The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX: Canada: Ricciardo Wins Thriller

11-06-2014

by Alan Brown

If you age rapidly coping with immense traffic queues trying to reach your favourite grand prix circuit then you may be pleasantly surprised with the convenience of the venue for the Canadian Grand Prix – Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. A good friend of mine who attends the race every year says a quick trip on the metro to ‘Jean Drapeau’ station followed by brief walk across a bridge and you will soon be facing the famous, or should I say infamous, hairpin at CGV. This all assumes of course you are lucky enough to have tickets for the meeting and be in town.

Montreal as we well know is in effect a street circuit, with minimal run off areas and the famous ‘Wall of Champions’ to catch out even the most wary. Speeds of 200 mph or so are reached more than once around this 4.5 Km track and being shod with stout brakes I am sure is a real comfort. Tyre selection is also critical and unsurprisingly on offer were the same choices as Monaco – namely soft and super soft compounds. Fuel consumption is also an issue at this circuit making the car set up a highly complex process.

FP1 was initially all about blowing away a year’s gathering of dust off a track surface, which is only used in anger for this race. In dry conditions most cars started their set up using the soft compound tyre. The Mercs soon rose to the top of the time sheets after enough rubber had been laid down by lower order teams. Then with 30 minutes of the first session remaining Fernando started to hammer in a sequence of super quick laps to outpace the usual two suspects, and everyone else for that matter. Your scribe was carried away imagining the latest and what was billed as a ‘significant ‘ upgrade to the power unit introducing enhanced energy recovery on the F14-T might finally start to close some of the speed gap to the championship leaders. The Scuderia also arrived in Montreal with a further aero upgrade to build on the work done in the run up to Spain when improvements to the rear wing support were introduced.

FP2 was soon underway but the feeling of potential progress or even euphoria at the Red Team quickly evaporated. At the end of the second 90 minute session the two now ‘reconciled’ Monaco boys filled the top slots with Lewis at the head. To rub salt in the wound Vettel pumped in a quickie lap to grab third. Fernando was 5th just ahead of Kimi, who at least made gains on a dismal 9th showing in the earlier practice session.

Track temperatures soared to 45 degs on Saturday for qualifying. Most started their campaign to be up the grid on soft tyres, apart from Vettel, who opted for the super soft tyre. It mattered not, as either way the silver arrows cars glided serenely to the front once more. The pattern stayed that way in Q2 with the Ferraris struggling to get in even amongst the top six. The final shoot out sealed it for the Mercs but after a lock up from Lewis, he had to settle for second best at a circuit he has historically made his own. 4th and 5th rows were the outcome for Fernando and Kimi with both trailing the pole sitter by a full second.

You can rely on the Canadian Grand Prix not to leave you politely patting your mouth to supress an urge to yawn. This year was to be another thriller. When the red lights switched off, the field jostled up the short section of track to the tight Senna left followed immediately by the Island Hairpin. Lewis got away well but Nico dived up the inside at Senna and got the squeeze on his ‘buddy’. It probably fell to Lewis to ensure the two stayed on track. Alas this was a feat the two Marussia combatants could not equal, and at the very next sequence of corners they tangled soon to be ricocheting heavily off into the unforgiving barriers. Max opined his team mate Bianchi braked early, forcing him into a big over steer moment and an unavoidable attack on the right rear of the Frenchman’s car. Whatever, the incident would be looked into by the stewards after the race. With the safety car deployed Nico held station at the front of the field ahead of Vettel who had leapfrogged Lewis right at the start, and the two Williams who were having a great weekend. At the start Vergne also got the jump on Fernando to advance to 7th. If there were to be any fuel consumption problems the pace car might be the first to succumb, being out there for the first 10% distance of the 70 lap race. At the restart Nico again bolted away in the lead.

Tyre wear, we knew would also be an issue in Montreal and as early as L14 Ricciardo was in to switch to softs after starting the race like most of the top ten on super softs. Fernando and Kimi did likewise on L17 and L18 respectively. Most complained of graining problems with the rears. Not Force India however, who seemed to be enjoying a far different tyre wear experience and were confidently targeting a one stopper. Thrilling racing continued right across the field.

By L37 both Nico and Lewis suddenly complained of power loss and were lapping 2 seconds slower than the chasers but still challenging each other. Hammy pressured Nico to the point of lock up into the final chicane and resort to the run off for which the German was reprimanded but not penalised. Nico needn’t have worried as soon after this incident Lewis was forced into retirement with brake problems. Rosberg was still able to carry speed into corners but was well down on power on the straights. However he was being reeled in by the Red Bulls, Perez and Massa. Ricciardo using DRS finally took the lead from the German. Just before the end of the race Massa and Perez, who were both in strong points scoring positions in 4th and 5th made alarming contact at high speed in the approach to T1. Mercifully both emerged unscathed from a very nasty incident and two very badly damaged cars. Perez has since quite rightly received a five place grid penalty for the next race in Austria having been adjudged the culprit, by changing position on track likely to be caused by rear brake failure. These two DNF’s elevated Fernando to 6th frustrated that lack of straight line speed left him unable to overtake, having caught the front runners. Kimi finished back in 10th. Up front Ricciardo took a well deserved and popular win from Rosberg and Vettel. How nice it was to see the two Red Bull team mates hugging each other after their success. I am sure Niki Lauda was taking note.

Marco Mattiacci and James Allison clearly have their work cut out still as the new leadership team at Maranello. However Fernando, in comments made after the race, seemed to think progress had been achieved in Montreal and who knows what other goodies might turn up in those scarlet red transporters as the season progresses.

 

Marco Mattiacci: “Even before we got to Montreal, we knew this would not be an easy race for us, because this is not a track that suits the characteristics of our car. The final result is definitely not satisfactory, far from it. My congratulations go to Ricciardo for the first win of his career. As for the future, I can’t make predictions, but I would ask the team to take a long hard look at what they are doing and work together, putting in maximum effort so that our drivers can fight for more ambitious results.”

Fernando Alonso: “Looking at the wild final stages of the race, today we picked up some “lucky” points, but we still can’t be happy with where we finished as our aim was to do better than this. In the beginning, my pace wasn’t good and I wasn’t happy with the balance of my car. Then in the second stint, when the track began to improve, we found a good rhythm and we managed to catch the group in front. But we weren’t quick enough to join the fight. What Red Bull did in the race shows how quickly things can change in Formula 1 and that should be further motivation for us to get to a point where we can fight for the win. ”

Kimi Raikkonen: “We knew this would not be an easy race, because on this track, we were not fast enough down the straights and we had some problems in the slow corners. On top of that, today I never had a clear track ahead of me, for one reason or another I was always stuck behind other cars. In the beginning I had some problems with the brakes and the handling of my car wasn’t consistent. Then after a few laps, the tyres behaved better, but still with highs and lows.  Even if at the moment, nothing seems to be going right for us, the new development package has given us more potential and now we must just try and find more consistency.”