Red Bull Racing looked increasingly ready to take the 2012 season by the horns heading into the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. Mark Webber’s victory in Monaco made the team the first two-time winner of the year (Sebastian Vettel, Bahrain), and Vettel followed up this performance by taking the pole in Montreal. Vettel’s pole, his 32nd, also tied him with Nigel Mansell at fifth on the all-time career list. Webber doubled down on the Red Bull might by qualifying P4. That said, Red Bull has never won on this circuit, including last year when Vettel also qualified P1.
Pastor Maldonado (Williams) looked quite fast, lapping in the 1:14s, but broke his right rear suspension in Q2 after kissing the wall in the final chicane, and limped across the finish line in P17. A subsequent gearbox change penalty dropped him 5 spots further down the grid before race time.
Felipe Massa (Ferrari) was charging hard from the start, taking P5 from Nico Rosberg (Mercdes) in the first few laps. All other runners in the Top 5 held their grid positions: Vettel, Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), and Webber.
Call for fuel savings started to go out on Lap 8 of 70, to Rosberg in particular. Between this and tire degradation it was beginning to look like anybody’s race, especially with Ferrari reporting tire vibration on one of its cars. Massa came in for a tire change on Lap 12 after flat-spotting Set 1, but everyone’s tires seemed to be going quickly, especially on the back. Button in on Lap 17 even on the harder tire. Vettel in later the same lap as Hamilton was closing. Hamilton and Webber in on 18. McLaren outpitted Red Bull for the lead. And then…..Ferrari out pits McLaren! Alonso P1.
Hamilton takes the lead on track on Lap 21. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) and Sergio Perez (Sauber) were running P4 and 5 on Lap 27 as Hamilton was pulling away out front. McLaren reminded him a couple of laps later of the need to keep a tire and fuel-preserving pace. Both Raikkonen and Perez had yet to pit on Lap 35 and were looking like a 1-stop strategy might be possible. Webber was running in P6. With Rosberg setting fast laps in P7.
Raikkonen, still on his first tires, turned in personal best lap on 40 before heading into the pits. Perez out-pitted Kimi two laps later to move ahead, with both slotting in behind Rosberg (P7-9). Webber and Romain Grosjean (Lotus) were running in P4 and 5 on Lap 44, with Massa in P6, all having yet to take their second stop.
Hamilton was closing in on lapping teammate Jenson Button before coming into the pits on Lap 51. Another long stop for Hamilton gave the potential lead to Alonso. Hamilton, feeling the pressure, turns in race’s fastest lap on 54. A pit stop by Webber moved Grosjean into P4 and Massa into P5 (Lap 55). Perez took P5 from Rosberg on Lap 58 as Massa pitted.
Hamilton continued to turn in fastest laps as of Lap 60 and was closing the gap to both Alonso (P1) and Vettel (P2); down to just 4.5 sec behind Alonso with 10 to go, even as Perez was resetting fast lap. Hamilton passed Vettel for P2 on Lap 62, and was less than 1 sec behind Alonso on Lap 63. Vettel pitted on Lap 64, moving Grosjean to P3 and Perez to P4. Hamilton takes him on the back straight of 64. Grosjean was closing on Alonso the very next lap, and took him for P2 on Lap 66, with Perez still setting fastest laps and closing on Alonso as well. Perez took P3 on Lap 68, with Vettel next in line and making the move on 69.
Hamilton’s victory -- his first of the year and the 7th by a 7th different driver in 7 races – moved him from 4th in the season standing to first. Perez finished P3 in his Montreal debut after starting P15, with Grosjean slotting in at P2, the best finish of his career.
Ferrari commented afterwards that they tried to race for the victory, but their gamble did not pay. While Perez on his radio was rather more upbeat: "We never give up we always keep on fighting - thanks guys great job"!
Driver standings - Top 10
88 - Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
86 - Fernando Alonso (Spain) - Ferrari
85 - Sebastian Vettel (Germany) - RBR-Renault
79 - Mark Webber (Australia) - RBR-Renault
67 - Nico Rosberg (Germany) – Mercedes
55 – Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) – Lotus-Renault
53 – Romain Grosjean (France) – Lotus-Renault
45 - Jenson Button (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
37 – Sergio Perez (Mexico) – Sauber-Ferrari
29 – Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) – Williams-Renault
Constructor standings - Teams scoring points
164 - RBR-Renault - Vettel, Webber
133 - McLaren-Mercedes - Hamilton, Button
108 – Lotus-Renault – Raikkonen, Grosjean
97 - Ferrari - Alonso, Felipe Massa
69 - Mercedes - Rosberg, Michael Schumacher
58 - Sauber-Ferrari – Perez, Kamui Kobayashi
44 - Williams-Renault – Maldonado, Bruno Senna
28 – Force India-Mercedes – Paul di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg
6 – STR-Ferrari – Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne
Next event: 2012 FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX OF EUROPE – Valencia, Spain – June 22-24, 2012