Since the start of the season, we’ve talked a lot about how good KERS and DRS have been in spicing things up during the race. Lots of overtaking, cars flying by, close wheel-to-wheel action… But on Sunday, teams and fans became witnesses to the single most powerful fun-triggering element in Formula One: Mother Nature.
Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix saw six Safety Car procedures and a stoppage of nearly two hours because of a downpour that made the track completely undriveable. All of this combined to produce surely became one of the most thrilling races in recent Formula One history.
In our Barcelona edition a month ago, we said that Michael delivered his best race performance of the year in Spain. Everyone who watched the race on Sunday would have to say that after a solid performance on Spanish soil, Michael really stepped up again in Montreal.
After yet another great start, which saw him reach fifth place before the end of the first lap, Michael drove a solid first stint before the team pitted both him and Nico for intermediate tyres, just before heavy rain hit the circuit. Like Nico, Michael then had to pit again to switch back to wet tyres, leaving him in 12th place when the race was red flagged.
On the restart, as conditions improved massively towards the end of the Safety Car laps, Michael was one of the first drivers to pit for intermediate tyres – on the very same lap the Safety Car headed to the pits. From then, it became a full-attack race for him. Michael overtook an impressive number of cars, including a double-overtaking manoeuvre on Massa and Kobayashi, before having to pit again to switch to dry tyres.
Michael was then running in second position and managed to defend from Button and Webber before eventually being passed by both. Michael said he left the race “with one eye laughing and one eye crying” as he would have loved to finish on the podium, but he was also happy about the result and the big fight the team put in.
A great race from the man, and your reactions on our social network pages during and after the race proved, if proof were needed, that Michael can still move people and that his and the team’s fans love that sort of commitment!
Nico’s race proved to be more challenging, even if the first part began promisingly. After a nice fight with the Mclarens on the first lap, Nico climbed to fourth on his first stint and was showing good pace. Like Michael, Nico pitted for inters before the rain arrived and after the stoppage, Nico restarted in eleventh place.
From his own admission, in the second part of the race Nico could have been “more aggressive with some of his stops, pitting a little earlier”. But as always, it is easier to reflect away from the heat – or in that matter, the cold and torrential conditions! – of the action. Nico was in a points-scoring position but damaged his front wing after a contact with Kobayashi on lap 66, and lost the wing on lap 70. That cost him positions on the final lap; he admitted it wasn’t a pleasant experience trying to drive a still damp circuit with no front wing!
Nico didn’t score any points in Montreal but his pace in the first stage of the race was encouraging, and he is keen to bounce back in Valencia in a fortnight.
Tricky conditions often mean that you can go from hero to zero – and back again – with strategy calls. Sunday was all about reading track conditions and anticipating weather patterns, which was no easy task on the Ile Notre Dame.
Post race, Ross conceded that our choices in the first part of the race hadn’t worked out, pitting for intermediate tyres just before the rain turned heavier and forced every car back onto extreme wets. Indeed, when the race was red flagged, “we were looking a little stranded in 11th and 12th positions” according to Ross – while the cars that had not pitted, and simply kept running, were sitting pretty.
Of course, as everybody remembered from Monaco, a red flag gives the opportunity to change tyres, so although cars like Kobayashi had been running on 25 lap old wets, they restarted the race with a fresh set.
But as the race came back to life, so did ours. A decisive call by the team on the pit wall, and Michael himself, saw him pit as the Safety Car did for inters; he was the first leading car to do so, on lap 34, and that proved decisive.
He emerged from the pits in P13: seven laps later, on lap 42, he was running seventh; by lap 51, he was second. Nico, who made the call to pit two laps later, was himself seventh by lap 51 – having dropped as low as eleventh after contact with Sutil behind the Safety Car.
The switch to dry tyres came at just the right time for Michael, on lap 52, and from there it was a race to the flag, with Webber and Button closing fast, until the Safety Car wiped out Michael’s slight advantage. Defending against faster cars after the restart, and vulnerable to their DRS activation, Michael dropped back to fourth – but still charged to finish 0.3s behind Webber and set his fastest lap on the final one of the race.
After an extremely challenging weekend in Monaco, managing to bring 12 points home in such conditions is a good boost for the team, even though everyone is quite aware, as the last part of the race demonstrated, that we still have ground to make up on the top teams. We’ll see you in a fortnight in Valencia, for our second visit to Spain this season!