GRAND PRIX: Canada: Brilliant Button - by Tracey Haynes

24.6.11

I am one of those people who have to watch the qualifying sessions and the GP live whatever time it is aired. However this time I was not at home and missed most of qualifying as I was travelling down the A30 with husband Charles to Padstow for our annual culinary week away. I just caught Q3 on arrival to see Vettel’s 6th pole of the season and the best qualifying of the year for Ferrari’s Alonso and Massa in 2nd & 3rd. Webber took 4th and McLaren’s Hamilton & Button 5th & 7th. Mercedes also had a good qualifying session with Rosberg in 6th and Schumacher 8th.  All looked to be set for an exciting start and with rain forecast McLaren were looking to be the favourites with their track record in the wet and a better set-up.

Sunday 5pm and I was all ready in front of the TV with a bottle of wine and a packet of dry roasted nuts and the promise of an exciting GP, what better way is there to spend a Sunday afternoon (other than hillclimbing)?

The rain arrived as expected. This track is an incredible challenge and the Wall of Champions leading into the final straight looks daunting in the dry never mind in the wet. There had been little running on Pirelli’s wet tyres and the teams were unsure of the crossover should the rain subside, so strategy was going to be a big factor in this race.

Somewhat controversially the race started behind the Safety Car so all cars had to be fitted with full wet tyres, obviously this took away the excitement and mayhem normally seen going into the first corner. Each team has three sets of wets and four sets of intermediates so if the rain continued it would be interesting to see how these tyres faired.

The Safety Car came in at the end of Lap 4 and Vettel had bunched up the field beforehand, Alonso made sure he was with Vettel all the way and even tried a pass at the first corner but Vettel held on. Hamilton took his chance to get around Webber but they made contact and Webber spun but managed to hold on to the black stuff to stay in the race. Hamilton then set his sights on Schumacher for 5th place but went out too wide; this gave Button the opportunity to take both of them which he did. Lap 8 saw Hamilton trying to pass Button on the pit straight, Button (said he) didn’t see Hamilton coming up on the inside and by taking the racing line they made contact and Hamilton ended up in the pit wall which ended his race.

The Safety Car was deployed to allow the track to be cleared during which time Button took the opportunity to change onto intermediates which were obviously working well as he was later served a drive through penalty for driving too fast behind the Safety Car! The Safety Car came in at the end of lap 12 and Button immediately took his drive through and joined the field back in 16th. The racing line was drying out a little and Schumacher had a look around Rosberg and Webber was driving down Petrov. Alonso and Massa were still holding on in 2nd & 3rd on Lap 14 and Kobayashi was having a good race and was closing behind Schumacher in 6th place.

Button’s change to inters was paying off and he had gained 5 places in 2 laps and was 4 seconds a lap quicker than Vettel. Alonso made the move to inters and the change made a considerable difference he passed Heidfeld to take 6th. The rain began to intensify and the Safety Car was deployed again on Lap 20 and of course for those who had changed to inters, a tyre change was looking desirable. By staying on wets Vettel and Massa gained at the front, however Vettel pitted for a new set of wets and Massa was leading until his pit stop for a new set on Lap 21 and rejoined behind Kobayashi in 3rd. Vettel advised his team that the track was becoming undriveable in places and on Lap 25 the red flag came out and the race was suspended.

The rain was very heavy and the surface water was increasing, the crews used all kinds of machinery to try to clear it but it was not making an awful lot of difference. The intermission seemed to go on forever and the TV crews did a marvelous job filling the time. At 20.50 UK time the race was restarted behind the Safety Car once again. The plethora of machinery had managed to clear a large amount of the surface water and any remaining would be dispersed by the cars. The Safety Car stayed out for 8 laps and when it came in Massa made a move on Kobayashi to take 2nd, however Kobayashi fought back and regained his position.

The track had again started to dry and the racing line was looking fairly good so the change to inters started. Ferrari suffered a lack of communication and called Massa in for a change to inters closely followed by Alonso who had to wait behind Massa for the tyre change. On returning to the track Alonso and Button made contact in the Chicane and Alonso spun off which ended his race and Button sustained a puncture, once again the Safety Car was deployed. The leading three on Lap 40 when the Safety Car came in were Vettel, Kobayashi and Massa.

Schumacher was having a brilliant race and passed Webber to take 6th place although further down the field all sorts of incidents were taking place and Di Resta and Rosberg were given drive through penalties. The track was drying out well and the inters were overheating and so who was going to be the first to brave dry tyres? It was Webber but a wiggle on the way out of the pits made most think that it was too soon. Massa and Kobayashi were battling for position and Schumacher saw an opportunity and took both to put him into 2nd place; this was definitely the Schumacher of old we were seeing [hooray! - Ed.]. Massa suffered damage to the nose cone after aquaplaning so had to pit so changed to drys at the same time which obviously put him further back in the field.

