Grand Prix Canada - McLaren ready for the title challenge After the third one-two victory for McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, the team is confident they are back in the race for the championship. At a sold-out Gilles Villeneuve...
Grand Prix Canada - McLaren ready for the title challenge
After the third one-two victory for McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, the team is confident they are back in the race for the championship. At a sold-out Gilles Villeneuve circuit spectators witnessed one of the most exciting and spectacular Formula one races of the past five years, a race packed with close-racing action and many incidents. It was Hamilton's 13th career victory and his first back-to-back success in almost two years. But the victory didn't come easy according to Hamilton, "The race was one of the toughest so far, but that's what you want, it was another one-two for us, so I'm happy and proud of the team. It was a tremendous challenge, probably the ultimate challenge for me throughout the year so far."
For Red Bull Racing it was a very tough weekend, Mark Webber qualified in second position, but the team decided to change his gearbox after they found metal particles in the gearbox oil, and he had to start from 7th position on the grid. Webber led the middle part of the race but severe tyre degradation forced him to make another pit stop on lap 50, giving the lead to Hamilton. Webber about his race, "In the second stint I was ahead and monitoring the gap to Lewis. I was trying to keep my pace constant, but in the end the tyres didn't want that pace and they got away from me." But he also remained optimistic for the next race, "We expected this to be a tough event and in the end we were closer than we thought. I wanted to get some champagne, it didn't happen, but we we'll be back."
Tyre strategy decided the race
Right from the start of the weekend, it was clear that a single pit stop strategy for fresh rubber would not be enough. On Sunday there were a record 61 pit stops, and the timing of the pit stops was crucial for a good result. Teams were on different tyre strategies, some started on the hard compound, others on the soft compound. The soft tyres didn't last long with completely topped up fuel tanks, and during lap 6 and 7 the first drivers came in to change to the hard tyres. From lap 25 to lap 28 most drivers came in for their second stop and now had to finish the race on the hard tyres, with still 40 laps to go. Some of them managed to finish the race on those tyres, but the ones who didn't look after their tyres had to make a third stop.
A race full of incidents
It was a race with many incidents, and the problems started from the moment the lights turned to green. Vitaly Petrov jumped the start, but made it even worse when he put two wheels on the grass, lost control and collected the unsuspecting Pedro de la Rosa in his BMW-Sauber, both had to pit for repairs. In Turn One Felipe Massa and Vitantonio Liuzzi were attracted to each other like magnets, and collided three times within three seconds, probably also a new record in Formula One. The two also had to pit for repairs. Kamui Kobayashi in the second BMW-Sauber was the first to end his race, at the end of the Casino straight he jumped over the kerbs on the inside of the chicane that leads to the start-finish straight, and went straight into the famous 'Wall of Champions'.
The next incident occurred on lap 7, when Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, who were on 1st and 3th place respectively, pitted for tyres. Alonso and Hamilton almost collided when they were send on their way by their pit crew, both were racing for positions while exiting the pit lane, but Alonso literally kept his foot down and rejoined the race in front of Hamilton. The onboard footage from Alonso's Ferrari later revealed how close to a collision they were. During that same lap Williams driver Nico Hulkenberg hit the back of the Force India of Adrian Sutil, and had to pit to replace his damaged front wing.
The other Williams, piloted by veteran Rubens Barrichello, had a collision with the Toro Rosso of Jaime Algueruari. "He hit me with a big, 2g impact. The damage blocked my front left brake duct and when the temperatures climbed, I lost the pedal and had to let cars by until I could pit. Even after the stop, it took three laps for the brake pedal to come back.", a very unhappy Barrichello commented.
Renault's Robert Kubica was fighting with Sutil, and at the end of the Casino straight he decided to overtake Sutil on the outside before he dived into the pits, scaring the living daylight out of the Force India driver. He was later reprimanded by the Stewards. The pair already had a collision earlier in the race while fighting for sixth position, Sutil got a rear right puncture and had to come in to replace his tyres. "Unfortunately it was at the first corner so I had to drive the whole lap back to the pits. I lost a lot of time like this and dropped out of the top ten.", a disappointed Sutil explained.
