I was tired, grumpy, and decidedly lacklustre this Monday. But it was a small price to pay. After all, how many times in a year do you stay up past midnight to watch an F1 race? So while Delhi was asleep, waiting to ring in yet another Monday morning, I was wide-awake, yelling at the television, and Tweeting like a mad woman.
I had reason. Lewis Hamilton set the pace throughout the two very eventful practice sessions on Friday. Not so for Bruno Senna who brought out the red flags after he backed his Williams into the Champion’s Wall at the final corner exit. It took 13 minutes to clear up, just like Heikki Kovalainen who hit the wall while exiting turn 9. Yes, Montreal was definitely going to be eventful. We shouldn’t be surprised really. It has been a temperamental season.
There was the fear though that Montreal would fall victim to the predictable, especially after Sebastian Vettel set a strong qualifying time and ended up on pole. The moon rose high in the sky Sunday night. The two boys I support, Jensen Button and Bruno Senna were way down the grid on the 10th and 16th slots. My only ray of hope was Hamilton who was placed at the 2nd position after the Qualifying. Alonso was at 3rd position. No-hole-in-the-floor Red Bull was looking strong.
But Red Bull’s golden boy was denied his crown. It all boiled down to the tyres and McLaren played that strategy perfectly. The race began with a phenomenal Red Bull pace, as Hamilton chased Vettel while holding off Alonso. A two-pit strategy saw Hamilton fall back to the third spot. Alonso was in the lead, closely followed by Vettel. It soon became evident that Red Bull and Ferrari were going in for a one-pit strategy. But this was a decision the two teams would come to regret.
Hamilton struck on the 62nd lap. He passed Vettel and then chased Alonso, who lost his chance at the crown on the 65th lap. It was a Hamilton race, and one that set yet another F1 record: Seven different winners in seven races. But Montreal wasn’t finished with its racers. As I watched, awe-struck, Romain Grosjean, following a one-pit strategy, crept up on Alonso and Vettel, passing them. Before I knew it, Sergio Perez in his gleaming Sauber took the third position. It was incredible, considering he started from 15th on the grid. Vettel took the fourth, and Alonso in his Ferrari slipped to the fifth position.
Awesome…but not for everyone.
Bad luck followed Jensen Button as he struggled to balance his pace and the tyres. McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh told F1.com: “…we, his team, failed to provide him with the tools with which to the brilliant job we all know he’s capable of, and which he did so superbly here last year.” He added that the trouble could have been because of a “suspension set-up” that left him with “excessive rear tyres wear”. But despite the Button troubles, Whitmarsh was ecstatic. “A hat-trick of Canadian Grand Prix wins for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes (2010, 2011, 2012)! Five wins out of the past seven Canadian Grand Prix…the 13th Canadian Grand Prix win in our history – more than any other team! A third Canadian Grand Prix win for Lewis…And all of that in the historic 300th Grand Prix of the McLaren-Mobil1-Mercedes-Enkel partnership!
Trouble plagued Michael Schumacher once again. He qualified at the 9th position, but retired from the race after his DRS got stuck while open. He’s been having a streak of bad luck, hasn’t he? The Williams duo weren’t a happy lot either. Pastor Maldonado ended at the 13th spot while Bruno Senna finished the race at 17th. The race became a struggle because of the super-soft tyres he was using. The key to Montreal lay in the tyres. It was pretty obvious by the faces on the podium that only a few racers had actually cracked the tyre puzzle.
Valencia comes next and for many teams the race can’t come fast enough. The top name on the points list, as is the case this season, is in a state of constant metamorphosis. With Montreal, Hamilton has elbowed Alonso down to the second spot. Will there be an 8th winner for the 8th race? It is a possibility. There are still a lot of names longing for a win. Of these, two are former world drivers’ champions. The 2012 World Drivers’ Champion title is still up for grabs. Now when was the last time we heard that?