FORMULA One takes a brief break from Europe for its first visit to North America this weekend and the Canadian Grand Prix doesn’t do dull! 33 years of glorious action at Montreal, with its first event being an emotional success for Ferrari’s Gilles Villeneuve in 1978 on home soil.
The circuit has changed on occasion, the weather can be unpredictable and strange things seem to happen here more often than not, such as regular scrapes with the infamous Wall of Champions at the last chicane and the pitlane red light. The sport didn’t visit Canada in 1987 or 2009 but its popularity with the teams and drivers mean a great atmosphere is always created between the fans and everyone associated in the paddock.
In 1991, Nigel Mansell looked set to secure a dominant victory, having led throughout until he suddenly slowed entering the hairpin on the final lap. The Brit’s engine died and he beat the steering wheel in frustration as his Williams crawled to a halt. Mansell had prematurely started waving to the crowd as he began the last lap and had accidentally dropped his engine revs which ultimately caused the problem. Nelson Piquet came through to take a fortunate win for Benetton. It was the great Brazilian’s last ever triumph in F1 and Pirelli’s last as a tyre supplier until their re-entry into the sport at the start of 2011.
Four years later, Michael Schumacher had a similar advantage in his Benetton Renault when a gearbox gremlin left him coasting back to the pits for a new steering wheel with 12 laps to go. The change cost him a certain victory but what it did do was open the path up for Jean Alesi to take his first and only win at his 91st attempt. It was the Frenchman’s birthday and what made it even more special, he was driving Ferrari n0.27, the exact number Villeneuve had when he won in 1978.
Gilles’s son Jacques came into the sport the following year but success went onto elude him at the circuit named after his late and daring dad. A close second place finish to Damon Hill at his first attempt in 1996 was to be his best result at Montreal. He had a string of accidents and mechanical gremlins that always got in the way of a special success.
Schumacher won his second Canadian Grand Prix out of seven in 1997, although it was lucky as a precautionary tyre stop for David Coulthard went wrong. The McLaren’s clutch overheated and he stalled twice in the pits, losing an eternity of time. The race was cut short as Olivier Panis suffered a front suspension failure on his Prost through the turn five/six complex. Panis hit the concrete wall on the outside, before hurtling into the tyre barriers on the inside, with his car failing to deceleration in speed. The Frenchman broke both of his legs and his Formula One career that was full of promise, never really recovered.
F1 history was created at the Ille Notre Dame in 1999 as it was the first event to end behind the Safety Car. This was after Heinz-Harald Frentzen needed medical attention following a big crash when his front brake disc exploded on his Jordan with just four laps to go. Mika Hakkinen won the race, which was full of drama and earnt the ‘Wall of Champions’ tag in the process. Reigning FIA Sportscar champion Ricardo Zonta and three former F1 champions, Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve all crashed out at exactly the same point. Giancarlo Fisichella finished second that day, during an excellent run of four successive podiums in Canada.
More history was made in 2001 with the first 1-2 for brothers in Formula One. Ralf Schumacher and BMW Williams were more superior against Michael and Ferrari that day, with Ralf taking the victory by 17 seconds having waited until the pitstops to jump his bigger brother. Hakkinen finished a distant third and said in the press conference afterwards that ‘he was glad there wasn’t a third Schumacher around!’
In 2005, the Renault team pressed the self-destruct button. Looking set for a 1-2, they kept the slower Fisichella ahead of an animated and frustrated Fernando Alonso. Alonso eventually was told ‘you’re faster than him, overtake him.’ Seconds later, a loss of hydraulic fluid ended Fisichella’s afternoon. Alonso joined him on the sidelines when he hit the wall only a few laps later. A Safety Car to clear up Jenson Button’s crashed BAR caused a miscommunication at McLaren between the pitwall and race leader Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya missed his chance to pit and when he did come in after a slow lap behind the pace car, he exited the pits with the red light still on. That’s a no-no and the Colombian was promptly disqualified, enabling Kimi Raikkonen to win.