From lap 48 on the leading trio Webber, Hamilton and Alonso had to find their way through the back markers, which led to some hair raising moments. On lap 56 Alonso lapped Karun Chandhok, but the HRT didn't move out of the way swiftly enough, which gave Button the opportunity to overtake Alonso, who could not accelerate fast enough after he finally had passed Chandhok. Meanwhile Massa was fighting with Schumacher for 9th position, but Schumacher hit Massa and pushed him off the track damaging his front wing, both went through the grass and Massa had to pit to replace his wing.
Next behind Schumacher were Liuzzi and Sutil, Liuzzi probably witnessed what happened with Massa, and that made him even more determined to pass Schumacher. Liuzzi tried it several times but then decided on lap 68 that enough was enough, put his car next to Schumacher's in Turn 6 and 7, both cars banged wheels several times, and Liuzzi finally pushed Schumacher firmly aside and took 9th position. Sutil also wanted to score points and after Liuzzi he also overtook the Mercedes without showing any respect for his compatriot.
And after all these incidents, Hamilton was the first to cross the finish line after 70 laps, followed by Button and Alonso. This time Hamilton was genuinely happy with his win, he had to fight hard for it, but above all, he wasn't suspicious towards Button like he was in Turkey, when a communication problem almost ruined the relationship between the two McLaren drivers. For a complete result of the race and the current standings in the championship follow the links at the bottom of the page.
FIA Stewards report
On Friday during the second free practice Timo Glock was fined 1,000 Euro for speeding in the pit lane. Kobayashi had his lap time removed, because he missed the apex at Turn 14. On Saturday after qualifying, Hamilton was reprimanded and fined $10,000 because his team instructed him to stop the car, by doing so he exceeded the time allowed to bring the car back to the pits.
On Sunday during the race, Petrov jump-started the race and got a drive through penalty, and again a drive through penalty for causing a collision. Hulkenberg and Massa got a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Kubica was reprimanded for his dangerous entry into the pit lane during his fight with Sutil. Algueruari was reprimanded for his collision with Barrichello. And finally the FIA Stewards investigated the incident between Schumacher and Massa, when Schumacher went across the track to take the racing line and hit Massa damaging his wing, but concluded it required no further action.
The FIA has also clarified the rules when Hamilton after qualifying stopped on the track to make sure there was still enough fuel left in the tanks for the FIA to test. Other teams were not happy with the McLaren action and commented $10,000 for a pole position was actually rather cheap, and feared it could become a trend that cars would run as light as possible during the last lap of qualifying. The FIA has now stated teams must have enough fuel onboard to finish the in-lap, teams who run out of fuel after qualifying will be penalized if the stoppage is not a 'force majeure'.
Bridgestone tyre report
As said, the tyres were the all important factor, a one-stop strategy was not possible, due to the tyre degradation most teams had to stop two or three times for new tyres. Especially the rear tyres were under a lot of stress and had severe problems with graining. But the degradation wasn't that bad, Liuzzi completed 46 laps, and Nico Rosberg and Sutil 43 laps on the medium compound tyres.
Bridgestone's Hirohide Hamashima: "The track improved after around ten laps, when rubber was laid on the surface, assisted by the hotter temperatures. We saw the race winner complete 44 laps on the medium compound, illustrating the extent of this circuit improvement. At the start the degradation was high, even with the medium compound, which is why we saw such early pit stops. There were an interesting mix of pit stop strategies and tyre compound orders. The track surface and tyre performance evolution made the choices on the pit wall very difficult to make."
