Canadian GP 2015

JUNE 11, 2015

Canadian GP, 2011

Jenson Button, Canadian GP 2011
© The Cahier Archive

The 2011 Canadian Grand Prix will go down in history as one of the most amazing races of all time. Through it all -- all four hours, four minutes and thirty-nine seconds of it - Sebastian Vettel was almost wheel perfect. He led every lap apart from the last part of the very last one.

Somehow, Vettel was beaten by a man who pitted six times and was dead last with 30 laps to go! "I really don't know what to say..." smiled Jenson Button, and you couldn't blame him.

Montreal had every chance of being chaotic. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has close bordering walls and, for the first time since Pirelli became F1's tyre supplier, we had a wet race.

For practically everyone it was a venture into the unknown, with nobody having any substantial experience of the Italian company's intermediate or wet tyres. At least the first decision on tyre selection was removed when the FIA declared that the race would start behind the Safety Car, meaning that wets were mandatory.

After four slow laps the official Mercedes pulled in and we went racing. And immediately, Lewis Hamilton continued where he left off in Monte Carlo, assaulting Mark Webber's fourth-placed Red Bull in Turn 2 and spinning the Australian down to 14th place.

"I think Lewis thought the chequered flag was at Turn 3..." Webber said. Jenson, at this stage, ran seventh, where he qualified. That became sixth when Michael Schumacher nudged Hamilton wide at the hairpin.

Lewis soon wanted the place back and after a quicker exit from the final chicane, tried to go by Jenson before the right-hand kink in the pit straight. It looked optimistic and, sure enough, Button was having none of it. The official line was that Jenson had no idea Lewis was there.

The pair made contact and Hamilton was out of the race, triggering a Safety Car to remove the McLaren. Button immediately took the opportunity to pit for intermediates. He's devastating in such mixed conditions, with a finely-tuned feel for grip, but when it started to rain heavier again, it looked as if the gamble had backfired. He also attracted a Drive Through penalty for exceeding the speed delta behind the Safety car. He served it on lap 13 and then stopped again for a set of new Pirelli wets six laps later. Then came monsoon rain and, for the second time in as many races, a red flag.

After a delay of two hours, the race resumed behind the Safety Car once more, with Button 11th on the road, right behind Fernando Alonso's Ferrari. The big winners were those who stayed on their original wets, like Kobayashi, Heidfeld and Petrov, and got a free change of boots under the red flag conditions. Alonso, after Ferrari's best qualifying effort of the season had netted him a front row start, was not among them.

"We had no luck at all," the Spaniard lamented. And it soon got worse. When the Safety Car pulled in again after 34 of the 70 laps, Button was keen to be on the move but had a coming together with Alonso at the first chicane. The Ferrari pirouetted and became beached on the kerb. Fernando was out.

Button, who had made his fourth stop for used intermediates two laps earlier, was also damaged by the impact but managed to pit for the fifth time under the Safety Car caused by his own incident. He rejoined still on the lead lap and caught up the lost ground under the Safety Car. Had Alonso not been beached on the kerb, Jenson could not have won the race. Even so, he was 21st and last.

Jenson, driving superbly, was up to eighth with 20 laps to go, but still 28s behind leader Vettel. On lap 51 Button made his sixth and final pit visit to bolt on a set of supersofts. It was a good early call and by the time the rest of the field had done likewise, Jenson was up to fourth, behind only Vettel, Michael Schumacher and Webber with 15 laps remaining. He was still 6s adrift of the second Red Bull and needed another Safety car.

He got one. Kobayashi's Sauber was assaulted by Nick Heidfeld's Renault at Turn 2 and the resultant debris littered the racing line. Heidfeld crashed out when his damaged wing tucked under the car and launched him into the wall. The situation was exacerbated when a marshal, intent on brushing it up, fell over on the track just as Vitaly Petrov arrived on the scene! Disaster was averted but out came the official car once more.

It all came down to a final 10 lap sprint to the flag and by lap 65 Button had dispensed with Webber and Schumacher and was just 3s behind Vettel. The world champion had been lapping comfortably in the 1:20s but Button was in the 1:18s and soon dropped into the 1:17s.

