Red Bull broke their hoodoo at the Circuit Gilles de Villeneuve as pole sitter Sebastian Vettel took a commanding victory in what turned out to be a dry race after Saturday’s wet qualifying session. Second place went to the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso, who also drove quite brilliantly after his disappointing race at Monaco and finished ahead of the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton in third place. The margin of Vettel’s victory can be put into perspective by his 15 second lead over second place and that he lapped everyone from 6th place downwards as he romped to the chequered flag.
Mark Webber finished fourth ahead of the other Mercedes of Nico Rosberg in fifth, Toro Rosso’s Jean Eric-Vergne in sixth and one-stopping Force India of Paul Di Resta in seventh. Felipe Massa made up some good places in the race to finish eighth ahead of the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen in ninth – his drive hampered by brake problems on his car and the need to conserve fuel towards the latter part of the race. Adrian Sutil took the last point in tenth place, having dropped from sixth place to serve a late drive-through penalty for ignoring blue flags.
At a circuit which has seen several safety car excursions in the past, today’s race was cleaner but equally exciting in some places. Red Bull stuck to their tried and tested plan of “qualify at the front and blast away at the start to stay off DRS” and Vettel abided by it perfectly, with a clean start and maintaining his lead through the pit stops. Drive of the day was arguably by Fernando Alonso, having started sixth and made his way past Bottas at the first lap into fifth place, he then passed Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton on his way to second place.
Misfortune of the day befell Kimi Raikkonen, whose Lotus was hampered by a brake bias problem and then was asked to conserve fuel later on in the race. And to compound matters further, the rear jack gave way during his second pit stop, delaying him by a few seconds. In spite of all that, he managed to bring his car home in ninth place and equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 24 consecutive finishes in the points. The race also saw the McLaren team finish out of the points for the first time in 64 races, Button and Perez finishing just outside the points in 11th and 12th places.
It was a good points finish for the Force India team – Di Resta making a one-stop strategy work to finish 7th after starting 17th and Sutil suffering from a spin earlier in the race and a drive through penalty later in the race to finish tenth. Felipe Massa too sort of redeemed himself for his crashes in Monaco and during Saturday qualifying by finishing eighth. The only retirements of the race were for the Saubers of Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez and the Caterham of Giedo Van Der Garde, the latter responsible for a quite ugly skirmish with Mark Webber as he was overtaking him.
Vettel extends his lead in the drivers’ championship to 36 points over Fernando Alonso, who now moves into second place ahead of Kimi Raikkonen by 8 points with Lewis Hamilton a further 11 points adrift. Red Bull hold a commanding 56 point lead over Ferrari over in the Constructors’ standings. F1 now moves back into its second European leg with the next race in Silverstone in three weeks’ time. Almost all teams are expected to bring a raft of updates and by then the FIA decision over Mercedes’ “illegal” tyre testing should also be out, making it for an enthralling weekend. Good thing that the race is on my birthday!