Canadian GP - Sunday - Race Report
Breaking the Silverware
The Silver Arrows Mercedes cars of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have crushed all opposition this season. They have won every race and led every lap. The Canadian Grand Prix looked to be more of the same as Rosberg and Hamilton comfortably qualified first and second ahead of the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel.
Although Vettel managed to sneak into second place just after the start while Hamilton and Rosberg disputed the lead, this was still going to be another day of Mercedes domination.
But it was not to be as both of the silver Mercedes machines would suffer mechanical woes. And when they broke down, Daniel Ricciardo was ready to pounce in his Red Bull. Hamilton retired, which left only Rosberg to defend the lead. With just three laps remaining in the 70 lap race, Ricciardo sliced by Rosberg and went on to win his first F1 race.
"I'm a grand prix winner!" exclaimed Ricciardo. "I think it still seems a bit surreal to be honest, just because it all happened so quickly at the end. I was third for a while and then it all happened in a really exciting fashion. Once I got past (Sergio) Perez I knew I just had to drive clean and get in (Nico) Rosberg's DRS zone and, from then on, it was just awesome."
On the last lap, Felipe Massa (Williams) tried to pass Sergio Perez's Force India to take third place. They tangled and slammed into the barriers at Turn 1. Both went to the hospital and both were okay. The safety car came out to pace the cars for the final lap.
"Finishing under the safety car made it a bit weird," Ricciardo said, "but I wanted to make sure the two drivers who were in the accident were okay before I started celebrating. We achieved a great result today with first and third ‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë‚àö¬® so let's enjoy it ‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë‚àö¬® but we will still have some work to do also. This will motivate the guys to work even harder and find even more, so I'm sure it will keep coming even better for us at the next few races."
So Ricciardo celebrated on the podium with a trophy that was not made of silver but nonetheless brought him great satisfaction for a job well done
"I'm still a bit in shock," he said. "Thanks everyone. This is ridiculous! Lots of Aussie flags, that's nice!"
That was after 70 laps around the island circuit.
But first there was going to be a huge accident between Marussia teammates Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi as the former sent the latter slamming into the wall at Turns 3 and 4 on the opening lap. Both drivers retired on the spot.
"I got a great start," Bianchi said, "and kept everyone who was behind me behind and then obviously Max and I were racing each other through Turns 2 and 3. I braked into Turn 3 and there was an impact, after which I ended up in the wall with a badly damaged car."
Officials handed Chilton a three-place grid penalty at the upcoming Austrian Grand Prix for causing the smash in Montreal.
After that first lap accident the safety car had come out to pace the field for the first seven laps. The order at the time was Rosberg, Vettel, Hamilton, Williams teammates Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa and Ricciardo.
Hamilton quickly disposed of Vettel. He was now about 1.7 seconds behind teammate Rosberg.
The top 10 drivers had started the race on the same super soft Pirelli compound slicks that they had qualified on, and the tires only lasted about a dozen laps before the drivers had to pit to switch to the more durable soft compound tire. The Mercedes boys were the last to pit. Rosberg came in at the end of lap 17 and handed the lead to Hamilton for one lap before he also pitted.
This set up the next phase of the race with Hamilton closing into about half a second behind Rosberg.
Perez and Force India teammate Nico Hulkenberg, meanwhile, having started the race on the soft tire, were on a different strategies and going long on their first sets of tires. By lap 18, Perez and Hulkenberg were third and fourth.
Vettel was fifth, Bottas sixth and Ricciardo seventh.
And then the face of the race changed as both Rosberg and Hamilton started losing power with half a distance to go. Both radioed in that they were losing power. Both had brake woes. Hamilton had to pull into the pits and retire. Rosberg managed to keep going.
"I feel very sorry for Lewis," Mercedes Motorsport Director Toto Wolff said. "First of all, I must say I his retirement was not his fault in any way and it is something the team has to take on the chin. Both drivers were doing a great job up to the point when the MGU-K failed. That also led to the brake failure that forced Lewis to retire after the second pitstop."
That second stop was on lap 44.
Massa led laps 46 and 47. That was the first time this season that any car other than a Mercedes had led.
Hamilton was now out of the running, but despite the afflictions on his car, Rosberg was now not only copping with them, he was also getting back up to speed.
"I lost the ERS and when you lose ERS then it doesn't harvest anymore," he said, "and then all the braking on the rear is being done by the brakes and then the rear brakes overheated. So it was one problem and then the next problem happened. That just made it massively difficult. I needed to cool the brakes a lot; I lost a lot of power on the straights. At the same time, taking those things into consideration, I was just pushing flat out, qualifying laps, one after another and managing to stay ahead of that pack behind me until two laps from the end."
That set up the final stage of the race with Rosberg leading but just by a second ahead of Perez. Ricciardo, who had jumped Vettel during the pitstops, was third and Vettel fourth. About four seconds behind this close group was another group consisting of Nico Hulkenberg (Force India), Bottas, Massa and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari.)
By pitting once rather than twice, Perez and Hulkenberg had managed to be in amongst the faster cars. Perez was quick but Ricciardo was quicker and the Red Bull driver finally managed to pass the Force India on lap 66. Two laps later Ricciardo overtook Rosberg and went on to win.
