Monday, June 13, 2011


Jenson Button crossing the line to win in Montreal, capping off a fabulous
After much discussion and controversy about the postponement of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Sunday afternoon saw business resumed when the cars took to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.
The Friday and Saturday practices were littered with crashes, spins and red flags.  The highest profile early casualty of the unforgiving barriers was none other than championship leader Sebastian Vettel.  He carried too much speed into the final chicane and ran wide into the aptly named ‘Wall of Champions.’
Whilst Vettel’s Red Bull was quickly fixed, the same could not be said for team mate Mark Webber.  He didn’t crash his car, but rather his Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) had failed with seemingly no solution.  A compromise had been found come qualifying, though.
The final pre-qualifying news was that of Sauber driver, Sergio Perez.  After his heavy shunt in Monaco qualifying, Perez decided that he was unconfident in driving the Sauber and withdrew from the weekend’s action.  His replacement was McLaren reserve, Pedro de la Rosa (McLaren overalls included).  There were frowns all round as de la Rosa destroyed his car after only a few laps in practice.
With practice over, it was time for qualifying.  The six usual casualties fell in Q1 (Trulli, Kovalainen, Glock, Liuzzi, Karthikeyan and D’Ambrosio) alongside the Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari.  In Q2 it was again a pretty familiar story.  Both Williamses, Force Indias, Saubers fell at the second hurdle with Buemi’s Toro Rosso. 
The top 10 shootout was won by Sebastian Vettel for the 6th time this year.  The surprise of the session was Felipe Massa, who slotted in behind his teammate Alonso for third.  Webber came fourth, Hamilton fifth, Rosberg sixth, Button seventh, Schumacher eighth, Heidfeld and Petrov ninth and tenth respectively.
Despite an eventful practice and qualifying sessions, that wasn’t a patch on the action which was about to unfold.  Rain had fallen consistently overnight and the track was wet.  As a result of this, a safety car start was declared by race director, Charlie Whiting.
The safety car peeled into the pits after three laps, and after the first corner in full race conditions, Lewis Hamilton was already in the wars.  He tried an over optimistic move on Mark Webber, pitching the Red Bull into a spin.  On the following lap, a failed attempt to pass Michael Schumacher saw Hamilton run wide at the hairpin, letting teammate Button through.  However, Button and Hamilton got even closer to each other when they collided on the main straight.  Button continued with no damage, however Hamilton (arguably the main culprit on both occasions) pulled over with a broken suspension. 
At the front, Vettel had pulled out a 5 second lead before the safety car returned to the track to clear the stricken McLaren from the track.  When the safety car came in, Vettel had once more ‘aced’ the restart pulling out a gap on Alonso. 
The day took a turn for the worse for Jenson Button after 13 laps.  He was awarded a drive through penalty for exceeding the safety car speed limit.  Hamilton also was also under investigation for the same reason, however as he was already out of the race, got no penalty.
Button was on the intermediate tyres at this point, and Alonso, Sutil, Rosberg, Schumacher and Webber had followed him in.  This proved to be a bad move as the rain began to intensify with 24 laps gone.  The safety car was brought out initially, however when it became clear that the rain was going nowhere for the time being, the red flag was waved for the second race in a row.
The race was stopped for over two hours
As the rain continued to fall, marshals frantically tried to clear the track from rain.  In the break there was very little actually going on and tv pictures showed lots of mechanics eating burgers and a few shots of Rihanna in one of the hospitality areas.  The most dramatic moment of the red flag break came when a cameraman taking pictures of the Barbadian singer fell over right infront of her.  Had they collided, a safety car might have been needed to clear the carnage, but thankfully no collision occurred.
The proper race resumed after a two-and-a-bit hour break behind the safety car.  At this point the order was 1 Vettel, 2 Kobayashi, 3 Massa, 4 Heidfeld, 5 Petrov, 6 Di Resta, 7 Webber, 8 Alonso, 9 de la Rosa, 10 Button.  Remarkably at this point, Hamilton was the only retirement. 
When the safety car returned to the pits, Vettel once more pulled out a comfortable lead on Kobayashi.  Button had passed de la Rosa on the restart, and the majority of the field elected to pit for the intermediate tyres on the now drying track.  This put Button and Alonso close together, and Alonso attempting a seemingly impossible move resulted in the Ferrari pointing backwards into the wall and a puncture for Button.  Another pitstop for Button resulted and at this point, he was 21st and last.
Another safety car stint was required to clear the Ferrari from the second chicane.  The top four remained the same with Paul di Resta lying in fifth and Michael Schumacher sixth.  Schumacher worked his way up to fourth after the race resumption with Kobayashi jostling for position on the intermediate tyres.  When Kobayashi ran wide, he pushed Massa to the outside of the track letting Schumacher through for second.
The time had now passed for dry tyres and with it, the return of the Drag Reduction System.  Massa had spun and hit the wall whilst trying to lap Karthikeyan.  This came after his pitstop and the dry tyres aquaplaned on the wet surface off the racing line.
After this, Heidfeld had closed the gap on Kobayashi.  Kobayashi was quite a bit slower than the Renault, who then proceeded to bump into the back of the Kobayashisan.  The front wing on the Renault had now failed, and the car jumped over the wing and off the track.  This brought out another safety car.
With Schumacher in second, it was unlikely that he would hold onto his podium position with both Button and Webber behind.  This combined with the Drag Reduction System meant that he was a sitting duck on the back straight, and Button passed easily.
Vettel’s lead had been reduced to three seconds, and Webber was hot in pursuit of Schumacher for the final spot on the rostrum. 
The last lap had now come with Button 0.9 seconds off Vettel and Webber now ahead of Schumacher.  Button seemed to be waiting to line up Vettel at the DRS zone.  However, his move occurred early, as Vettel slid off the road at turn six.  Button now had a comfortable lead, with Vettel second. 
The top three line up with Paddy Lowe of McLaren on the
Soon enough, Button crossed the line. His magnificent comeback from 21st to 1st had been completed and he had been through the pit lane six times in total.  Vettel’s streak of wins had once again been stopped, but with the Red Bull driver finishing second, many wondered if it would only be a matter of time before he collected the championship.
Regardless of the championship, Button had won and had been the best driver on the day.  The season continues with the European Grand Prix in two weeks from Valencia. 
Vettel’s championship lead is at 60 points over Jenson Button (Vettel on 161pts).  Mark Webber lies third (94), Hamilton fourth (85), Alonso fifth (69), Massa sixth (32), Petrov seventh (31) and Heidfeld eighth (29).
This was certainly a race that will live long in the memory of those who watched it.  It will also go down in history books as the longest Grand Prix of all time.

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