I don’t think anyone saw that coming. Forget Monaco. Don’t even talk about the Chinese Grand Prix. And you can take the Turkish GP and toss it in the garbage. The Canadian Grand Prix was once again the highlight of the F1 season to date and provided thrilling racing right to the very last lap. Luckily, I was there to witness it in all its glory. This is the reason that I didn’t make predictions for this weekend, although, even if I had attempted to, they would have been entirely wrong as I would have had a Ferrari on the podium and never in a million years would I have had Button winning. But this was Montreal, and anything can – and did – happen.
Friday – Practice Day.
Friday was gorgeous. We got to the track around 10:30 or so and were in our stands in time to see the first practice session end, with Rosberg on top of the timesheets, and then we sat around taking pictures and generally soaking up the beautiful sun and great scenery that Circuit Gilles Villenueve and grandstand 11 have to offer. In the afternoon, it was Alonso giving the Tifosi in the crowd something to be optimistic about as he went fastest of all. The weekend was looking good for them and for the McLarens. Red Bull of course was not showing their hand, but they didn’t really have to as most would have thought that Vettel would be up to his usual fast tricks in qualifying.
Saturday – Qualifying Day.
Qualifying started at 1:00 so we had time to take a leisurely trek to the track and we ended up there about 11:30 or so and had lunch. Q1 and Q2 were pretty much what you would expect, with the big hitters doing a few laps each and then going back to the garage to await Q3. And once again, the Ferraris provided some hope as they were clearly loving the tires and the track. Vettel showed that he was indeed the fasted overall, with Alonso and Massa close behind. Webber was next followed by Hamilton, Rosberg and Button. Schumacher followed him with the two Renaults rounding out the top ten. This is sort of the status quo in F1 right now, with these five teams making up the Q3 session pretty much every race.
Sunday – Race Day.
I knew that rain was forecast. It was a 60% chance, which is pretty good odds. However, no one could have predicted the amount or the voraciousness of the rain that was to come. Watching the Ferrari support race was fun with the damp track and the lively nature of the cars, so I thought that the race would be pretty fun as well – as long as it didn’t rain any more. Boy, was I in for a shock. The start of the race was extremely uneventful as the cars started behind the safety car to clear water from the track before actually setting off. And once they did, it was action from the get-go. In the first corner (where I was sat) Webber was spun from behind and dropped back in the pack as the rest of the drivers blew past in a cacophony of highly strung V8 power and noise. For my money the V10s still sounded better, but these V8s are still something to behold. Case in point, the last time I was in Montreal, I wore earplugs, but I felt they were not needed this time around as the V8s don’t have the same aural presence or staccato that the V10s once had. This isn’t to say that these cars aren’t loud though. You could hear the engines in the city proper, which is almost two miles away!
After a few laps, the rain began to let up and the track began to clear of some of the water. Button, the star of the race, spectacularly came together with Hamilton soon after the rain let up right in front of the pit wall, causing his teammate to break the suspension on his car, ending Hamilton’s race right in front of the grandstand I was in (I’m serious about this grandstand 11 people). Some drivers then dove into the pits to slap on the intermediate tires as opposed to the full wet, which proved to be something of a disaster when the rain finally came down like God was pissing on all of us. Seriously, this rain was unbelievable. In fact, it was so bad that the entire race was red flagged (meaning stopped entirely) and the cars queued up on the starting grid. It was soon apparent that there was not going to be an end in sight for the rain and the drivers bailed from their machines and into the pits.
This left the crowd wondering what to do. Most, like my father and me, opted to wait it out and watch the entire race. Some others opted to leave the track and go home as they were cold, wet and disgruntled and didn’t know when the race would start again. These people were suckers as they missed the finish of probably the most exciting F1 race in four or five years. I was also a sucker in that I was only wearing my Ferrari shirt and a long sleeve shirt over that as well as my Ferrari flag as a cape. This did not keep me dry in the least and by the end of the race I was shivering so hard that I couldn’t hold a camera steady to take pictures and my dad thought I was going to get hypothermia. In fact, my shoes were so completely soaked through with water that they weighed over five pounds combined and didn’t even get fully dry after a full cycle of the dryer. But it was all worth it in the end. After two hours and five minutes, the race was restarted and the action began anew.
It was pretty clear that the rain was now going to hold off enough that a dry line could begin to form. And when a dry line begins to form, that means drivers are going to take a chance and put on slick tires. This means lots of interesting action for the fans and crashes and incidents galore. Some of the first cars out on track with the slicks were the backmarkers, meaning the bigger teams could watch their times to see if the dry tires were worth the chance. Turns out they were and soon everyone was sporting them. Just a few laps after the restart of the race, everyone had on dry weather tires and the racing got very intense. Button came together with Alonso and put him into the wall, causing the McLaren driver to pit again and on lap 40 of 70, he was at the very end of the pack. Felipe Massa also had an incident with the wall when he (as predicted by me) attempted to pass a very slow driver and slid the car into the wall, damaging the front end, but not ending his race. With other drivers crashing, including Nick Heidfeld pretty spectacularly after driving over his own front wing, Button began to catch the pack and was mounting a charge. All throughout the field battles were raging for the coveted podium steps. Vettel seemed to be in a league of his own, while behind him, it was a race to the finish between Schumacher, Webber and Button! Yes, Button made up over 20 positions in just about 20 laps. He was on an absolute tear and from the back of the pack made a spectacular couple of passes to catch, and pass, both Webber and Schumacher. But he wasn’t done yet. He was taking full seconds out of Vettel’s lap times, but everyone knew it was too close to the end and he didn’t have enough left in the tank to mount a full charge on the Red Bull. But Canada is different. Weird things happen in Canada. On the very last lap, at turn five, Button finally got close enough, or Vettel just lost his brain for a second, but a mistake was made and Vettel spun his car on the grass. This caused the crowd, and myself, to lose our collective minds! Button had done the impossible. He had started eighth. He had been in the pits six times. He had been relegated to the back of the pack with 30 laps to go, and now he was in the lead with half a lap left! It was unheard of. It was unprecedented. It was the Canadian Grand Prix. As he crossed the line, the crowd erupted. Everyone (with the exception of the Red Bull team and its fans I would guess) was jumping up and down and cheering for Button. And the race wasn’t even over yet as Felipe Massa also made a move on the last lap over Kamui Kobayashi to take sixth place right at the end of the lap. I don’t know what the times look like, but it was a literal photo finish for those two drivers with Massa crossing the line probably about a thousandth of a second before the Sauber driver. The end of this race will go down as one of the best finishes of the year and even though it probably won’t make any difference for the outcome of the season, it goes to show that perseverance is everything and that Canada is always the race to go to.
Here is the final finishing order:
1. Jenson Button
2. Sebastian Vettel
3. Mark Webber
4. Michael Schumacher
5. Vitaly Petrov
6. Felipe Massa
7. Kamui Kobayashi
8. Jaime Alguersuari
9. Rubens Barrichello
10. Sebastian Buemi