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Rencken: Vettel stuns in Canada

2013-06-10 07:55

MAIDEN CANADA WIN: Sebastian Vettel claimed the 29th victory of his career by winning the 2013 Canadian Grand Prix for the first time. Image: AFP


MONTREAL, Canada - Be careful what you wish for: That was the overriding message emanating out of the Canadian Grand Prix.

After endless discussion since the 2013 Spain GP about degrading tyres, sole supplier Pirelli provided a combination (Supersoft-Red sidewall/Medium-White) that required a maximum two stops – save for Monaco winner Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), who stopped thrice - with the more sensitive managing 70 laps of a track known for its extremely high levels of rear tyre degradation with a single pit visit.


The result? Arguably the most boring grand prix at a circuit named after one of the sport’s most exciting drivers, namely Gilles Villeneuve…

The squealing, led by Red Bull and echoed by Mercedes, started at the first race of the season, and while Pirelli, which firms its nominations four races ahead, vows it has not been swayed, the fact is that the Montreal combination ranks amongst the most conservative.

Had the weather been cooler as expected, degradation would have been even milder despite the fact that teams had not been able to optimise setups due to wet skies during all three free practice sessions.

Qualifying was a bit of a gamble, particularly as a dry race would materialise as forecast. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel took pole from Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), ahem, by best judging the damp conditions during Q3 best, setting a lap roughly 13 seconds off dry estimates.

Williams rookie Valtteri Bottas stunned with third, with Rosberg, Mark Webber in the second RBR and Fernando Alonso completing the top six.

A humdinger race was on the cards, particularly after the thrill-a-second races dished up by the past three years by the circuit situated in the middle of the St Lawrence Seaway. Add in the slightly unusual grid and variables dished up by wet preliminaries, and it had to be a race to remember, right? Theoretically…

Vettel converted his start line advantage into a two-second lead by the end of the opening tour, with Lap 1 characterised by Bottas’s hero-to-zero slide down the order as he crossed the line for the first time – even before the DRS systems of his opponents had been activated.

Starting Lap 10 the leader’s gap over Hamilton’s silver car was over five seconds, with Rosberg and Webber scrapping over third and Alonso a further ten seconds back and rueing Ferrari’s lack-lustre qualifying pace.

The stage was set for a long race to the flag unless … unless a Safety Car was called for, or degradation suddenly hit nuclear levels.


Neither happened, of course, enabling Vettel to take his time after a scare on Lap 10, when the reigning triple champion tagged the wall exiting Turn 3.

No damage but Vettel, who started on new Supersofts in common with 90% of the field after an official Change in Climatic Conditions instruction provided free tyre choice for the race, took on board his team’s instruction to roll back, with his two stops (MN Lap 16/MN Lap 49) going off uneventfully.

Alonso drove another relentless race, edging forward car by car on a similar strategy to the blue car at the sharp end, eventually closing in on Hamilton via a combination of controlled aggression and opportunism.

The two, whose relationship is now almost too cosy after each forgave the other for their acrimonious 2007 McLaren season, spent virtually the entire 62nd lap side-by-side before Alonso pounced.

Vettel, meantime, took to the grass momentarily through lack of concentration 18 laps from the chequer, losing four seconds of his 20-second cushion. Then it was all over bar the shouting – the 2013 Canadian Grand Prix was without red flags, rain or a Safety Car phase. Blue beat red by 14 seconds, with silver a further second-and-a-bit adrift after Lewis ran a similar strategy save for a two-lap longer first stint.

Vettel said: “It’s great to win today. I was pushing very hard, especially at the beginning of the race – I had a moment when I hit the wall, but I didn’t feel it; I was trying to get away from the field, as you don’t know what will happen towards the end.

“It turned out that we could control things in the later stages, but you don’t know that, so I was just trying to push all the time and stay in the rhythm.”


