It was lucky sevens for Michael Schumacher in the Canadian Grand Prix as the Ferrari man took his 77th career victory, his seventh win of the season and his seventh victory in Canada. This win in Montreal was down to a good drive and a good strategy rather than luck, though, as Schumacher, on a two stop strategy, gained the lead from brother Ralf after his second pit stop.
However, there was drama after the race as Williams and Toyota were disqualified due to brake irregularities. It seems the brake ducts for both teams did not apply to regulations and they were therefore deleted from the results.
Ralf came home second in the race and Rubens Barrichello third, in what was a rather disappointing afternoon. There was not much on-track action, most of the changes of position happening in the stops. Renault's impressive reliability this season finally collapsed, both cars retiring, and Takuma Sato's Honda engine blew up yet again. BAR teammate Jenson Button finished fourth.
Kimi Raikkonen had to be the hardest working man of the afternoon -- the Finn had no less than five pit stops, a drive through penalty and three different steering wheels, and still managed to bring the McLaren home in the points! Teammate David Coulthard finished ninth.
There were some incidents, starting with Jarno Trulli. The Renaults had their customary rocketing starts but Trulli was only just off the line when he suffered a possible suspension failure. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is renowned as a car-wrecker but doing it before even getting to the first corner is a bit peculiar. Trulli managed to get the ailing car into the pit exit, where Sato nearly collected him after starting from the pit lane.
"A suspension failure," Trulli thought, although the team later suspected a transmission problem. "It's very strange, it's never happened before like that. When I used the pedal the suspension was gone, I had to get off the racing line."
Sato then nearly got tangled up with Coulthard and the two Jaguars. Christian Klien was hit from behind, apprently by Jordan's Timo Glock and in turn the Jaguar hit Coulthard. The McLaren spun and Klien hit it again -- Christian's Jaguar went up in the air and came down on teammate Mark Webber's front wing. Webber suffered a puncture and had to pit but then retired, also with a suspension failure.
"My start off the grid was fine and I very quickly found myself in the thick of it in corner one." said Klien. "I was hit from behind and then forced into the back of David Coulthard. I did what I could to avoid him but I was forced into the air and then I came down on my team mate, Mark."
Webber was naturally disappointed: "I could tell that some damage had been done immediately and the team confirmed that the rear suspension had a problem. From a safety point of view we retired and of course it's disappointing given the amount of work that I know we have all been doing going into this weekend."
Fernando Alonso had a cracking start and was up to third behind Ralf and Button, while Coulthard and Sato dropped back, along with Klien. Jordan debutante Timo Glock took advantage of the second corner confusion and got himself up to 10th. Klien went on to have a very eventful race, having a mad charge across the grass next.
Barrichello got past Raikkonen fairly easily for sixth and Glock lost out to faster cars behind, dropping to 13th. Sauber's Felipe Massa was battling with Sato for 14th, Coulthard worked his way up to 12th and the Toyotas had good early running in eighth and ninth. The McLarens were first to pit, on a three stop strategy, followed by Button and Montoya.
Ralf was five seconds ahead of Alonso at the front until he pitted and rejoined in fourth. Alonso was next in and a drastically long stop wrecked his podium chances. A problem with the fuel hose racked up 16 seconds as the team had to switch to the spare hose.
Raikkonen got a drive through penalty for crossing the white line at the pit exit, which he duly served. Barrichello rejoined behind Montoya after his first stop and after the first shakedown Michael was up to third ahead of Button. Running order then was Ralf, Button, Michael, Montoya, Barrichello and Alonso.
Nick Heidfeld has an incident in his first stop, when the lollipop man lifted while the fuel hose was still in and the fuel man got dragged as the Jordan pulled off. Thankfully he was okay. Sato was up to 12th and still tussling with Massa, and Klien popped into the pits so the team could give his car a quick once over. He was complaining that the car was unbalanced and after Webber's problem Jaguar wanted a look, but it appeared all right.
The Saubers were on a very long first stint, Giancarlo Fisichella not pitting until lap 25. It benefited the Italian as he worked his way into the points. Button was closing the gap to Ralf and Montoya to Michael. The Williams was slipstreaming down the straights but not getting enough traction out of the corners to really make a challenge. Montoya kept locking up and eventually dived in for his next stop.
Minardi's Gianmaria Bruni got a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane and retired with gearbox failure shortly afterwards. Ralf took his second stop on lap 33 and rejoined in third, and Coulthard nearly tangled with the wayward cannonball Klien again as he exited after his second stop.
Barrichello was much more hooked up than Michael in the second stint; he looked faster and better balanced and was harassing his teammate but Michael wasn't budging. Alonso was flying in fourth, making up lost ground from the slow pit stop, homing in on Ralf. Klien's next adventure was going airborne over the grass after bouncing off the kerb, but carrying on regardless. You gotta admire such determination!
