Canada 2010 can be seen as somewhat of a milestone race for Formula One. It was the mayhem and spectacle caused by the fast degrading tires which prompted F1 to ask its new tire supplier for 2011 to make tires that will produce similar results on all race tracks in a search for multiple stop races and hard to predict tire life. On top of that, it was the first time a car other than a Red Bull scored pole in the 2010 season with Lewis Hamilton’s stunning quali lap. He ran out of fuel on his inlap which produced one of those iconic F1 images with an ecstatic Hamilton pushing his car back to the pits. Everybody knew tires would play a key part in this race, and this was already reflected in the team’s qualifying strategy. Both the Bulls qualified on the prime compound while the Mclarens qualified on the options. Webber set the second fastest time but was demoted 5 places for a gearbox change – the Red Bull still struggling with reliability at that stage of the championship. This moved Vettel up to the front row.
The start was pretty chaotic, while the front four came through unscathed, Massa ruined Liuzzi’s best quali performance in his career (5th) by repeatedly slamming into him in the first corners – though Liuzzi was not completely innocent in this incident either. It meant both fell to the back of the pack, effectively ending any chance they had to score points. Petrov had a pretty horrible weekend too. He got 2 drive throughs, one for jumping the start and another for causing a collision. During the start he also went on the grass and spun out, miraculously avoiding most of the traffic except for an unlucky De La Rosa in the Sauber. Hamilton initially built a small gap back to Vettel, but his soft tires soon went off and he had Vettel right on his tail as he was forced to pit very early on on lap 7, as did Alonso. Yet again the Mclaren pitstop was slow (as in Turkey where Vettel passed Hamilton for p2 through a better pitstop) and Alonso passed Hamilton, leading to a tense moment with them side by side in the pitlane. Hamilton however quickly seized back the place taking advantage of Alonso trying to overtake Buemi to slip by (this was a battle for position, Buemi had not pitted yet and even briefly led the race). Button was also struggling on the options and pitted after Webber got passed him. On the prime compound the Mclaren’s and Alonso found some clean air and started immediately clawing back the Red Bulls running a longer stint on the primes. This prompted them to bring in Vettel and Webber, but Red Bull split the strategies. Vettel went on the options to get them out of the way, while Webber took on a fresh set of primes.
As the race developed it became clear that Webber yet again had drawn the short straw at Red Bull. The pair came out behind the three front runners and Alonso was starting to pressure Hamilton, who dove into the pits just as Alonso got alongside him. If it were not for traffic, Alonso would have probably gotten in front of Hamilton when he made his pitstop two laps later, but as it was he rejoined behind Hamilton. Vettel pitted on the same lap as Hamilton for primes but Webber continued, taking the lead. Initially, Webber was leading the chasing trio of Hamilton, Alonso and Button quite comfortably, eking out a 12 second gap. However as his tires started to degrade, they started catching him by about 1 second per lap, and Webber was caught between a rock and a hard place. He still had to make his mandatory stop to fit the options, yet he was not yet in the window for making these last ’till the end of the grand prix with about 30 laps to go, the maximum the softs were expected to do was 20 laps. The trio quickly caught Webber and Hamilton again took advantage of traffic ahead to pass Webber. Alonso was stuck behind Webber for the rest of the lap but was freed as Webber finally pitted for his softs, dropping him back down to fifth behind his teammate. It was interesting to see if Webber would catch Vettel on the faster options so we could see how they’d handle wheel to wheel racing just 2 weeks after the infamous Turkey incident, yet ultimately Webber fell a few seconds short at the end of the race.
However the top three would see one more change of position, with an opportunistic Button pouncing on an opportunity that arose when Alonso was lapping Chandhok in the HRT. Briefly it looked like Button could make a charge at Hamilton for the win, but Hamilton put in a few fastest laps to make the message clear to his teammate. The first Mclaren 1-2 of the year was a fact and with both drivers also topping the championship standings Mclaren’s title chances were looking very good at this point.
All the while in the background Schumacher was up to some questionable shenanigans again. Refusing to yield to a charging Kubica as they were side by side with Kubica on the inside when Schumi left the pits, he gave no quarter and both were forced to cut the chicane across the grass, luckily both escaping without damage. Later on he almost nudged Massa into the Wall as he went on the outside in the run up to the final chicane, and a nasty nudge from Schumacher broke Massa’s front wing, forcing him into another pitstop which saw him finish 15th. Despite this fighting, Schumacher looked set for 9th place but was passed on the final lap by both Force Indias to finish 11th on badly worn option tires. Hulkenberg also had a race riddled with rookie mistakes, running into the back of a Toro Rosso at the hairpin which broke his front wing and later on banging wheels with Sutil in a not so clean fight.
Will 2011 see another Mclaren breaking the Red Bull dominance? There’s a good chance, Mclaren has been on par with the Bulls on race pace on tracks that arguably suit the Red Bull better, and on the first track of the season where it is thought the Mclaren have the upper hand due to their good traction out of slow corners, higher top speed than the Red Bulls, and little high energy corners, we could very well see Vettel’s dominance finally broken. Even in qualifying the Mclaren’s have their best chance to date to beat Vettel, as there are no high downforce corners where the Red Bull had the huge advantage of being able to open the DRS way earlier than the competition.
I think we’re in for another corker in Canada this year, bring on the race!
To close off I figured I’d spice these blasts from the past up with my predictions for this year to give you all a chance to chuckle when I get it badly wrong 😉 Please do share your predictions in the comments below
3 pitstops the ideal strategy
Win: Button, 2: Hamilton, 3: Webber
Vettel into the wall of champions to confirm his status lol