Rencken: F1’s magnificent seven
Author: DIETER RENCKEN
The 2011 Canadian Formula 1 GP was officially the longest on record after rain stopped play for more than two hours and still the final result was determined on the final lap as strategy played havoc with the field. McLaren’s Jenson Button, at one stage running last, snatched a surprise victory from Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel as Button’s team mate Lewis Hamilton made a total pig’s ear of his race and the pace car led more laps than any other in the field.
Fast forward 12 months and the winner of the race, held under clear 27C skies generating 40C track temperatures, was in doubt until the drop of the flag after 70 laps as leader after leader hit tyre degradation, enabling Hamilton to make amends for his poor 2011 effort and become a record-setting seventh winner (in as many races) of a 20-leg season that is but a third done.
BATTLING THE ELEMENTS
At the 2012 Canadian Grand Prix, Button ended a bemused 16th from 10th on the grid after what he called was his “worst race in years”. McLaren team mate Hamilton was in danger of being hauled in by two youngsters in unfancied cars: Romain Grosjean closed to within two seconds of the 2008 World champion in his Lotus at the finish, while Sergio Perez took his Sauber to third.
The only common denominator on the podium was Hamilton, who started second behind Vettel and ahead of Fernando Alonso – the trio having five World titles between, yet ultimately being creamed by one of the youngest podiums of recent times…
Vettel, who led in the early stages, was next up after being forced to make a late-race stop for fresher rubber, as the reigning champion hoped to make it through on a single stop. Alonso paid heavily for his single-stop strategy, sliding from first with ten laps to go to fifth as his Pirelli’s grip fell off a cliff. Still, seven seconds covered the top four at the end.
With the statistical probability of a pace car being 67%, teams had factored that it into their strategies, and as lap after lap was reeled off as the silver Benz sat idling at the pits lane exit, it was clear some would be caught short when the music stopped.
The seeds for yet another utterly unpredictable Montreal race had been sown on June 08, when lower than predicted temperatures meant teams were unable to gauge tyre performance. The circuit was showered with rain for over 30 minutes during the second practice session.
During qualifying, a hot track forced a reset for teams, who were effectively left with zero tyre data.
Thus it was a matter of "suck it and see" on June 11 with some teams captilising more than others. The top five finishers went for different strategies, with Hamilton starting on SSU* rubber, before switching to SN and ending on the same again.
Lotus rookie Romain Grosjean elected a one-stop strategy (SSU/SU), while Sauber’s Sergio Perez gambled on the opposite (SU/SSN) after keeping a set of unused Supersofts from qualifying. Vettel went for SSU and SN before the last stop (SSU) was forced on him as Alonso went SSU/SU.
In sixth place was Nico Rosberg (SSU/SN/SU), whose Mercedes team mate Michael Schumacher was forced to retire after his DRS jammed. Red Bull’s Monaco winner Mark Webber, came in seventh ahead of Lotus’ Kimi Räikkönen.
Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi completed an excellent weekend for his team in ninth, while Ferrari’s Felipe Massa spun his way to tenth. Massa, much like Button, appeared ill at ease with his car and the current rubber.
All this delivered a race which saw the championship lead change for the sixth time, with Hamilton now topping the points table by 88 points to 86 of previous leader Alonso, with Vettel a single digit behind.
On the constructors’ side, Red Bull lost ground to McLaren, with the gap narrowing to 164 versus 133, while Lotus (108) has passed Ferrari on 97.
Let the winner, Hamilton, only the third driver (after Schumacher and Nelson Piquet Snr.) to have won three races here in Montreal, have the last word: “It’s a phenomenal sensation to come back to Canada and put on a performance like we did today. This win feels as good as my first Formula 1 victory back in 2007. In fact I’d say it’s one of the best races I’ve had for a very long time.
“I feel fantastic, to be honest. Just brilliant. I could hardly believe it when I was driving across the line. That emotion inside, it’s like an explosion. It’s really just incredible,” said Hamilton.
*SS Supersoft S Soft U Used N new