Sato enjoyed his 360 spin in qualifying so much he did it again, at the hairpin, whipping round full circle and, incredibly, managing not to collect one of the Jordans, or Olivier Panis' Toyota, which he was trying to pass. Alonso's charge was thwarted by the Renault coasting to a halt onto the grass at turn one with a driveshaft failure.
"I had a pressure problem," said the disappointed Spaniard. "So unfortunately we didn't finish, I don't know what happened to Jarno. But we have to look to the next race now. We were competitive here, I was recovering from the pit stop problem."
Raikkonen skipped into the pits and had a steering wheel change and Barrichello, who had taken his second stop, struggled with his brakes, going for a momentary wander off track. Michael had a dodgy moment coming in for his second stop, nearly hitting the wall at the pit lane entry.
Ralf took his third stop, as did Montoya and Button, then Sato's engine exploded -- more bad luck for Taku but he sure does blow up in fine style. The race order going into the final stages was Michael leading Ralf, then Barrichello, Button and Montoya. Raikkonen was sixth but had to pit yet again for another steering wheel change, dropping to seventh.
Massa came to grief with only a few laps to go. The Sauber appeared to suffer a rear suspension failure at the hairpin, a wheel flying off as it shot over the gravel. The car impacted with the barrier at sickening speed but Massa, although shaky, got out in one piece. The young Brazilian was taken to hospital for precautionary checks but was basically unharmed.
Klien kept his personal entertainment going right to the end, spinning a 360 and narrowly avoiding a startled Glock, who scuttled out of the way. Klien charged on, eventually finishing 13th. The positions stayed stationary at the front and Michael took the chequered flag for his row of lucky sevens. Ferrari did a very good job, as did the drivers, to finish first and third, the rest just couldn't match the Scuderia's teamwork.
"I don't know why I have won so often here," said Michael. "I guess its down to a good package and a bit of luck. Everything went to plan today. We thought it would be hard to get pole so we concentrated our strategy on the race. The pit stops were great and the car preparation was fantastic. We won today because of the consistency of our package and our race pace which was the fastest."
Ralf drove a very good race, showing a flair that he's been missing so far this season. He surprised himself, and everybody else, with pole position, but once again Ferrari triumphed when it really mattered.
"It was clearly better than expected, honestly, but still disappointing because if you start from pole and you finish second it is not where you wish to be," Ralf said before the disqualification. "But still from where we came and the problems we had so far I think to split the Ferraris is a rather good success."
Button had to settle for fourth after his front row start, he too falling to Ferrari's strategy. "Five points are very important but I'm obviously disappointed that I'm not on the podium here because that's what we felt was achievable," he commented.
Montoya came home fifth, his usual cheery, philosophical self. "My weakest point was traction all day, anywhere I got close to Michael I would lose it in the slow corners. But it was fun, we tried hard," said the Colombian. "It's quite encouraging going into the nest race."
Fisichella had a fairly quiet afternoon but finished a good solid sixth. "We did a fantastic job apart from the start, where I had a problem, but I did a good race, very consistent," he said. "I am happy, apart from the problem with Felipe; I don't know what happened but thankfully he is fine."
Raikkonen really earned his keep today and took two points in seventh, which hardly seems a just reward for all his hard work. "A small electrical fault was manifesting itself in the steering wheel," said a typically wordy Ron Dennis. "We're not sure of the case, so we kept changing the steering wheel. It only cost a place and the most important thing was that we finished."
Cristiano da Matta originally claimed the final point in eighth after a rather uneventful race. Coulthard struggled home ninth and Panis completed the top ten. Glock did well in his first race, finishing 11th, one ahead of teammate Heidfeld. The second Manardi of Zsolt Baumgartner was the final finisher in 14th.
On one hand it's good news for the competition that it took Michael until the second pit stop to get into the lead but the on the other, he still did it. Had the Renaults not dropped out it may well have been a different story, but we'll never know. Williams was looking pretty good but everybody needs to work harder to match Ferrari.
BAR just didn't have the race pace, and yet another engine failure for Sato is getting ridiculous. Sauber is quietly making progress, or at least Fisichella is. Massa was outside the points when he crashed but had put in a spirited drive until then. Toyota is marginally improved but one point is below where it should be.
A strangely disappointing event -- after qualifying there was hope for some racing excitement but it never really happened. Still, with Indianapolis just a week away, we don't have to wait long to watch with anticipation all over again to see if Williams, Renault or BAR can manage to topple Michael from his throne. Initial final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, R. Schumacher, Barrichello, Button, Montoya, Fisichella, Raikkonen, da Matta.
The disqualification of Williams and Toyota threw things into confusion but the revised result should be: M. Schumacher, Barrichello, Button, Fisichella, Raikkonen, Coulthard, Glock, Heidfeld