F1 2011: Race 7, Canada
8 7 was a long haul flight to Canada for the F1 circus for the only race held in North America, built on its own island the circuit Gile Villeneuve is always one to watch; the race which last year set the president in tyre compounds that are significantly different and high wear rates following a little bit of a mistake by Bridgestone.
The question was, could the race stand up against the thriller of last year? Throughout free practice the answer seemed to be yes, especially as grip levels seemed to be non-existent, something the smart drivers should have got themselves used to for the rest of the weekend, unless you were one of the unlucky few to have hit a wall.
Qualifying then set up the race perfectly; Ferrari appeared to finally be on the pace and both drivers appeared to be on-form, clearly demonstrated by securing second and third on the grid! Pole almost ours.
Sunday, race day: the picture dramatically changed again with rain. The win which looked to have been a straight fight between the Ferrari drivers and Vettel was now wide open to all for the taking. The race, perhaps wrongly, started under the safety car through fear of unknown grip, meant we weren’t going to see another lightening start from Alonso. What we did see instead was Fernando go all out attack as soon as the safety car peeled off the track a couple of laps later.
Unfortunately, the move didn’t quite stick and I believe Alonso ruined his first set of wet tyres as he appeared to struggle for ultimate pace, whilst Massa seemed to be able to hold station quite comfortably behind in formation flying.
Lewis Hamilton, also flying decided a few laps later that he had the pace on Jenson Button and opted to dive down a gap that was always set to close; the two McLarens colliding and pushing Hamilton into the wall with a left rear tyre problem – a DNF for the driver who continued his trend of crashing into others. Button shrugged the incident off, complaining on the radio “What’s he doing?”, before being the first to pit and opt for intermediate tyres.
A brave move considering a drying line had only just emerged and the threat of rain was still forthcoming, but we’ve seen Jenson make these inspired decisions for tyres before and make them work in his favour; following the golden rule: always be on the right tyres. A couple of laps later as he worked his way through traffic the pace of the signal was clear for all – Inters were the tyre to be on. Ferrari reacted instantly, Alonso who was struggling with his tyres was pitted first and sent on his way – in typical fashion, a couple of laps later the heavens opened up again and Alonso was back in for wets, dropping down from 2nd to 8th overall.
And then the rain gods decide that was enough racing for the time being and unleashed a storm which water logged the track and brought out the red flags and an end to racing. The TV stations then went into ‘filler mode’, having to talk for over 2 hours until the FIA were satisfied the race could restart.
This wait was certainly sent as a test to the fans. The rain had eased off quite a bit earlier than the eventual race restart and insisted on sending the safety and track cars out on track to clear up the water and puddles; something the F1 cars would have been more suited doing with their wet weather rain tyres (they could even have sent Lewis Hamilton, who was out of the race to do this job for them having had their car returned to them and no serious damage found!). In my opinion, the race could have restarted much earlier and when the race did restart behind the safety car, it seemed to take forever for the FIA to make the decision to bring it in and allow them to race (presumably because drivers complained of spray and visibility problems on the radio – again, a problem that would have quickly disappeared once they were able to start racing and spread themselves out a bit more).
It was a testing time for the fans and I wouldn’t be surprised if many had switched off at this point – hell, even I almost switched channels in frustration. Certainly something F1 and the FIA need to seriously look into and learn from.
When the race restarted proper and the safety car peeled in, the thriller than begun – unless you were Fernando Alonso; a few laps in, Button and Alonso dived into a corner, Fernando on the outside had a better run into the corner, but Button also refused to give up – his front left hitting Fernando’s right rear pitching him round and beaching him on
the high kerbs, out of the race.
Race control flagged the incident for investigation and later announced that it would require further investigation after the race. Meanwhile the race continued and the build up to the final 12 laps....
Schumacher appeared to have found the form that he is renowned for and climbed all the way up second place and actually catching Vettel. He was even closer after another safety car period was declared following Glock running into the back of Sutil. Schumacher was unable to match pace with the younger German though, who bolted on the restart. Michael then found his tyres cooked and with DRS enabled, he was a sitting duck for both Button and Webber behind. Both made their way past within a few laps following Schumacher’s brilliant defending against Webber – it looked like Schumacher of old, a welcome spectacle.
Massa who seemed to spend all his time in third, when he made the switch from wet tyres to dry tyres somehow managed to drop his Ferrari passing a back-marker and hitting the barrier wiping his nose cone from his car and breaking his front wing; a limp back to the pits for a fresh one dropped him to 11th. He clawed his way back to 7thand on the very last start/finish straight managed to grab 6th place on the finish line on the last lap.
Button who was around 5 seconds behind Vettel with four laps to go reeled him in at a tremendous rate and was 0.8 behind for the very last lap; DRS was set to either make or break Sebs winning streak but then, perhaps uncharacteristically Vettel slid wide into one of the corners and on the still damp track lost all momentum and allowed Button and easy pass for the win.
Race seven: The words start/stop come to mind.
Alonso – – DNF: Punted out by the race winner, disappointing result considering he was in front of Button for much of the race and had the potential to chalk up the win from this race.
Massa – 6th: The plucky Brazilian snatched 6th on the line in a photo-finish. It’s not where Ferrari want to be, but points are points.
Man of the Race: Whilst Button put on a great display, my driver of the day was Michael Schumacher. It was a return to form that reminded everyone why he is a 7 times world champion.