Note: Not a word about tyres, save for alluding to “average tyre wear” in his official press release, although he later suggested Red Bull’s complaints, which harked back to Australia, had centred around delamination rather than degradation – although the former first reared its head in Bahrain…

Fourth place went to Webber, who was delayed by pay-driver Giedo van der Garde’s Caterham while tussling with Hamilton. In the process Alonso edged forward, causing Webber to be furious with van der Garde, who later tripped over Nico Hulkenberg’s Sauber, earning a five-grid slot penalty for Silverstone in on June 30 2013.

Given his traditional back-of-grid qualifying he may have to start from a car park…

Nico Rosberg finished fifth after inexplicably running an SSN/SSN14/MN/31/MN57 strategy, with Jean-Eric Vergne, who started an excellent seventh for Toro Rosso, gaining a place to take sixth from Paul di Resta (Force India).

Di Resta leapt ten places after a gearbox glitch during qualifying saw him fail to advance from Q3.

Eighth to tenth places went to a Felipe Massa driving in damage limitation mode after yet another qualifying crash, Kimi Räikkönen’s Lotus and di Resta’s team mate Adrian Sutil, who was in the battle all afternoon, spinning and earning a drive-thru penalty.

Where did Bottas finish? 14th…

A classic race it was not but in the process Vettel (132 points) strengthened his hold on a fourth title, now having a 36-point cushion over Alonso (96), with Kimi on 88 points after seven of 19 rounds run.

Red Bull extended its lead in the constructors’ division to 201. Ferrari has 145, with Mercedes, the subject of an IAF International Tribunal hearing after secretly testing tyres in breach of the regulations, third.

If it was evident that Vettel’s car did not suffer expected degradation on what is an utterly unique track and surface, it is equally clear that Silverstone’s long, sweeping curves are real tyre killers.


Still, be careful what you wish for…

*One thing never wished for is a fatality during a grand prix and sadly a marshal paid the ultimate price for his passion when he was killed on June 10 2013. He stooped down to pick up his radio, and was inadvertently run over by a recovery vehicle which moved Esteban Guitterez’s Sauber after the rookie crashed on cold tyres on his “out” lap following a pit stop.

Our thoughts go out to the family of the volunteer, whose name had not been released at time of closing for press.

2013 Canadian Grand Prix: Results

1 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 1hour32:09.143
2 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari +00:14.408
3 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 00:15.942
4 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 00:25.731
5 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 01:09.725
6 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 1 lap
7 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 1 lap
8 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1 lap
9 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 1 lap
10 Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India 1 lap
11 Sergio Perez (Mexico) McLaren 1 lap
12 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1 lap
13 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 1 lap
14 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams 1 lap
15 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 2 laps
16 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 2 laps
17 Jules Bianchi (France) Marussia 2 laps
18 Charles Pic (France) Caterham 3 laps
19 Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia 3 laps
20 Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Sauber 7 laps
Retired Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Sauber 24 laps
Retired Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham 26 laps
Fastest Lap: Mark Webber,1:16.182, lap 69.

Driver and constructor standings after the Canadian GP
Drivers Points
1 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 132
2 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 96
3 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 88
4 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 77
5 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 69
6 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 57
7 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 49
8 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 34
9 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 26
10 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 25
11 Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India 17
12 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 13
13 Sergio Perez (Mexico) McLaren 12
14 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 7
15 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Sauber 5
16 Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Sauber 0
17 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams 0
18 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 0
19 Jules Bianchi (France) Marussia 0
20 Charles Pic (France) Caterham 0
21 Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia 0
22 Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham 0

Constructors Points
1 RedBull - Renault 201
2 Ferrari 145
3 Mercedes 134
4 Lotus - Renault 114
5 Force India - Mercedes 51
6 McLaren 37
7 Toro Rosso - Ferrari 20
8 Sauber - Ferrari 5
9 Williams - Renault 0
10 Marussia - Cosworth 0
11 Caterham - Renault 0

Stay with Wheels24 for the 2013 Canadian GP weekend.


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