Raikkonen were gone. Officials later awarded Hamilton and Rosberg 10-place grid penalties for the next race, the French Grand Prix. Raikkonen, whose 1 minute, 17.387 stood as fast lap, knew how Sutil had felt at Monaco.
The race was determined in that action as summarily as Kubica phrased it in his interview remarks:
"We were pitting, everybody together on same lap behind safety car, and red light was still on in the exit of the pit lane, similar to last year. When I stop, Kimi stop side by side to me. And I just heard big shunt and I saw Kimi's car moving and I realized it was Lewis. So then I just keep concentrating to wait for the green light then managed to pull away well.
"Then I was stuck behind slower cars, couldn't make overtake maneuver, and, yeah, last car went into the pit, was Glock, and I had, I think, eight laps to make, I think, 16- or 17-second margin to come back out after my pit stop in front of Nick. This was my seven laps of qualifying. I never struggled so much. I was pushing very hard. I knew that I have to make up around 21-second gap and I managed to do 24, so it was a very great race."
Well, that was it, really. Heidfeld had a chance at the historic distinction of first team win, but it wasn't going to happen. He inherited the lead when the leaders stopped after the safety car appearance but he had been fueled heavily for a one-stopper by the time Kubica came past for the lead he wouldn't relinquish. The German has been shown up consistently by his younger teammate this season, so that was that. But Heidfeld kept a good attitude and kept a charging Fernando Alonso behind him in a fine team display.
"Congratulations to Robert for winning this race, which he really deserved," Heidfeld said. "I made a poor start and lost a position to Rubens Barrichello. Fortunately, I was able to pass him, and from this moment on I was one of the fastest cars on the track.
"Finishing second after starting from eighth is a great result, especially considering the difficult time I have had recently."
In prerace remarks Heidfeld had said he reckoned his job would be under threat if he were a rookie -- a reasonable summation of the position in which Nelsinho Piquet finds himself at Renault. Although Alonso looked for awhile as though he would reach the podium, Renault's day went south when first Piquet, who had made impressive passes, lost his brakes just past half distance, then Alonso lost the car, clouting a wall and spinning to a halt. So ended a pointless day.
Not so for Red Bull, whose veteran driving team completed the race, though in opposite position to previous results.
"I'm delighted to get a podium for the team," Coulthard said. "They've had a lot of work on at the previous races and back at base. You can expect some unusual results here, so we fueled it long. But we expected the incidents would occur on the track, not in the pit lane. But nonetheless, the strategy worked well and all credit to the engineers, mechanics and everyone back at Red Bull for all their hard work. This adds to the points Mark has already scored this season and helps us build our total in the championship."
Red Bull points won't put the drinks-company team atop the World Constructors' Championship table. Ferrari leads the category on 73 points with BMW Sauber at 70, McLaren at 53, Red Bull 21, Toyota 17, Williams 16, Renault nine, Honda eight and Scuderia Toro Rosso seven.
Not running at the end were Force India's Fisichella, who spun then stalled, Kazuki Nakajima, who clouted the back of Button after running as far up the field as second, Alonso, Piquet, Hamilton, Raikkonen and Sutil.
Once the dominant characters were out of the race, drivers unaccustomed to the front took a turn at the lead before Kubica made the final stop that would deliver him victory. Heidfeld, Barrichello, Coulthard, Trulli, Glock. Not the names fans have come to expect up front this season, but that's the nature of the Canadian race. Anything can happen.