Vettel responded but Button was threatening and got into the double DRS zone for the first time on the penultimate lap. It wasn't enough to get him by, but Vettel was very keen to make sure Jenson didn't have the benefits of DRS on the last lap. Trying to make sure he got to the activation zone with Button out of range, Vettel pushed too hard, put a wheel on the wet, lost the rear and Button was through.

"That was a very emotional four hours!" Jenson said. "Just a fantastic race. As we always say, the last lap is the important one to be leading. I enjoyed it very much fighting through the field -- that feeling of getting one up on someone. To fight from last's definitely my best race. On the slicks the car felt fantastic and on the wets it didn't really work.

"I wouldn't have had a chance if we didn't have DRS here. If Sebastian didn't make a mistake it would have been tricky because I had DRS the previous lap but wasn't close enough. After Monaco to get some luck at the end, I think we deserved that."

Vettel was disappointed but magnanimous: "It's good points but if you've got it in your hands and you give it away, it's not the best feeling. All in all I think I can be satisfied but at the moment the freshest impressions are the ones I show -- disappointment."

Behind Webber, Schumacher was also disappointed not to score the first podium since his return but a good early switch to new supersofts and an opportunistic move when Kobayashi held up Massa and Michael nailed both of them, saw him score a fine fourth place. Petrov and a disappointed Massa beat Kobayashi to the line, with Alguersuari, Barrichello and Buemi claiming the final points places of a memorable afternoon.

The epic lasted about as long as Nadal versus Federer on clay. Button's winning average speed? Just 74.864kph. He won't care about that...

12 JUNE 2011

1 - Jenson BUTTON (McLaren)
2 - Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull)
3 - Mark WEBBER (Red Bull)


Q: Jenson, an amazing race. Well worth waiting for the finish. You went from last to first. You collided with your team-mate (Lewis Hamilton) and Fernando Alonso. But what a race victory.

Jenson BUTTON: Yeah, I mean I really do not know what to say. It has been a very emotional three hours or however long it has been since the start. The incident with Lewis... I couldn't see anything when he was alongside me. I couldn't see anything in my mirrors. It was one of those things and I have apologised to him. Then, it was really a fight. I got a drive-through for speeding behind the safety car and I had to fight my way through about three times. Eventually, on the last lap I was chasing down Seb. He ran a little bit wide onto the wet part of the circuit and I was able to take the opportunity and take the win. But, for me, a fantastic race I think even if I hadn't won today I would have enjoyed this race immensely. But, yeah, amazing win and possibly my best.

Q: Sebastian, another very high-pressure finish for you but this time it didn't go your way. How disappointed are you feeling right now?

Sebastian VETTEL: Of course you are disappointed. I think it was a very difficult race from start to finish and we led every single lap except the last one. Or part of the last one. I was probably too conservative when I was in the lead after the last safety car and didn't open the gap quite enough. I was trying to hold the gap to the cars behind. Then I saw Jenson coming through. I was pushing and I think it would have been enough to the end but obviously it was not as I did a mistake. It is clearly down to me. I locked up the rear a little bit and what you have to do then is open the car going a bit straighter when there is only one line. But I ended up in the wet and it was quite easy then for him to pass. Surely, I think it is a good day today. It was a difficult day, easy to do mistakes and we have seen a lot of cars not finishing so it is good points. But if you have got it in your hands and you give it away it is not the sweetest feeling, but all in all it was a good race for us.

Q: Mark, you were the first to go onto the slick tyres and then an unbelievable battle at the end with Michael Schumacher and Jenson.

Mark WEBBER: Yeah, I had to roll the dice a little bit. It was very hard to clear some of those guys with the dry line when you were trying to come through and it is such narrow window to get down the inside of people. Obviously, you have got the experienced guys like Michael and (Nick) Heidfeld and those guys they know what they are doing. I thought I would roll the die. I was happy to see not everyone taking the next lap after me as I thought they would be so the two laps were enough to bring me back into the game for the podium. Then it was a pretty good fight with Michael. Again it was difficult, as we both wanted the same bit of track for the main braking point for the chicane. In the end got there, but when JB arrived he was absolutely flying and I was trying to be, we were all trying, to be as fair as we could. I passed Michael through the chicane so I had to give the position back. In the end these are the results we all deserve today. JB drove a great race. Seb did a phenomenal job but obviously it is easy to make a mistake in those conditions. I think third was the maximum i could get today after the first lap with Lewis.

