Lewis Hamilton nursed his McLaren with badly grained tyres to victory at the Canadian Grand Prix and led home a McLaren 1-2 with Jenson Button finishing 2nd. Ferrari had a mini-resurgence of sorts with Fernando Alonso finishing 3rd. The Red Bulls had a rather sedate race, with Vettel finishing 4th and Mark Webber 5th. Nico Rosberg finished 6th with Robert Kubica behind him in 7th and Sebastian Buemi in 8th. Force India had both their cars in the points as Vitantonio Liuzzi led home teammate Adrian Sutil for the 9th and 10th places.
The tyre degradation issue that the teams feared all weekend did play a part in the race, with the front-runners electing for a two-stop strategy and the mid-tablers going for a three-stopper. Some teams even had to go for a four-stop strategy as they tyre graining was just too much to handle. The race delivered several overtaking manoeuvres and interesting incidents up and down the order but surprisingly, there was no Safety Car period to juice it up!
Before the race started, Mark Webber dropped down from P2 to P7 because of a gearbox change and that pushed up Sebastian Vettel to the front row, where he might have harboured hopes of a good clean start and get past pole-sitter Hamilton. But that was not to happen as almost all the front runners had a clean getaway, except Vitantonio Liuzzi and Felipe Massa, who had a tangling together and had to pit immediately for front wings and tyres. Michael Schumacher had a good start as he jumped upto 8th place from 13th on the grid. Other first lap incidents included a jump-start from Vitaly Petrov, which saw him take a drive-through penalty.
Hamilton, though had a clean getaway, had to contend with the Red Bull of Vettel right up his tail and since he started on the soft tyres, had to pit as early as lap 7 to get onto the harder compound. Alonso also pitted on the same lap and as they came out of the pit-lane, it was the Ferrari driver who had the lead and he slotted behind the Red Bulls into third place. But Hamilton had a significantly faster car on the straights and he took back third place from Alonso in the 15th lap and only had Mark Webber ahead of him as Vettel pitted soon after.
It was here that Red Bull made a strategic error in keeping Mark Webber out for longer than needed. Hamilton, Vettel & Alonso made their second stops on lap 26, 27 and 28 respectively and Webber had a 10 second advantage by then. He needed to open up a gap to them but couldn’t do so and Hamilton managed to overtake him by lap 50, which was when Webber made his second stop, by which he dropped down to 5th. If he had made an earlier stop, he might have had a shot at 3rd. Maybe they were gambling on the McLarens to have a much higher tyre-degradation than usual!
For a race that is hard on the tyres, it was surprising to see only five retirements – Kobayashi with a broken front wing, Pedro de la Rosa with a blown engine, Bruno Senna suffering a mechanical problem, Timo Glock ditto and Jarno Trulli with what seemed like a brake overheating.
The Championship is now nicely balanced with Hamilton leading the drivers’ with 109 to Button’s 106 & Webber’s 103. Alonso and Vettel are in the mix too with 94 and 90 points respectively. Over in the Constructors’ McLaren lead Red Bull 215 to 193 with Ferrari on 161 and Mercedes on 108. The next race is at the street circuit of Valencia, of which the Red Bulls don’t have a fond memory from last year’s race but no doubt will expect to be strong. Bring.It.On.