In one of the more frenetic Formula One races in recent memory, about all that was normal was a McLaren winning and that was in the hands of rookie Lewis Hamilton. From pole he led the bulk of the race, often with a huge margin in hand, and scored...
In one of the more frenetic Formula One races in recent memory, about all that was normal was a McLaren winning and that was in the hands of rookie Lewis Hamilton. From pole he led the bulk of the race, often with a huge margin in hand, and scored his inevitable first victory in what was another fantastic drive.
"It has been a fantastic day," Lewis said afterward. "I felt that I have been ready for this win now for quite some time and for me it was just a matter of when and where. The team gave me the best car and it was great. I had no problems at all during the race. A few safety cars were there, but that's all -- they made it a little bit boring at some points."
The safety cars could have cost Hamilton dearly -- he lost a 20-second lead with the first one, and a nearly 30-second one with the second safety car. But the young Briton was in a class of his own today.
"Yesterday I was over the moon, yes, to get pole," he smiled. "But today, this is definitely on a different planet for me!"
But the major concern of the race was for BMW Sauber driver Robert Kubica, who suffered a savage accident on lap 27. While trying to pass Jarno Trulli's Toyota at the approach to the hairpin, Kubica's car clipped the Toyota, and ran wide into a water barrier.
Bursting through the water, he then hit Scott Speed's abandoned car, smashed nearly head-on into a concrete barrier, and then barrel-rolled across the track into an Armco barrier on the other side. Debris and carbon fiber shards flew everywhere as the car finally came to a halt on its side.
The Polish driver, making only his 12th career start, was confirmed to be conscious and in stable condition at the Montreal General Hospital, and it appears that he may be released tomorrow after being kept for observation overnight. Considering the severity of the accident, one of the heaviest seen in F1 over the last decade, Kubica is extremely fortunate.
"It seemed a terribly long time, even though it was only minutes before I got the information that Robert is conscious and able to talk," said Mario Theissen, the BMW team principal. "He might have a broken ankle, but the hospital has not confirmed that."
The madness in Montreal started when the lights went out as Jenson Button's Honda failed to engage with gearbox troubles, and that was it for Britain's former media darling -- a title now usurped by Hamilton. Fernando Alonso's race began with a clunker as he went off at turn one for the first of four times on the day, losing second to Nick Heidfeld.
"It was great, definitely a special moment was the start," Heidfeld recalled. "I had a fantastic start, I overtook Alonso and got in Lewis' slipstream. Then I saw Alonso went a bit too hard and went off."
Then Mark Webber had the same problem, running wide when trying to pass Kubica, and dropped from 9th to 14th.
Speed's race didn't last long, as he damaged his left front suspension when trying to pass Alex Wurz, while Wurz would run the remainder of the day with a broken right rear winglet. Felipe Massa passed Alonso after the Spaniard's third off-course excursion at turn one on lap 18. The pit stops began shortly thereafter, Heidfeld first from second, and Hamilton two laps later.
The safety car made its first of four appearances on the day, and first this season, when Adrian Sutil smacked the wall exiting turn four. Alonso and Nico Rosberg made the mistake of pitting when the pits were closed and were consequently handed 10-second stop-and-go penalties, losing valuable positions which they would struggle to make up the rest of the day. This was the first time the new pit lane regulations -- requiring drivers to pit only when the pits are open -- came into play this year.
A rash of legal pit stops occurred on lap 25, including both Ferraris, Giancarlo Fisichella, Kubica, Trulli, Takuma Sato and Tonio Liuzzi. Massa and Fisichella made the mistake of exiting the pits under a red light, and wound up paying the price later on in the day.
"What happened at the pit stop is a real shame," Massa rued his mistake. "Unfortunately, when I left the pits, I did not even look at the lights, partly because there were so many cars in pit lane behind me."
The Kubica accident happened a lap after the restart and kept the field behind the safety car for another six laps. Wurz and Rubens Barrichello on off-sequence strategies made their first stops under the yellow. At halfway (lap 35), the order was Hamilton, Heidfeld, Anthony Davidson, Ralf Schumacher, Webber, Massa, Fisichella and Sato in the points.
Davidson then suddenly retreated to the pits, having lost front traction, only to find that the Super Aguri team wasn't ready for him, consequently ending his hopes of points. It turned out that his day had been spoiled by an errant beaver, Canada's national symbol crossing the race track at a most inopportune time.