Montoya hasn’t been the only driver to be caught out by a red light on the exit of the pitlane. Two years later, Felipe Massa and Fisichella committed the same offence and got the same penalty of exclusion from the event. In 2008, Lewis Hamilton misjudged the red light still being on and crashed into the back of Kimi Raikkonen at the pitlane exit, taking both drivers out. This came a year after Hamilton’s sensational first victory in F1, on a day when so much happened. Takuma Sato’s Super Aguri even passed Alonso’s McLaren!
In 07, the Polish driver Robert Kubica came so close to losing his life at the track after an aeroplane shunt with the Toyota of Jarno Trulli. His car was destroyed but he walked away relatively unscathed. In 2008 – Kubica benefited from the Hamilton/Raikkonen crash to record his sole Formula One victory for BMW Sauber.
Last year’s race was the longest ever in the sport and was simply extraordinary. Jenson Button survived scrapes with Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, made six pitstops and was 21st and last on lap 41. Incredibly he won, pressuring Sebastian Vettel into a rare mistake on the last lap to clinch a stunning victory. After last year’s drama, anything is possible especially given the unpredictability we’ve seen so far in 2012.
SEBASTIAN Vettel send out a reminder to everyone today; ‘try and stop me if you can!’ The world champion dominanted the Bahrain Grand Prix to claim his first win of the 2012 season after a trying start. Having started from pole position, Vettel battled high fuel consumption and constant tyre management throughout to lead almost from the start. Cooler track temperatures helped in Red Bull’s return to the front of the field and Vettel is now reunited with the top of the drivers championship leaderboard.
The Lotus pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean completed the rostrum. It was the first time a Lotus driver has stood on the podium since Nelson Piquet finished third in the 1988 Australian Grand Prix. It was a nightmare day for the British duo at McLaren as pitstop blunders, poor pace and reliability issues left the team leaving tonight with just four points to show for their hard efforts this weekend.
As in many situations last year, Vettel led into the first corner and pulled out a massive early advantage to clear him of any attack from the DRS zone. He stormed into a seven second lead as from early on, the McLaren attack, led by Lewis Hamilton was already looking blunt. Grosjean had made an unbelievable start to move upto fourth from seventh on the grid. The Frenchman quickly found a way past Mark Webber and then easily used the DRS to drive clean past Hamilton on the seventh lap and into second place. Button was complaining of poor traction and he was overwhelmed by a feisty Raikkonen, before pitting to ditch the option tyres after only eight laps.
Nico Rosberg and Felipe Massa were in similar trouble as the race quickly turned into a battle managing the Pirelli tyres. After the race Michael Schumacher, who came tenth after starting on the penultimate row of the grid launched a scatching attack at the Italian manufacturer. He said to BBC Sport; “The main thing I feel unhappy about is everyone has to drive well below a driver’s, and in particular, the car’s limits to maintain the tyres. I just question whether the tyres should play such a big importance, or whether they should last a bit longer, and that you can drive at normal racing car speed and not cruise around like we have a safety car.” Pirelli boss Paul Hembrey defended his company, telling Autosport magazine tonight; “I’m disappointed to hear those comments from someone of Michael’s experience. Others were getting on with the job and getting their tyres to work. His comments during winter testing were that he was very happy with the tyres, and now he seems to have changed his tune.”
On lap nine, Hamilton had fallen into the clutches of Webber and both pitted for fresh rubber. For the second successive race, a troublesome wheel rim affected the race of a McLaren driver and a frustrated Lewis was left shaking his head as he was held for 12 seconds. He slipped behind Webber, Button and Fernando Alonso and when he returned to the track, he had a near-miss with Rosberg following a vicious defensive move by the Mercedes driver. Hamilton had to use extra concrete to miss his rival and actually got past. The race stewards with driver reprsentative Emanuele Pirro, investigated the incident after the race but took no further action. Rosberg was later involved in a similar and more dangerous incident with Alonso, which left the Spaniard driver furious, using the team radio to channel his frustrations. Again, Rosberg was cleared of any wrongdoing. Tonight, Alonso sarcastically put this on his Twitter webpage; “I think you are going to have fun in future races! You can defend position as you want and you can overtake outside the track! Enjoy!”
