Sunday, 12 June 2011

Canada: post-race analysis

Since Monaco:

Whilst Hamilton’s outburst was still stupid, evidence has emerged suggesting he was perhaps harshly treated regarding the Maldonado penalty (although it didn’t actually cost him anything). More info here:

More importantly, Bahrain has returned from the racing dead and will now take over India’s slot in October, with India’s inaugural race being shifted to December as the final race of the season. I think this is wrong on numerous levels. It appears to give an endorsement to the Bahrain Government, it over-stretches an already full season and it means that the off-season is far too short. [Including the provisional Turkish GP, 2012 has a 21 race calendar, which exceeds the informal desire of the teams to have a maximum of 20].

Update: pissups and breweries spring to mind. The FIA suddenly remember they’ve ignored their own rule that all teams must agree to any calendar change (and none of them wanted to go to Bahrain) and it’s not terribly clever for publicity to visit a country in such circumstances. I feel most sorry for the Indian chaps, who have been dicked about by FIA incompetence, and those who may have cancelled airline tickets to India only for the race to return to its initial calendar slot.

Perez did P1 but declared himself not quite up to racing, so his seat (for Canada) is taken by de la Rosa. Hopefully that’s just a one-off, as Perez has generally been quite impressive.

Qualifying summary:

Rubbishly, I got both tips wrong. Vettel, yet again, got pole. I was pleased to see the Ferraris putting in competitive times, and 2nd and 3rd puts them in a great position for the race, but was utterly baffled by the lack of pace from Mercedes.

The much hyped McLarens did poorly, getting only 5th and 7th. Apparently, this is because they ran more front wing (a wet setup) which reduced their straight line speed. Effectively, they compromised qualifying pace for an optimal (if it rains) race setup.

Less explicable is the poor pace from the Silver Arrows. It was overcast and cooler, but they went from very competitive in practice to also-rans in Q3. Di Resta got 11th, just missing out on the final session.

Race summary:

Canada last year was probably the most baffling, complicated and exciting race. This year, it was extraordinary in even more ways.

First off, betting. Last year I offered 4 tips and managed to get all wrong. I did equally ‘well’ this year in qualifying, with 2 tips wrong, but happily my McLaren tip for the win (at 5.9, with a hedge at evens) came off, in dramatic fashion. For those interested, over the course of the season so far not hedging is rather more profitable.

Bad weather had been forecast and duly arrived. Personally I think the safety car start was unnecessary, that it stayed out too long both initially and following the red flag restart.

The first tranche of racing laps were remarkable mostly for Hamilton getting involved in incidents. The Maldonado incident in Monaco showed the wisdom of reserving judgement (it seemed at the time to be Hamilton being reckless but actually was probably not the case when screenshots were seen afterwards). He tapped and spun Webber and then hit Button later. Button was ok, but Hamilton’s rear suspension was broken and he became the first retirement.

More rain came, and we had a second consecutive red flagged race. Hours, literally, of waiting ensued. Button was well down the field at this stage (I forget how far back). He got a drive-through penalty for excessive speed whilst following the safety car, and at one point was 21st on the grid.

Because some drivers hadn’t bothered with intermediates, the top few looked unusual. Naturally, Vettel was there, serene in 1st. Kobayashi was second, followed by Massa then the two Renaults. Webber and Alonso had opted for intermediates just before the heavy rain and were well down the field, albeit ahead of Button.

The race restarted under the safety car, which stayed out so bloody long numerous drivers almost immediately dove into the pits for intermediates. It wasn’t long after that that the drivers switched to the supersoft dry tyres, and then magic happened on the track.

Vettel was still leading, but Schumacher, who had caught and passed both Massa and Kobayashi was closing him down. A few laps later Webber was chasing down Schumacher, but then was Button, flying faster than anyone else had in the race. Sadly, yet another safety car appeared and the first three became close (there was a Virgin backmarker between Button and Webber). At this stage there were roughly 10 laps left.

The safety car departed, and Button cleared first the Virgin, then Schumacher and Webber. Webber managed to pass Schumacher for the final podium spot (bit of a shame) and on the penultimate lap Button was close enough to Vettel to deploy the DRS. The gap was just under a second going into lap 70 of 70. But then, the Weltmeister made an extremely rare mistake, straying onto the wet part of the track, and Button passed him, halfway through the last lap, to achieve the most unlikely and sensational of wins.

The race (which lasted about 4 hours and 5 minutes) was the longest in F1 history, with more time spent waiting for the restart than actually racing, I believe. Button had 6 pit stops (including the drive-through) to Vettel’s 3 and rose from 21st to 1st.

Hopefully I haven’t missed too much of importance. Bizarre to watch a 4 hour Grand Prix then write it up past 11pm.


The mid-season review will actually be after race 11 (Hungary), as that’s just a week after Germany and then there’s a 4 week gap to Spa.

Button’s under investigation for a collision with Alonso which saw the Spaniard retire from the race. I think it (like most collisions today) was a racing incident and hope nothing comes of it.

The soft tyres made no appearance in the race, but they and the supersoft held up surprisingly well in Canada, given the harder Bridgestones degraded rapidly last year.

The next race is in Valencia in a fortnight’s time.

Morris Dancer

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