Q: Jenson, are you off to have a chat with Lewis and Fernando after this and how will you be celebrating tonight?

Button: I have already spoken to Lewis and we both agree it was just one of those things. I am sure I am going to have a busy afternoon here at the circuit then I am definitely going to go celebrate. I am going to enjoy Montreal with some good friends whose birthday was yesterday and also Jessica (Michibata) is here and my old man, so I am looking forward to it. Mikey (Muscles) Collier, my physio is here as well, so hopefully we will have a good night tonight and enjoy what we achieved today. It was an immense battle and a great result. I have got to say a big thank you to the whole team and the work they have done. I think I must have pitted eight or nine times in this race and they did a great job every time so thank you very much.


Q: Jenson, I don't know if it was as incredible inside the car as it was outside but that was one hell of a race.

Button: It had its ups and downs, let's just say that. Definitely one of those grands prix where you are nowhere, then you're somewhere, then you're nowhere and then you're somewhere. As we always say the last lap is the important one to be leading and I was leading half of it. Amazing day. It really is an amazing day and I don't know what else to say really.

Q: The count was five pit-stops and a penalty just in case you thought it was nine stops or maybe you felt like it was?

Button: It felt like I spent more time in the pits than on the pit-straights. The guys did a great job of calling the strategy. At some points we definitely lucked out on the strategy, especially when the red flag came out but we called it very well going to slicks. The car was working really well in these tricky conditions, so I enjoyed it very much coming through the field. Fighting your way through the field is almost as good as winning a race: that feeling of getting one up on someone. A great race I think for the people who are sat here. To be on the podium was a pretty exceptional result and to fight my way through from, I think, last position... yeah, it's definitely my best race and I want to say a big thank you to the whole team for staying calm in some very difficult circumstances, especially when I damaged the front left and the front wing. But we came away with the victory, so thank you very much.

Q: The calls must have been incredible. They must have been the right calls. A great contribution from the team?

Button: Yeah, I think strategy-wise, obviously we sometimes get it wrong but a lot of the time we get it right. Moving onto intermediates in the first race and then moving to intermediates in the second race was the right call. The car on the intermediates and the slicks felt fantastic. On the wet tyre it didn't really work. Yeah, a very special race to win from where I was and I will remember this for a long time. I am sure I am going to have a busy afternoon here at the circuit. I have got to go and see the stewards and we will see how that goes but at the moment I am really enjoying this moment as I feel that I did the best job I possibly could.

Q: You came down the stairs just now with... I think Fernando was there as well. Was there any talk between the two of you just now?

Button: No, I didn't see him. He was in the front.

Q: DRS right at the end there on that last lap.

Button: Yeah, I wouldn't have had a chance if we didn't have DRS here. If Sebastian didn't make a mistake it would have been very tricky but it was getting very close to making the move because of the DRS. The previous lap I got DRS and I wasn't really close enough to make a move but I felt I was creeping closer and it could have been one of those moves on the last lap into the last corner but it didn't go that far because Seb put a wheel onto the wet surface and ran wide. I will take that. I think after Monaco, which again was a great race for me, to get the win here and get some luck in the end I think we deserved that.

Q: Sebastian, obviously disappointed to be second after being in the lead for so long and five safety car starts, each of which you seemed to get right. Tell us about it. You seemed to be dominant up until that last lap.

Vettel: Yeah, I think it was a long race. Obviously, a long break in between but very difficult conditions. It was quite tough and I think one of the most challenging races we have had this year. All in all, I think I can be satisfied but at the moment the freshest impressions I have are the ones which I probably show at the moment. Of course I am disappointed. Being in the lead for all the race and knowing that it was so difficult. It was a tricky race. The safety car never helped us but we did the best we could. It is good points today. I can see that. It is important to finish, especially in a race like that, but to do the mistake in the last lap, which was probably only the real mistake I did in the whole race, at the moment it is not very sweet. But that's how it goes. I think we are all pushing very hard and sometimes do mistakes. I have no problem to admit that I went a little bit wide and if it would have been dry there would have been no problem. But like this it was wet and outside the dry line and very costly. So in the end I got away with second.

Q: You just went off, do you remember why exactly?

