Canadian GP - Sunday - Race Report
Some are born great, and some just survive to the finish
Ring the church bells. Light the beacons. Britain has found a 19th Grand Prix winner to add his name to a list of the Great British greats. Lewis Hamilton threatened to do it in Monaco and nailed the point home in Montreal. The one thing you can say about this one was that it was not easy. There was a bit of a panic at the start when Alonso made a slightly better start and then tried to go around the outside of Hamilton, messed it up and ended up swerving across in front of Lewis (as he did in Barcelona) and then dropping behind Nick Heidfeld. While this was going on the two Ferraris nudged nose-to-tail, something which Kimi Raikkonen reckoned upset the balance of his car. This also allowed Rosberg to get between the two Ferraris, which was useful as he had a low fuel load.
"To be honest I didn't make a great getaway," Lewis admitted. "Fernando got a better start and I had to make sure I didn't leave a gap for Nick behind me. Then I saw Fernando come flying down the outside and thought, 'Oh no, I'm going to lose the lead' but he just went straight on at the corner. I continued on my line and got a fantastic exit, and then Fernando came cutting across in front of me. It was pretty exciting!"
Alonso's first mistake would not be the last. In the course of the afternoon he overshot the first corner no fewer than four times. It looked like he had to have brake problems but in the end that was not the problem . He was simply trying to keep up.
Overlooked in all this was the man who Hamilton dislodged as Britain's number one racing hero of the age: Jenson Button. He was left sitting on the grid with a gearbox full of nothing.
"My race was over before it began," he said, no doubt wondering about the frailty of fame.
The race ran without drama for the first eight laps and then Scott Speed tried a silly move on Alexander Wurz. In doing so he broke his suspension and the hopes of the American fans who had come north to see him in action. This was not too serious an incident and so the race went on unmolested as Hamilton rammed home his advantage as he built up a lead of more than 20secs. He was running pretty light but the first to pit was actually Heidfeld. Alonso had now slipped back behind Fisichella after another first turn incident and when the same happened again four laps later he fell behind Massa as well.
"When you push to the maximum you sometimes go off the track," he explained later in a rather less than convincing fashion.
The next mistake would come on lap 23 after Adrian Sutil smote a wall out back with his Spyker. The Safety Car deployed and both Alonso and Rosberg dived into the pits to try to get an advantage. The truth was that both had no real choice because they would have run out of fuel if they had kept going so they had to deal with penalties. A 10-second stop-go penalty was a hard blow to both men who fell from third and fourth to the back of the field.
Obviously the new Safety Car rules that mean that the pitlane remains closed until all the cars are behind the Safety Car means that there are going to be similar messes in the future. Neither Williams nor McLaren were happy with the outcome.
While all this was going on Hamilton retook the lead from Massa when the Ferrari headed into pitlane for his first stop once it was open for business. As he and Fisichella rejoined the race they drove straight through a red light.
That would have been a big event in any normal race but almost immediately there was an enormous sickening accident down at the hairpin. Kubica was stuck behind Trulli's Toyota and he wanted to take advantage of the restart to grab a place. As they went down towards the hairpin he positioned himself to go to the left of the Toyota and outbrake Jarno into the corner. Seeing this was not going to work, Robert then switched to the right and as he did so he managed to snag his front wing on Trulli's right rear tyre.
What happened next was frightening. The BMW lost its downforce and went wide on the right. It hit a kerb at about 200mph and flew. And it flew all the way into a concrete barrier. The explosion was awful and thousands of pieces of smashed car , with the remains of a monocoque in the middle came back across the track into the path of the cars behind. This did serious damage to several of the Red Bull cars, notably Coulthard and Liuzzi who both got the worst of it.
The BMW hit the barriers again on the other side of the track and then slid along until the momentum was finally exhausted. Kubica was motionless in the upturned car. As the afternoon wore on it was amazing to hear that he had escaped with almost nothing. Modern F1 cars are inordinately strong.
Behind the Safety Car Hamilton led Heidfeld, Anthony Davidson and Ralf Schumacher, although the latter two had to stop and they would plunge back as a result. Webber was thus third with Massa, Fisichella and Takuma Sato ahead of Raikkonen. Davidson was the first to go but he came in unannounced after hitting a beaver and time was lost as the team emerged to deal with the blood-spattered car. His one-race strategy had been ruined.
Rosberg disappeared soon after this with a synchronised spin with Trulli, although at no point did the gyrating cars actually touch.
There were still 30 laps to go but the race was pretty much over at the front. Massa and Fisichella were black-flagged and disappeared. But then came another Safety Car when Christijan Albers bonked the wall at the back of the track.
The second stops were going on at the same time and for a while Webber was second until the strategy dumped him to the back. Alonso was trying to make up for his errors and managed to pass Raikkonen as they exited the pits side-by-side but he soon made another mistake and dropped behind again.
There was one m ore Safety Car to come when Liuzzi damaged Toro Rosso refused to turn the corner and he crunched into a wall. This was cleared up and there were 10 laps left to run. The car count was down to a dozen. Once again Hamilton drove away from the field. Barrichello was third for a brief period but then his last pit stop dropped him all the way back and it was left to Wurz to come through with Kovalainen chasing him. Raikkonen and Alonso were squabbling for fifth while the man on the move was Sato, who had switched to the harder tyres and was going gangbusters against those who struggled for home on the softer compound.
When Sato overtook Alonso on the main straight we concluded that we had finally seen it all.
There were plenty of happy faces after the race but none as happy as Hamilton.
"Over the last few laps I started to count them down. I'm the type of guy who likes to push to the end but this is a tricky circuit, and one mistake would put you on to the marbles that were there off line and into the wall, so I just calmed it down. I just tried to control myself, but really I wanted to stop the car, jump out and start doing cartwheels. It just keeps getting better and better. When I came here this weekend I really did think it was my time. Of course now my next dream is to win a championship but we have to be realistic."