Vettel briefly handed the lead to two stopping Paul di Resta when he pitted, but quickly overtook the Scot on lap 13 to reassume control. On the same lap, Raikkonen powered past Webber into turn 11 and started closing in on Grosjean, who was falling back into his team-mate’s grasp. Raikkonen got past on lap 22 with consummate ease and through the second stops, was on a mission. Vettel’s six second gap evaporated and by lap 35, the pair were together with the Lotus looking fundamentally faster. Meanwhile, another horrific pitstop for Hamilton pushed him behind Massa and out of the points positions by half-distance. Pastor Maldonado retired when the Williams suffered a tyre failure and spun exiting turn three. He crawled back to the pits and retirement with shattered rear suspension.
Raikkonen had one brief opportunity to pass Vettel, but was blocked resolutely by the champion. Both came in together on lap 40 and a quicker Red Bull pitstop enabled the German to build up a three second lead. Aware of the tyre issues that saw his alarming fallback through the field in China last Sunday, Raikkonen and Lotus applied a more cautious approach to the chequered flag and bag the useful points on offer.
Whilst Hamilton spent a frustrating afternoon chasing the Ferrari’s, Button had a lonely race circulating between fifth and seventh places. He was catching di Resta when he made a sudden pitstop with four laps to go. The 2009 winner in Bahrain had detected a left-rear puncture. He slid out of contention into 13th and a broken exhuast a lap later saw him retire in the garage. Bruno Senna retired late on too with mechanical gremlins to compound a miserable day for Williams with a double retirement.
Vettel was able to cruise across the line to take the victory, although he was instructed by his race engineer Rocky to stop on the pitlane exit, presuminably with minimal fuel levels. It meant we were denied the ‘that’s what’s I’m talking about,’ message on the team radio. Raikkonen was a fantastic and committed second and considering he started 11th, this underlined severe underperformance in qualifying. Grosjean’s third place is the first podium for a French driver in F1 since Jean Alesi at Spa in 1998. The way he is driving at the moment, it won’t be the last in 2012. Webber cemented his consistent approach to record fourth for the fourth successive start. After a terrible first lap that saw him slip to ninth, Rosberg battled back aggressively to fifth. Paul di Resta held off Alonso and Hamilton in the closing laps to match his best ever result in F1 with sixth. Massa achieved his first points of the season, despite breaking down on the slowing down lap back to the pits and Button’s late demise enabled Schumacher into the points. Sergio Perez missed out in 11th, whilst Daniel Ricciardo’s chances of a great result were ruined by a shambolic start, then contact with Heikki Kovalainen on the first lap that left the Australian with a damaged front wing.
The four flyaway races are complete and only ten points cover the top five in the drivers championship. Six different teams have already stood on the podium and we have four different winners in the first four races for the first time since 2003. Formula One 2012 is proving to be a very unpredictable and challenging season to even guess, let alone predict. Luckily the racing did the talking today and Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt can breath a huge sigh of relief tonight that there was no significant trouble in the unstable area today.
There is a test at the Italian circuit Mugello next week, before the start of the European season at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona on May 13. It is advantage Red Bull and Vettel after Bahrain, but 2012 has plenty more twists and turns in store to come.
