Rain. Lots and lots of rain. That, some on course hijinks, a new winner for 2011, and some very determined driving are what the Canadian Grand Prix brought. Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve is long and narrow, running the length of a Montreal river island and back up it, with twists and turns thrown in of course. it's a challenging circuit with minimal room for run-off in the best of conditions and with the rain coming down in buckets race stewards opted for a safety-car start and field lined up insingle file and started circulating.
Sebastian Vettel (Red Bulll) was at the front of the line, followed by Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), and, in his best qualifying of the year, Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari. No sooner had the safety car left the track and real racing got under way, however, than Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) spun Mark Webber (Red Bull) trying to reverse their 5th/4th starting places. Four laps later (Lap 7) Hamilton collided with teamate Jenson Button and exited the race.
All evidence to the contrary, however, Hamilton's mishaps (unlike one race earlier in Monaco) seemed to be true 'racing incidents,' exacerbated by the still very nasty weather and wet circuit. Button recieved a drive thru penalty on Lap 12 for exceeding maximum speed behind the safety car following his and Hamilton's collision and when the race was red flagged due to rain on lap 25 stood in 10th place.
Upon restart some 2 hours later, the new Top 10 grid was Vettel, Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber), Massa, Nick Heidfeld (Renault), Vitaly Petrov (Renault), Paul di Resta (Force India), Webber, Alonso, Pedro de la Rosa (Sauber, filling in for Sergio Perez, injured), and Button. The cars retook the track behind the safety car again, circulating for 10 laps before the green flag dropped at the 35-lap halfway point. The action lasted all of two laps, however, before Alonso and Button got together, beaching the Ferrari and sending Button to the pits with a cut tire.
Alonso left the race as result of the incident and when the fourth and penultimate safety car left the track on Lap 40 Button stood in 20th.
What followed was some of the hardest racing action yet seen this year. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) made a particulary inspired run. During his time at the top of the sport, Schumacher earned a reputation not just as fierce competitor but also as a master of wet-weather driving. Both were in evidence over the final 30 laps of the race, Schumacher moving from 7th to 2nd (behind Vettel who had never been out of first) by lap 51.
With 15 laps left Heidfeld rear-ended Kobayashi, bringing out yet one more safety car. At restart with 10 laps left Vettel led Schumacher led Webber led Button led Kobayashi..
And at the finish....a duel of the Germans? Old master vs. young? It looked that way for a moment or two. But Schumacher had to spend to much time playing defense against both Webber and Button and in the end Button overtook Vettel in the final DRS zone to take and hold the top step on the podium, leapfrogging both Hamilton and Webber to move into second in the standings as well.
Vettel had led 69 laps, Button 1. But it was the right one (a smaller version of Vettel having led the 2010 championship for exactly one day....the last). Vettel held 2nd and Webber came in 3rd.
It's hard not to give Button the hard-charger award, given from how far back he ended up coming but both Kobayashi (again) and Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso), moving from 13th to 7th and 18th to 8th respectively, also deserve mention.
Driver standings - Top 10
161 - Sebastian Vettel (Germany) - RBR-Renault
101 - Jenson Button (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
94 - Mark Webber (Australia) - RBR-Renault
85 - Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
69 - Fernando Alonso (Spain) - Ferrari
32 - Felipe Massa (Brazil) - Ferrari
31 - Vitaly Petrov (Russia) - Renault
29 - Nick Heidfeld (Germany) - Renault
26 - Nico Rosberg (Germany) - Mercedes
26 - Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes
Constructor standings - Teams scoring points
222 - RBR-Renault - Vettel, Webber
161 - McLaren-Mercedes - Hamilton, Button
93 - Ferrari - Alonso, Massa
50 - Renault - Heidfeld, Petrov
40 - Mercedes - Rosberg, Schumacher
21 - Sauber-Ferrari - Kamui Kobayashi, Sergio Perez
10 - Force India-Mercedes - Adrian Sutil, Paul di Resta
7 - STR-Ferrari - Sebastian Buemi, Jaime Alguersuari
2 - Williams-Cosworth - Rubens Barrichello, Pastor Maldonado
Next event: Canadian Grand Prix - Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, Montreal - June 10-12