Lap 54 and Schumacher and Webber battled for 2nd, Webber looked to be positioned well to pass but hit the wet and lost his line which kept him behind Schumacher. Button was flying through the field and had now made it to 4th after passing Kobayashi. Our old friend the Safety Car was deployed once again following a mistake by Heidfeld which caused him to hit the wall and this finished his race. At the end of Lap 60 the Safety Car came in and Vettel was still leading with Schumacher 2nd, Button was all over the back of Webber in 3rd, although Webber was putting pressure on Schumacher and made a move to take 2nd but got well out of shape and had to cut the Chicane so had to give the place back to Schumacher.

Button was keeping the pressure on Webber who lost it again in the chicane and Button took 3rd and then started to chase down Schumacher to take 2nd place on Lap 66; he now set his sights on Vettel. Schumacher held the Red Bull of Webber at bay for a couple of laps but on Lap 68 the quicker car was not to be denied and took third [boo! - Ed.].

After an incident packed race Paul Di Resta finally ended his race with an off on turn 9. Back at the front Button caught Vettel and put him under increased pressure until Vettel made a mistake, went wide giving Button a chance which he took and with it the lead! He held it held it to the end and crossed the line in 1st followed by Vettel and Webber. Schumacher was 4th and Petrov 5th. Massa raced Kobayashi to the line and took 6th place. After Kobayashi in 7th we had Alguersuari 8th for Toro Rosso, Rubens 9th, scoring for the second race in a row and Buemi 10th.

The last 10 laps were the most exciting of the whole race, the Safety Car took away most of the excitement early on but obviously safety has to be number 1 priority. Button had the race of his life and with five pit stops, a puncture and a drive through penalty it shows just what an excellent driver he is. With rumours in the papers that he might be joining Ferrari when his current contract runs out at the end of the 2012 season the future could look interesting with him at the Prancing Horse; what a formidable team he and Alonso would make.

This was probably the longest Grand Prix I have ever watched, then again I cannot think of any other reason to sit and do nothing for 5 hours!!


Click here for FIA lap chart.


Stefano Domenicali: “Regret is the feeling affecting all of us at the end of a chaotic Canadian Grand Prix. Today we had the potential to fight for the win, but everything that could go wrong did go wrong. In the end, Felipe’s sixth place is definitely a result that is hard to swallow given how the race ended. Two incidents in particular – the collision between Fernando and Button and the passing move on Karthikeyan that caused Felipe to go of the track – leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Now we must put this Sunday behind us, while retaining the fact that our performance level was a match for the situation, just as we had seen two weeks ago in Monaco.

Felipe Massa: “I can’t draw much satisfaction from this sixth place, given the potential we had here. My chances of finishing on the podium and also of fighting for the win given how things went, just evaporated when I was passing Karthikeyan. He was going very slowly on the dry line but then, as I was passing him on the wet, he accelerated and I lost control of the car ending up in the wall. Thanks to the next Safety Car, I was able to catch up to the pack and then, in the end, I passed a few cars to get as high as sixth. I am angry, there is no point denying it. We qualified well and we were in the top three up until the red flag.

Fernando Alonso: “Everything went wrong, right from this morning when we saw it was raining. We had our best qualifying of the year and we found ourselves starting behind the safety car, when I felt that for me, the intermediates were the best tyre. When we fitted them, the downpour came, along with the red flag which meant those who had not changed tyres could now do it practically for nothing. Finally there was the coming together with Button, which as a final insult left my car beached on a kerb and I was unable to get going again”


 

The Canadian Grand Prix, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal.

70 laps: Weather: Wet.

Classified:
Pos Driver Team  
Time
1. Button McLaren  
4.04:39.537
2. Vettel Red Bull  
+ 2.709
3. Webber Red Bull  
+ 13.828
4. Schumacher Mercedes  
+ 14.219
5. Petrov Renault  
+ 20.395
6.
Massa Ferrari  
+ 33.225
7. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari  
+ 33.270
8. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari  
+ 35.964
9. Barrichello Williams  
+ 45.117
10. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari  
+ 47.056
         
Retd.
Alonso Ferrari  
Lap 36
 
Fastest lap: Button, 1:16.956
 

 

World Championship Standings, Round 7

Drivers:   Constructors:
1. Vettel
161
  1. Red Bull
255
2. Button
101
  2. McLaren
186
3. Webber
94
  3. Ferrari
101
4. Hamilton
85
  4. Renault
60
5. Alonso
69
  8. Mercedes 52
6. Massa
32
  6. Sauber-Ferrari 27
9. Petrov
31
  8. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 12
7. Rosberg
26
  9. Force India 10
8. Heidfeld
29
  9.` Williams
4
9. Schumacher
26
       
10. Rosberg
26
       
11. Kobayashi
25
       
12. Sutil
8
       
13. Buemi
8
       
14. Alguersuari
4
       
15. Barrichello
4
       
16. Perez
2
       
17. Di Resta
2
       
             
             
             
             




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