2012 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX RACE RESULT
|1||SEBASTIAN VETTEL||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||57||1hr 35min 10secs|
|2||KIMI RAIKKONEN||LOTUS RENAULT||57||+3.3secs|
|3||ROMAIN GROSJEAN||LOTUS RENAULT||57||+10.1secs|
|4||MARK WEBBER||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||57||+38.7secs|
|5||NICO ROSBERG||MERCEDES GP||57||+55.4secs|
|6||PAUL DI RESTA||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||57||+57.5secs|
|8||LEWIS HAMILTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||57||+58.9secs|
|9||FELIPE MASSA||FERRARI||57||+1min 04.9secs|
|10||MICHAEL SCHUMACHER||MERCEDES GP||57||+1min 11.4secs|
|11||SERGIO PEREZ||SAUBER FERRARI||57||+1min 12.7secs|
|12||NICO HULKENBERG||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||57||+1min 16.5secs|
|13||KAMUI KOBAYASHI||SAUBER FERRARI||57||+1min 30.3secs|
|14||JEAN-ERIC VERGNE||TORO ROSSO FERRARI||57||+1min 33.7secs|
|15||DANIEL RICCIARDO||TORO ROSSO FERRARI||56||1 LAP|
|16||VITALY PETROV||CATERHAM RENAULT||56||1 LAP|
|17||HEIKKI KOVALAINEN||CATERHAM RENAULT||56||1 LAP|
|18 (Ret)||JENSON BUTTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||55||BROKEN EXHAUST|
|19||TIMO GLOCK||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||55||2 LAPS|
|20||PEDRO DE LA ROSA||HRT COSWORTH||55||2 LAPS|
|21||NARAIN KARTHIKEYAN||HRT COSWORTH||55||2 LAPS|
|22 (Ret)||BRUNO SENNA||WILLIAMS RENAULT||54||TECHNICAL|
|Retired||PASTOR MALDONADO||WILLIAMS RENAULT||25||PUNCTURE|
|Retired||CHARLES PIC||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||24||ENGINE|
2012 FIA FORMULA ONE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVER STANDINGS AFTER FOUR RACES
|1||SEBASTIAN VETTEL (RED BULL)||53|
|2||LEWIS HAMILTON (MCLAREN)||49|
|3||MARK WEBBER (RED BULL)||48|
|4||JENSON BUTTON (MCLAREN)||43|
|5||FERNANDO ALONSO (FERRARI)||43|
|6||NICO ROSBERG (MERCEDES GP)||35|
|7||KIMI RAIKKONEN (LOTUS)||34|
|8||ROMAIN GROSJEAN (LOTUS)||23|
|9||SERGIO PEREZ (SAUBER)||22|
|10||PAUL DI RESTA (FORCE INDIA)||15|
|11||BRUNO SENNA (WILLIAMS)||14|
|12||KAMUI KOBAYASHI (SAUBER)||9|
|13||JEAN-ERIC VERGNE (TORO ROSSO)||4|
|14||PASTOR MALDONADO (WILLIAMS)||4|
|15||DANIEL RICCIARDO (TORO ROSSO)||2|
|16||NICO HULKENBERG (FORCE INDIA)||2|
|17||FELIPE MASSA (FERRARI)||2|
|18||MICHAEL SCHUMACHER (MERCEDES GP)||2|
2012 FIA FORMULA ONE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP CONSTRUCTOR STANDINGS AFTER FOUR RACES
|1||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||101|
|8||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||17|
|9||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO FERRARI||6|
PIRELLI have announced their driver line-up today in the role of testing the latest tyre developments. Former Virgin driver Lucas di Grassi will be joined by axed Toro Rosso star Jaime Alguersuari. The Spaniard, who turned 22 years old last week, will return to the F1 cockpit for the first time since his former employers decided to replace him with Jean-Eric Vergne just before Christmas. This season, Alguersuari is going to combine his role with a job being an expert analyst for the commentary team on BBC Radio Five Live.
Alguersuari was delighted when the news was confirmed today, telling Planet F1; “A week ago it was my birthday, when I turned 22, and now Pirelli has given me the best possible present. I can’t wait to get started with this very important and challenging job of developing the new tyres for the future, which I’m looking forward to a lot. I have a huge desire to get behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car again and return to competition, so this is a brilliant chance for me.”
Pirelli have upgraded their test car to a 2010 Renault chassis, having ran a 2009 Toyota for the past two seasons. Pedro de la Rosa, Nick Heidfeld and Romain Grosjean have previously used the role as a parachute into getting back into F1 competition. Now, with this move, Alguersuari has every chance of following in their paths.