Vettel: I was a little bit late on the brakes. Obviously I could feel Jenson was a little bit quicker than us. I should probably have pushed much harder initially after the safety car, after the re-start. I was building up something like a four second lead and then I thought that the people behind would run a similar pace so I wasn't trying to pull away too much because I don't know what might happen afterwards with tyres or another safety car phase. I was probably a bit too cautious there. If I would have pulled away by six or seven seconds then it would have been a different story, but like that, at some stage, it was only three. It was a difficult finish to a hard race. I could see that especially in the last sector, Jenson was coming very close and catching up a lot.

Q: Mark, it actually started for you right at the second corner...

Webber: Yeah, at one o' clock. Yeah, I think Lewis thought the chequered flag was in turn three. We made contact, I tried to give him some room. I know it's easy to clip someone but I think it was a bit clumsy that early in the race. So I lost a lot of positions. I managed to get them all back, pretty much, and then we decided to pit, obviously just to put another set of full extremes on before the suspended race. Then obviously Kobayashi and the two Renaults and di Resta - the guys that I passed already - they got me with the free pit stop, basically under the suspended race with the new set of tyres. So I had to get back past those guys which wasn't too bad but when a dry line started to appear, it's actually difficult to pull moves off because there's not much room to get down the inside. I think I decided to roll the dice a little bit and pop some dry tyres on. It was very much on the edge. I knew parts of the track were going to be tricky initially, and if you get on the grass, obviously, it's all over. So that tended to work out for me, gained quite a few seconds with that and then arrived on the back of Michael and we had a reasonable battle, same thing, trying to get that dry line in the last chicane. Eventually we got him, but JB arrived, he was very very very quick and I think he would ultimately - even if I got Michael early - JB would probably have picked me off as well. It was very easy to be in the wall today, make a mistake. It's very satisfying to be here, a very testing Grand Prix for all of us: mixed conditions and obviously with a bit of stress here and there, hard visibility, tear-off visors - the whole thing. Everything was thrown in there today, it was a tough Grand Prix for all of us. Clearly it's Jenson's day, he deserved the win and great points for us as a team in the Constructors' championship. I'm sure it was a good race for the neutrals watching at home but a few grey hairs for us.


Q: (Mattias Brunner - Speedweek) For all of you: the safety periods, suspending the race, was everything in order from your perspective?

Button: For Seb, I'm sure it was easy, sat behind the safety car, but for me, back in the pack, especially when it was very very wet, it was good to have the safety car out because I couldn't see in front of my visor. I think they timed it pretty well. I think they've got it down to a T now with understanding how long the safety car should be out, so yeah I think they did a good job.

Vettel: I think it was fine. Obviously they need to make the decisions for all of us, not just for one team or one driver only. It's difficult here to access the track when you have a car crashed or parts on the track which we had in the end. I think they kept everything under control and safe for us.

Webber: I think they deserve huge credit. When they get it wrong, everyone kills them but today they did everything perfectly, virtually within a lap. They didn't mess around, they got on with it, did a very very good job for all of us. They had a very good understanding or feeling of the car so bloody good job from the guys up there to help us out today and yet still have a good car race, so they did a good job.

Q: (Livio Oricchio - O Estado do Sao Paulo) Jenson, it's important to hear your point of view about the incident with Alonso and Hamilton.

Button: It is but I need to speak to the stewards first. I will be going to see the stewards after this so I think it's best if I wait until I see them before I give an opinion.

Q: (Mark Shalhoub - CJAD 80DRadio) Jenson, did you feel like you had a bullseye on your car out there with those two incidents or was it just circumstance?

Button: No, I think there were lots of incidents today. It's a very very slippery circuit here, especially with the wet tyres, the first time that we've driven here in the wet for many years; I think 2003 was the last time. It's a very very slippery surface here, and a lot of people were finding it difficult to judge braking and also it's impossible to see in your mirrors when it's wet. I think there were incidents that you don't like to see, obviously, but sometimes it just happens.

Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto, Motor und Sport) Jenson, how much of a help was it that you had this big wing on and why did you benefit more in the dry at the end? You would think it was a bigger benefit in the wet.