"It is such a shame about the beaver -- it had it in for me for sure!" Davidson recounted. "I was on a clear, one stop strategy and it damaged the front wing," I couldn't even see it at high speed and I could not understand why suddenly I locked up the front tyres and so I had to come in to the pitlane. The guys were taken by surprise in the garage when I came in, but they were really on it with the race strategy after that, telling me to overtake the safety car to get my lap back and it was a really enjoyable race at the end."
Two laps later Rosberg and Trulli were battling for position and engaged in a highly comical exchange of synchronized spinning at turn one. Montreal did host the Olympics at one point but never previously considered this art form as a sport.
Schumacher fell out of contention with his first stop on lap 40, dropping to 12th. The third safety car period occurred as Christijan Albers pretended he was a World Rally driver and tore up his Spyker driving through the grass at the turns 8/9 chicane, littering the track with debris.
Under the yellow Massa and Fisichella both met their demise, having been black-flagged, and disqualified from the race. This was the third time in the last four Canadian events there have been disqualifications; the last was Juan Pablo Montoya in 2005, falling victim to the same fate.
"I was concentrating on Kubica who was alongside me, and so focused on beating him that I didn't see the red light," Fisichella explained his mistake.
The insanity continued with the order on the restart Hamilton ahead of Webber, Heidfeld, Barrichello, Wurz and Liuzzi. Red Bull then saw their two drivers lose their wings, Webber pitting from P2 and dropping down the order while Toro Rosso's Liuzzi crashed at the "Wall of Champions" to bring out the fourth and final safety car period. And under that period, Trulli managed to crash out in his Toyota after exiting the pits!
Barrichello had gotten his Honda up to 3rd via pit strategy, looked to be in a position to give the team their first points of the season. It wasn't to be for the Brazilian, who peeled off as he had not yet used his set of softer Bridgestone tires.
It wasn't all bad for Honda though, as Takuma Sato, in his Super Aguri, was on a charge. Quick all weekend, the Japanese driver made a great pass on the outside on Schumacher's Toyota, heading into the final chicane. A lap later, stunningly, he repeated the feat on an uninterested and seemingly rattled Alonso. Driving for a team that didn't exist 18 months ago, and one that operates on a mere fraction of the budget of the top teams, Sato drove one his best races ever to take a fantastic 6th place and three critical championship points for Super Aguri.
"During the last few laps I had a great feeling because I was able to race with the front runners and I was able to confidently overtake and take back my position," the Super Aguri pilot smiled after the race. "This was absolutely the most beautiful day in my racing career and is an amazing result."
But up front it was Hamilton, unchallenged from the start, and surviving the calamities of the race, to score his first victory. The result leaves the rookie eight points ahead of Alonso in the driver's championship, 48-40 with the U.S. Grand Prix in Indianapolis next weekend. Heidfeld scored 2nd place, tying his best result set twice in 2005 for Williams, and posting the best finish yet for BMW Sauber.
Wurz took 3rd, a tremendous result for the Austrian that saw him physically on the podium for the first time in ten years. His last podium, for McLaren at the 2005 San Marino Grand Prix, came only as a result of a disqualification of Button's then BAR-Honda.
In fourth place was Heikki Kovalainen, salvaging a weekend that had been in disarray for himself and the Renault team -- a great drive by both Wurz and Kovalainen after difficult qualifying sessions.
"This was such a satisfying result for me," the young Finn said. "Of course, I needed some luck to score points after starting last, but you have to take advantage of your opportunities, and I think I did exactly that. I seemed to spend a lot of the afternoon overtaking other cars, but we had changed the set-up before qualifying to give me better straightline speed and that definitely paid off."
Raikkonen was fifth, missing a golden opportunity to capitalize on Alonso and Massa's demise. The Finn, along with the Ferrari team, had a weekend to forget, and suffered from accident damage throughout the race.
"It was a very difficult race for me, right from the beginning," the Finn explained. "I did not have much grip at the start, being on the dirty side of the track and immediately after, I hit Felipe's car with my front wing. On top of that, after Kubica's accident, a piece of debris got stuck in my front wing and I had so much understeer and some difficulties with the brakes."
The aforementioned Sato was sixth, then, ahead of the two top runners he passed, Alonso and Schumacher. A point may not be enough to save Ralf's job just at the moment.
The immediate impact of the Kubica accident on BMW could be a replacement driver, should Kubica not be able to drive next weekend at Indianapolis. This could be either Timo Glock, given his previous F1 experience, or teenaged Sebastien Vettel. Undoubtedly there is a huge sigh of relief that Kubica was not seriously injured or worse after his massive shunt.