Popular driver Daniel Ricciardo became Formula 1’s newest race winner, when he powered to a well calculated victory in the Canadian Grand Prix, keeping patient before pouncing in the final laps to snatch the big prize from Nico Rosberg who spent the last quarter of the race nursing home a seriously malfunctioning Mercedes to second place, and managing to keep at bay Sebastian Vettel who made it onto the final step of the podium.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve tends to deliver incident packed races, and the 2014 edition on the Ile Notre Dame was no different. Drama started early on as Marussia drivers Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi made contact on the opening lap, both crashing violently in and around Turn 4, spreading debris and fluids across the track. This brought out the safety car for several laps.
When racing resumed it was all about the Mercedes duo at the front with Rosberg chased hard by Hamilton, and the rest left battling it out in their wake. During their duel for the lead there were some big moments, one in which Rosberg was lucky to escape a penalty when he cut the final chicane with Hamilton tucked under his rear wing.
Shortly after the half way mark the hithero ‘bullet proof; Mercedes finally showed a fallible side as both cars, almost simultaneously suffered with a lack of power which then led to a loss of rear brakes. Suddenly the silver cars, still circulating in tandem, were two seconds a lap slower than their rivals, the pair snapping at each other, but on lap 48 Hamilton drove into the pits and retired, while Rosberg began a remarkable feat of nursing the stricken W05 home.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff explained, “We had a problem with both cars on the same lap. When Lewis pitted, because of pit stop, the temperatures rose too high in the brakes and he lost them. Nico saved it with a brilliant drive.”
“We knew brakes could be an issue, but this particular issue occured because if you lose the MGU-K, it’s much harder on the brakes. And with the rise in temperatures in the pits you end up having a real problem,” explained Wolff.
“We had two drivers who were perfect. You could have said maybe freezing order would help the end result, but that’s not what we want to do and not what people want to see.”
Behind Rosberg at that stage, Sergio Perez was in inspired form as he opted for a one stop race in the Force India, but it came at the cost of outright pace and as a result he soon had a train of cars behind him with Ricciardo and Vettel among them, along with Nico Hulkenberg and Felipe Massa who was on fresh rubber and enjoying an impressive race. In fact the Brazilian at one stage looked good for victory, as his Williams was by far the faster car in the final stages of the race.
Fast forward to the final lap,with Perez’s tyres all but done, Massa appeared to miscalculate his overtake as the pair headed into Turn 1. The Williams clipped the Force India and the two cars slammed the barriers, both drivers lucky to climb out of the wrecks.
By this point Ricciardo had overtaken Rosberg a couple of laps earlier to take the lead and victory was in the bag as the Safety Car was deployed for the final lap of the grand prix to tend to the Massa-Perez incident.
Few would have bet much on either Red Bull driver taking the win, but as the Mercedes powerhouse imploded, Ricciardo sensed the opportunity and seized it. First by stalking stubborn Perez relentlessly, and then hunting down Rosberg to take his first Formula 1 victory.
The day belonged to the Australian, who summed up his race afterwards, “I am still a bit in shock. Thanks everyone. This is ridiculous. There are lots of Australian flags, which is nice. The race really came to life for the last 15-20 laps.”
“Hamilton had a problem and Rosberg was slow down the straights. I really struggled to get past Perez but managed to finally get a run out of the last chicane and get a nice run out of turn one and set my sights on Nico with couple of laps to go. I finally managed to get in the right spot to use DRS and it’s an amazing feeling right now,” said Ricciardo.
Mercedes’ fine run of wins came to an end on a day in which they were targeting a record of six 1-2 victories, they were lucky not to end up with two DNFs, as by all accounts Rosberg did an outstanding job to keep the car going, given the condition it was in. His efforts were rewarded with second place and a 22 point lead over his teammate in the world championship standings.
Rosberg commented, “That was all over the place. There was so much going on. It’s disappointing because we want to win every race and we have the car to win every race. It was disappointing to have a problem like that but after everything to finish second in the end was OK.
“We want to keep fighting, just as we did today. We owe that to the fans and will keep doing it. It’s so close and I don’t think it’s straining the cars. When the team sees it’s risking the cars they will jump in and make sure we bring them home. We need to make sure we get to the end of the race,” added Rosberg.
Third placed Vettel made a great start, slotting into second place but relinquished that to Hamilton shortly after the first Safety Car period ended. He nevertheless toiled hard all afternoon, losing out to teammate Ricciardo when the Australian opted for an early pitstop and then did enough to leap-frog the reigning world champion.
Vettel reflected, “Congratulations to Daniel. It’s his day. We had a big help from Mercedes, unlike other weekends, but we were there to capitalise. It’s been a positive day. Daniel’s first win and a first win for Renault in the new era of engines. They have had a good comeback although there is still plenty of work ahead of us because Mercedes are quicker down the straight. But all in all it’s been a good day.”
Everyone behind Vettel inherited two places at the expense of Massa and Perez. Invariably in races of high attrition Jenson Button rises to the occasion, and this time around it was no exception as the McLaren driver turned ninth on the grid into fourth place at the end of the day.
“If you got caught in traffic it was difficult to overtake but I fought my way through in the end,” said Button. “The incident with Sergio and Felipe you don’t want to see, but they are OK which is good and I had that little dice with Fernando [Alonso] and [Nico] Hulkenberg and went down the inside of both of them. It was a fun race and some reasonable points. In a straight-forward race we wouldn’t have finished fourth but I feel we are making progress with the car and the team should be happy.”
Nico Hulkenberg salvaged some joy for Force India by finishing fifth on a one stop strategy. The German opted to start the race with the yellow band Pirelli Soft tyres, later strapping on the Super-softs but for some reason the latter tyres did not give him the extra edge expected.
Fernando Alonso finished sixth in the Ferrari, but the F14T did not give him options to attack and thus it was more of a case of gritting it out, which the Spaniard did while his teammate Kimi Raikkonen who finished tenth, struggled to the point that he spun at the slowest point of the track in the process.
Valterri Bottas salvaged seventh place for Williams, the young Finn in the wars throughout the course of the afternoon. Jean Eric Vergne was eight in the Toro Rosso and McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen crossed the line ninth.
Canadian Grand Prix, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal – Sunday, 9 June 2014