"The race really came to life in the last 15 to 20 laps," Ricciardo said. "We saw Hamilton had a problem and then we saw Rosberg was slow on the straights. I was really struggling to get past Perez. They had a pretty good car on the straights and he was holding me off well in the corners. We finally got a run out of the last chicane and made a nice move into turn and then set my sights on Nico and then a couple of laps to go just found myself in the right spot to get the DRS. It's just an amazing feeling right now."
Rosberg held on to finish second.
"That was a big battle all the way through today!" he said. "I had a tough start but I was able to defend in the first few corners and fight against Lewis. The race went smoothly for a while then both cars suddenly lost the MGU-K system and a lot of power which was really tough.
"Then I lost some time in the second pit stop which let Lewis jump me and I was struggling to cool the rear brakes down so it was all happening. Towards the end of the race, I tried to defend against Sergio which was fine but Daniel was too fast on the straights with much more power than I had available and he was able to get past.
"With so much going on, I had to ask my engineer where I finished at the end as I thought I was probably about fifth or sixth. I was so happy to hear that I was in P2!"
Vettel passed Perez to claim third.
"The Mercedes-powered cars were just too quick," Vettel said. "Equally we were in trouble defending to the Williams behind. Basically I was asking the team to do something with strategy, which I think was possible. On the pit wall they have a much better overview but in my case they didn't really help me to create something different and to use the pace we clearly had.
"So in the end I pitted and also lost a position to Daniel. At the very end I was lucky to capitalize on Perez's brake problems, which allowed me to be much closer down the straights and finally make a move stick."
Perez's brake problems caused the huge accident at the end. Massa, who was on fresher tires, had made his way through the second group and attacked the leading group. As he tried to pass Perez on the final lap the latter moved to the left and they collided. Both slammed into the barriers at Turn 1. Both went to the hospital and both were okay. But Massa was livid with Perez.
"I was one of the quickest guys on the track," Massa said, "so we lost many points today. I'm happy that I'm here with no problems but I'm so disappointed for what happened with Perez, and also for the pitstop because I think maybe we could even have fought for victory today."
Perez thought he was not to blame.
"On the final lap I was defending my position going into turn one when I suddenly got hit from behind," he said. "It was a big impact, but I am okay. I'm really sad for the team because we had an amazing race today and the one-stop strategy was working perfectly. It was not easy in the final laps and I was pushing hard to try and get ahead of Nico (Rosberg) for the lead. Daniel (Ricciardo) managed to get ahead of me when I had an electrical issue with my car, but I managed to reset the system for the final couple of laps. The podium was possible today and I'm just very disappointed for the points we have lost."
Race officials blamed Perez for causing the accident and gave him a five place grid penalty at the next race.
The safety car came out for the final lap as Ricciardo made his way around to win his first grand prix. Jenson Button steered clear of all the action to finish fourth in his McLaren.
"The opening stint on the Option tire was tough-going for me," Button said, "so I decided to jump off it quite early and move to the Prime. But then I just kept coming up on traffic ‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë‚àö¬® there were cars everywhere: if you were racing against a single car, it was easier to get past, but if you were in a bunch, it was tough because lots of drivers were able to use the DRS.
"Still, I fought my way through at the end. I had a little dice with Fernando (Alonso) and Nico (Hulkenberg) ‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë‚àö¬® Fernando almost hit Nico at the hairpin, and had to dive down the inside. Then they both ran wide and I got down the inside of both of them."
Hulkenberg crossed the line in fifth place.
"I gained some positions at the end due to the crash between Sergio and Massa," he said, "but lost one to Jenson Button when I was in a battle with Alonso, but we were always going to finish in the points regardless. The safety car at the start didn't help me as it allowed those on super soft tires to stretch their stints.
"Being on a different strategy from everyone else meant I always had someone pushing close behind me: it was fun, but also very challenging, especially towards the end of the race as I had quite a long stint on the super soft tires. Stopping only once I had a bigger challenge managing the tires compared to the two-stoppers, but I think we got the right reward for it. I think it was the fastest strategy for us today and to be the only two cars to manage a one-stopper is definitely a positive."
Given how slow the Ferrari was, Alonso was not pleased with sixth place.
"Looking at the wild final stages of the race, today we picked up some lucky points," he said, "but we still can't be happy with where we finished as our aim was to do better than this. In the beginning, my pace wasn't good and I wasn't happy with the balance of my car.
"Then in the second stint, when the track began to improve, we found a good rhythm and we managed to catch the group in front. But we weren't quick enough to join the fight. What Red Bull did in the race shows how quickly things can change in Formula 1 and that should be further motivation for us to get to a point where we can fight for the win."
Winner Daniel Ricciardo was very happy of course to have won his first race and to have broken the winning streak of those silver cars.
"It's still a bit surreal but yeah, just realty cool," he said. "It's not that we were leading the whole race, so it's not that I had time to understand that I was going to win, it all happened in the last few laps, so I think that's why it's still taking a while to comprehend in my head. But really nice, a really good feeling."