The 2015 edition of the Canadian GP had something for nearly everyone. Crashes, overtaking and at least one silly spin, from Raikkonen, in the process of giving away a podium position to the Williams of Bottas. Plenty of attacking from the back but as expected up at the front most of the action was centered around the pit stops.
Fuel warnings for Hamilton in the last third of the race kept it mildly interesting but sadly the race actually ended about 8 laps too late as the cat and mouse between Rosberg and Hamilton was done about lap 63. Grosjean was the Lotus doing the crashing this time, into a Manor. The stewards were not impressed and dinged him for a 5 second penalty as Stevens was as far out of the way as possible and the excitable Frenchman entirely misjudged his move.
Maldonado drove a fairly pedestrian race and as a result gained his first points of the year. Alonso had a hissy fit and in a development that will surprise no one, neither McHonda finished the race.
*********Stay tuned for the Race Review*************
It was a sparkling day in Montreal, a jewel in the crown of Canada. With a rash of penalties to apply and several key runners out of place, much excitement was promised by the grid. Nevermind the fairly large amount of flat out guessing that had to be done to fill the huge data holes generated by the epic washout that was called FP2.
AS yr faithful correspondent struggled to recover from an unexpected comnputer crash as the cars formed up on the grid, Hamilton lined up clearly to cover off his teammate into T1, as if that was the only concern that he had that afternoon. He accomplished that with aplomb the moment the lights dropped and it was Raikkonen and Bottas side by side through the exit of T2 before Kimi got the better of his compatriot and took sole possession of P3. Staggeringly, as the Mercedes pair led the field through the first lap no one disintegrated their car into a pile of carbon fibre trying desperately to get to P17 from P18.
Vettel was first to throw a surprise as he fetched up behind Massa and Ericsson, opting to pit on Lap 7. His clever strategem was dashed as his left rear tyre was stuck and it left him with it all to do again as he exited the pits, having lost 6.6 seconds.
Massa kept at Ericsson and evewntually made it by the recalcitrant Sauber as the rest of the race settled into it’s usual routine, with gaps of 2-3 seconds between the leaders and then a larger one back to Grosjean, who had maintained his P5 from the start of the race. Despite being overtaken at the start by Hulkenberg, Maldonado, too was driving a clean race.
Alonso and Vettel provided the early entertainment, but that was mostly due to Vettel locking up into the hairpin on an attempted pass and giving Alonso more room to ruin his race. Massa and Verstappen continued to carve their way through the field, though it was Massa who had the much more sustained charge, having cleared the field up to Ricciardo by Lap 15 and into the championship points. Up at the front Bottas informed his engineers that he felt that the tyres would last another 15-20 laps, which was hard to believe. Lap times were dipping into the 1:18’s for the frontrunners and Hamilton was already beginning to lap the backmarkers as the Mercedes men continued to ruthlessly clear their pit window.
Again, having made up for his pit stop snafu (look it up, NSFW but it’s from WWII so it’s OK) the unstoppable force that was Vettel encountered the immovable object that was Alonso (because Honda engine, get it) and once again fireworks ensued. First Alonso forced Vettel wide onto the grass and it didn’t take a student of F1 to remember the exact same thing being done to Fred in Monza. Then, in a passive aggressive attempt to exact vengeance for having stolen his car, Alonso swung Vettel into the chicane and over those nasty sausage kerbs so beloved of the increasingly punitive Charlie Whiting.
Whilst the telly was covering that, Massa made his ever efficient way past Kvyat and the sad looking Red Bull. Maldonado pitted as well during that interval a fact that was only obvious when one noticed he suddenly dropped to P13 on the app for no apparent reason. He ripped past the Saubers and was rapidly into P11 as behind him Vettel followed suit.
Up at the front, Hamilton was lapping his old teammate Button whilst it was all getting ready to go sideways for Fred, as he got the call lap 25 to save fuel, to which he replied “no fuel no power what do you expect me to do” except with his accent it was ever so much more dramatic. Perez snuck through the pits to cover off Ricciardo who’d boxed the lap before and Sergio was successful, emerging in front of the hapless Aussie before rocketing off into the distance.
The middle part of the race began with a Frenchman complaining, make of that what you will. Grosjean was on the horn. bitterly making the complaint that the blue flags everyone ignored were being ignored by everyone. Neglecting, perhaps, the fact that the drivers have 3 corners to give way and generally are smart enough to try not to ruin their own race by getting in the way of someone else’s.