Tough race for Red Bull Racing
A bad tyre strategy meant the end of the Red Bull domination, both drivers started on the hard tyres, Vettel changed to the soft compound on his first stop, while Webber continued on the hard compound after his first stop. Both drivers were not able to manage the tyre degradation, Vettel changed to the hard tyres on lap 27 while Webber managed to stay out until lap 50 before he had make his mandatory switch to the soft tyres. But the fact remains that both Red Bull drivers were not able to nurse their tyres, while both McLaren drivers did look after their tyres, it made all the difference, and they won the race.
Vettel also experienced a gearbox problem halfway the race and had to slow down and could therefore not challenge the leaders of the race. Vettel also blamed back markers for his lack of progress, "Halfway through I had lapped a car which didn't want to move which lost me six seconds." According to Vettel this happened twice, and after that he was not able to fight for the podium anymore.
Schumacher and Mercedes run into problems again
Not too long ago Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn said seven-times world champion Schumacher was on his way to the top again, however, the race in Canada showed a completely different picture. Again Schumacher and Mercedes were outpaced by the top teams, but also by Renault, Force India and Toro Rosso. Schumacher had to resolve to his old 'Mr. Nasty' tactics, resulting in clashes with Massa, Alguersuari, Liuzzi and Sutil. But it didn't help, he was unable to match their pace, and was again struggling with the Mercedes that still has a problem accelerating out of corners.
Has Mercedes given up on 2010 and are they now concentrating on 2011? "That is not true,", Rosberg told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, "the development of the car is running on full speed. There are 12 races to go and I'm only 27 points behind the leaders." So far Schumacher's comeback has been disastrous, and several sources report that Schumacher thinks it is highly unlikely he will be competing for the 2010 title, and has now set his sights on 2011. But despite the set-backs, Schumacher is still confident his team is making progress, "We are in a build-up process with the team that is going extremely well, I'm happy with how we work together. We don't have the package to be in front now, but when I see where we are going, it's very good." No podium places, only 34 points in 7 races, but Schumacher will be Schumacher, and although it is obvious he is struggling on his much-heralded return, he will not give up.
The new teams
Again a very difficult race for HRT, Lotus and Virgin, although they seem to have found some more speed, all three teams are still struggling to find the right pace and are still plagued by mechanical problems. HRT driver Bruno Senna had to abandon the race after 13 laps with a gearbox failure. His team colleague Chandhok did finish the race in 19th position, one full lap ahead of the Virgin of Lucas di Grassi. A happy Chandhok explained, "We were racing both Virgins and I was eight seconds ahead of Timo Glock even before he stopped in the end. I am quite pleased, at the end realistically we were only racing those three cars and we were ahead of them." Other Virgin driver Timo Glock had an eventful race, after a collision early in the race with Senna, the rear of his car was damaged and he lost a lot of downforce, he was also pushed of the track, which cost him four places. His race ended after 50 laps due to a steering rack leak.
Lotus driver Jarno Trulli had a good race and kept the Virgins and HRT's behind him, but had to give up after vibrations had caused a problem in the brake system. Heikki Kovalainen did extraordinary well, on lap 7 he was on 6th position due to the stops of the front runners, and he ended the race in front of Petrov, one lap in front of Chandhok, and two laps in front of Di Grassi. The Finn about his race, "We finished ahead of Petrov and lapped the other new guys, and although it was hard work managing the tyres, it's still great to show what we can do. The race itself was tough, but it's all about the result - I didn't have any technical problems with the car, but the rear wasn't working quite as I'd have liked, and I think that was down to the tyre wear."
Next race: Valencia
This time Red Bull could not dominate the race, they still scored points, but McLaren is now leading the Drivers' and Constructors' Championship, but that could all change again after the next race, the European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain. A totally different circuit, a narrow street circuit with 25 tight corners and chicanes lined with walls and ARMCO's, with little room for errors, and only a few short straights. Valencia is almost like a modern reincarnation of the Monaco street circuit, complete with an ultra modern marina complex where the yachts of the rich and famous are moored. The race will take place in two weeks time, on Sunday June 27, and will give Red Bull the chance to regain the lead in the championship again ... or perhaps not?