Button: I don't personally think that we had a big wing on, compared to other people. I think that we have a very good car mechanically, which works in these conditions, but I personally don't feel that we had a big wing on compared to other people. I think that some other people have got a more efficient DRS system in qualifying spec, but in race spec I think our rear wing is more efficient than theirs because that's the trade-off you have with the rear wings, with the DRS system. But as I said, mechanically our car is very good and we proved that in Monaco and we see that again here, especially when there's low grip on the circuit.

Q: (Dominic Fugere - Rue Frontenac) Jenson, we heard someone on your channel saying 'alright, let's go, we've gotta go win this race.' Was that you, somebody in the pits?

Button: It was Dave, Dave my engineer, Dave Robson, Comedy Dave - we've stolen that (name) from Radio One in England. Yeah, it's the first race we've won together, because last year we weren't working... well, he was actually working with me but as the second engineer, the data engineer, so this is the first race we've won together as chief engineer on my car. So yeah, a tough day for him, with all the different calls and what have you. He was obviously very hyped up. I wasn't going to say that on the radio. I don't say that until I'm across the finish line. It was nice for him to say and I think it was just to rev me up a little bit, not that I really needed it in the race today.

Q: (Pino Azzurro - Corriere Italiano Montreal) Jenson, you won a fantastic race, how would you rate this win among all your wins?

Button: The most action I've had in a Grand Prix, probably, and come away with a win. My first Grand Prix win was pretty special as it always would be and it was a very similar situation with the weather but I would personally say this - I'm going to say that because I'm emotionally attached to this win because it's just happened - but I would say this race is the best one I've had in my career.

Q: (Pino Azzurro - Corriere Italiano Montreal) Sebastian, in the last five laps of the race, Jenson was gaining a second and a half on you. You gave us the impression that you were basically saving your tyres or your car. Any issues with the tyres at all?

Vettel: No issues. As I said earlier, as I touched on, after the safety car I probably wasn't aggressive enough because to me initially, there was no need. As it turned out, I would have been much better off. After that, when I saw Jenson behind, I kept him fairly close and yes, he was very quick, I'm not saying that, but it wasn't a second per lap any more. I think it was then within a couple of tenths. It would have been very close but with the mistake I made, it was not.

Q: (Jeff Pappone Globe and Mail) Jenson, you mentioned earlier you're going to enjoy this moment and then see what happens; how concerned are you about the meeting with the stewards later?

Button: I'm not concerned at all because personally I don't feel that I've done anything wrong. I'm not concerned but you never know what the outcome is going to be.

Q: (Mattias Brunner - Speedweek) For the Red Bull drivers, how was KERS this afternoon?

Webber: One and off.

Vettel: Yes, it was in the car. On and off.

Canadian Grand Prix Results - 12 June 2011 - 70 Laps
1. Jenson Button Britain McLaren-Mercedes 70 4h04m39.537
2. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault 70 2.709
3. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault 70 13.828
4. Michael Schumacher Germany Mercedes GP 70 14.219
5. Vitaly Petrov Russia Renault 70 20.395
6. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari 70 33.225
7. Kamui Kobayashi Japan Sauber-Ferrari 70 33.270
8. Jaime Alguersuari Spain Toro Rosso-Ferrari 70 35.964
9. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Williams-Cosworth 70 45.117
10. Sebastien Buemi Switzerland Toro Rosso-Ferrari 70 47.056
11. Nico Rosberg Germany Mercedes GP 70 50.454
12. Pedro de la Rosa Spain Sauber-Ferrari 70 1m03.607
13. Vitantonio Liuzzi Italy HRT-Cosworth 69 1 Lap
14. Narain Karthikeyan India HRT-Cosworth 69 1 Lap
15. Jerome d'Ambrosio Belgium Virgin-Cosworth 69 1 Lap
16. Timo Glock Germany Virgin-Cosworth 69 1 Lap
17. Jarno Trulli Italy Lotus-Renault 69 1 Lap
18. Paul di Resta Britain Force India-Mercedes 67 3 Laps
R Pastor Moldonado Venezuela Williams-Cosworth 61 Spin
R Nick Heidfeld Germany Renault 55 Accident
R Adrian Sutil Germany Force India-Mercedes 49 Accident
R Fernando Alonso Spain Ferrari 36 Accident
R Heikki Kovalainen Finland Lotus-Renault 28 Driveshaft
2. Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes 7 Damage
  Jenson Button Britain McLaren-Mercedes 69 1:16.956