Nevertheless the real action was Raikkonen being first of the leaders to pit, out in P4 and back in the hunt for a podium, but not for long as he went for a deep spin at the hairpin, allowing Grosjean past as he lost some time sorting out which direction he out to be heading. AS Kimi complained bitterly that the issue was one that was similar to his problems of last year, Bottas, sniffing opportunity like it was lutefisk gone off (is that possible) railed into the pits and snatched P3 firmly away from the Ferrari.
Whilst gripped by the drama on track at the sharp end Hamilton and Rosberg turned it up to 3.5 and put in a savagely fast lap in preparation for their stops.
Both came off without a hitch and as Hamilton emerged P1 it was announced by Sky that he had now led more laps than any Englishman. Naturally he celebrated by flatspotting his front tyres. But it was Rosberg who benefitted most as he emerged within 2 seconds of Lewis and gradually began shutting down the gap. Until it hit around 1 second, that is, and then Lewis would eke it back until the team told him to lift and coast, when the pendulum swung back to Rosberg again. Except for the brief interval when Rosberg was told his brakes were critical, this game of cat and mouse would continue until lap 63, when Nico let the gap run out to 4 seconds and it was all over but the checkers.
Slightly farther back Massa had continued his advance, getting all the way to P5 before his tyres (he had started on the primes) began to slowly give up.
Lap 36 saw Vettel catching up to the back of the little train Felipe had created and again opted to pit rather than get involved. 2 laps later Massa followed suit and was going to very much be on the limit for getting the Options to go to the end of the race.
Massa made it back out in the points still, P9 and began making hay. Meanwhile, Raikkonen had deviated from the leading 1 stop strategy and boxed lap 41 to take on a pair of Super Softs, whether to try and have a chance at Bottas or simply because he had left most of his tyre life all over the exit to the hairpin it was hard to tell. Regardless it was done and it was back into P4 with an additional 17 seconds or so to make up for the phlegmatic Finn.
Vettel had latched onto the back of Hulkenberg and as might have been expected was having difficulty getting past the Mercedes powered car, B spec or no. Eventually Sebastian got him properly lined up and as they entered T1 side by side, both men took avoiding action, with Nico coming out the worse for wear as he hit the inner kerb and spun as Sebastian was immediately on the radio suggesting no contact was made, and wanting to know where Hulkenberg was as having cut the outside of the turn he normally would have had to give the advantage back.
Instead, the best contact of the race was to be reserved for a Lotus driver, but, confounding expectations, it was Grosjean who was the offending party this time round, perhaps trying to turn back the clock. Having caught up with the thoroughly offending Stevens, who, flouting all tradition, pulled all the way to the outside edge of the track and gave Romain a rather large amount of room, Grosjean repaid him by slashing over the moment he thought he was past. Sadly, Grosjean wasn’t, and in addition to puncturing his own rear tyre, Romain removed a rather large chunk of Stevens front wing in the process. It was a rather surprised Lotus pit crew that saw Grosjean rock into the box and sit there, whilst they fished around for some spare boots then launched their man back into the fray, where he was able to preserve and pick up a single championship point at the end of the day, along with a 5 second penalty.
By lap 63 the die was indeed cast and there was not much in the last 7 laps. so congratulations first to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes for maintaining their Death Star like dominance of the 2015 season and secondly, condolences to Pete Bonnington and his family. Bonnington is Hamilton’s engineer, as news emerged during the GP that he had lost his father the previous week. Hamilton dedicated his win to Bonnington’ father, whilst praising his professionalism under obviously trying circumstances.
AS far as the rest of the race, well, when you have excellent ingredients and a terrible meal it is traditional to blame the chef. It is clear that whatever F1 might be trying to achieve, customer cars dead, refueling ruled out, at the end of the day the manner and way in which they are regulating their sport is rapidly leading to yet another stretch of increasingly boring races. Whilst the ins and outs are up for debate in the comments(please, politely but do enjoy) to this observer it appears that the current regulatory regime have completely lost the plot and that at a fundamental level, what is regulated and how these regulations are written need a fundamental revisit.
Hopefully the next race will bring more excitement but in the meantime, consider these facts including Lewis reporting his non-token upgraded engine is thirstier than Rosberg’s; Nico reporting that Mercedes now get 2 laps of full ERS before their battery is flat; and the sheer genius of Grosjean complaining that Stevens hit him while Will was moving in a straight line. Enjoy and I’ll see you in a couple of weeks, sooner if you watch the Podcast livestream.