Canadian Grand Prix: Daniel Ricciardo Day

Daniel Ricciardo took out his first win in Formula 1 at the Canadian Grand Prix in a race that, let’s just say, exceeded my expectations. Nico Rosberg held on to his brakes to finish the race in second, while Sebastian Vettel avoided being collected in the last lap collision between Massa and Perez to finish third. From the first lap, the Canadian Grand Prix was more thrilling than the entire 2013 race. Hamilton had a smooth getaway, immediately putting pressure on the pole sitter. Going into turn 1 the two Mercedes may have kissed slightly, though Rosberg just managed to squeeze Hamilton out to retain the lead, and Vettel took advantage to move up a position to P2. Further back in the field, Bottas made an early move on Massa, while Vergne moved up on the inside of Alonso. However, it was the action at the back of the pack that brought out the safety car after less than a minute of racing. Max Chilton got his MR03 out of shape into turn 3, sliding straight into the path of his team mate. Bianchi had a big impact into the wall of champions, with pieces of his Marussia strewn all over the track. Chilton parked up further down, and both Marussia’s were out in spectacular style.

Starting from P6 on the grid, Daniel Ricciardo survived tyre-wear, over heating brakes, and pressures from the Force Indias’ and his team mate, to snatch the lead from Nico Rosberg with four laps to go. The Australian kept his cool following the gearbox of Sergio Perez in the final stint of the race. Having to back off to cool the car on several occasions, Ricciardo finally made the move on lap 66, getting the RB10 on the inside of Perez into turn 1. The move was daring, getting two wheels onto the grass, but Ricciardo controlled it, to move up into P2. With four laps to go, the Red Bull stalked the endlessly consistent Rosberg. Getting within DRS range, Ricciardo swept around the outside of Rosberg on the back straight just two laps later to take the lead from Rosberg. Sebastian Vettel took the final step on the podium, after a competitive race from the reigning world champion. Vettel held Hamilton back in P3 until his first pit stop released the Mercedes. The Red Bull driver spent most of his race balancing a combination of offensive driving to catch the Force Indias’ in front of him, while keeping the door closed on the Williams behind. Vettel’s pit strategy brought him out P9 on his second and final stop for soft compound tyres, though was still behind Perez. It wasn’t until lap 69 with the Force India losing his rear brakes, that the Red Bull was able to make a clear way passed now into P3. For a final hit of adrenaline, Sebastian Vettel avoided being collected in the Massa/Perez collision on the final lap. The out of control Williams careered across the grass, and straight into the path of the Red Bull. Some lightening quick reactions from Vettel saved the accident from being even more serious.

Nico Rosberg somehow brought his Mercedes home, after suffering from the same issues to his F1 W05 that saw him team mate retire on lap 48. As the race began to unfold, it appeared to be another predictable Mercedes 1-2 finish, with the only question being “could Rosberg keep Hamilton at bay”. Rosberg was undoubtably feeling the pressure, getting out of shape at turn 3 on his out lap, very nearly paying a visit to the Wall of Champions. There were some early scraps for the lead between the two Mercedes drivers, one resulting in an investigation by the race stewards for exceeding track limits. Rosberg had suffered a massive lock up to his right from trye, and missed the final corner, running over the chichane. The escape move took Rosberg out of the DRS threat from Hamilton, who had been closing in for several laps. No further action was taken by the stewards. At midway through the race, it became apparent however that both Rosberg and Hamilton were struggling to maintain their pace. The Mercedes were lapping 20km/h slower than the rest of the field, suggesting an issue with the energy recovery. On lap 48, Hamilton radioed to confirm that his brakes were failing, and retired from the race. Rosberg, suffering from the same issues, began to nurse his car through eventually through to the chequered in P2.

Both McLarens picked up points in the race. Though it was a lucky high points finish for Jensen Button, as the McLaren found himself jolted up to P4 on the final lap. Button had spent most of the race as more of a back marker conserving fuel and tyres, though a one stop strategy worked in his favour to bring the Brit forward within the points. Following his stop, the McLaren found the throttle, taking advantage of fresh tyres and retirements. Kevin Magnussen had a rather anonymous race, running on a two stop strategy to finish P9.

In a bittersweet ending for Force India, Nico Hulkenberg finished P5, where Sergio Perez classified P11 following a harrowing collision with Felipe Massa on the final lap. The Force India’s left rear tyre was clipped by the Williams on the entry into turn 1, sending Perez into a spin stopped only with the aid of the barriers. The contact at the end of a highspeed straight, broke Massa’s front right wishbone, leaving the FW36 completely out of the Brazilian’s control, and he too met the barriers. The Mexican’s race had been his season’s best, maintaining a one stop strategy to make up 11 grid places through the race. He was cut shy of podium finish moments before the collision, as Vettel made his way through on the dirty side of the track on the back straight. Nico Hulkenberg brought home success for the team with a strong points finish in P5, also on a one stop strategy, the German took his stop on lap 41, undercutting the Williams of Bottas, which was crucial for the Force India to chase down the Red Bulls. In the final laps of the race however, Hulkenberg didn’t have the same pace as Perez, creating a train of Bottas, Massa, and Alonso behind him.

Ferrari remain mediocre this season, with neither neither achieving a competitive pace from the car. Though it can be said that the Ferrari is reliable to finish, the F14 T is doing a disservice to Alonso and Raikkonen. Alonso had a poor getaway, immediately conceding a position to a fast moving Toro Rosso. The Spaniard had a rather unremarkable race, placing around P5 to P9 depending on pit strategies. Raikkonen on the other hand, initially made up a position from Button at lights out, though fell back through the field as the race unfolded. Both drivers picked up points in the race, though again, bumped up due to Perez and Massa, with Alonso finishing P6 ahead of Raikkonen in P10.

It was heartbraking* to see such a thrilling race for Massa end in the medical centre. Both the Williams had been competitive throughout the race. Running on a split strategy, Massa’s pace was substantially quicker than Bottas in the final stages of the race. The two stop strategy unfortunately kept the Finn behind Perez for much of the race. I doubt whether Bottas would have got the radio message “Felipe is faster than you”, but the Finn moved out of the way accordingly. Massa was released from behind his team mate at the hairpin on lap 58. On the same lap, the Brazilian set the fastest lap of the race with a 1:18.504. Though slower than his team mate, Bottas remained competitive throughout the race to finish P7.

Vergne was the sole Toro Rosso to cross the line. The Toro Rosso was quick off the line to make an early move on Alonso into turn 1. Like most the the field, Vergne was running on a two stop strategy. Eventually finishing inside the points, Vergne had a steady race, though was rather over shadowed by the rest of the field’s antics. Daniil Kvyat retired at the hairpin with 21 laps remaining after struggling with mechanical issues.

Adrian Sutil made up three places during the race on a two-stop strategy, though this was greater attributed to retirements on track than the competitiveness of the Sauber. Gutierrez had a difficult race, possibly picking up debris from the Marussia collision, pitting twice during the safety car period, first for supersoft, then soft compound tyres. The Mexican ran on a three stop strategy, at least keeping up with his team mate, with the two Saubers chasing the back of pack. Sutil was the last to pass the chequered flag, and in a race with so many retirements, was unlucky not to score points in P13. On lap 67, Gutierrez pulled into the pits for a fourth time, not to reemerge, though was classified P14.

Neither drivers for Lotus or Caterham were able to complete the race distance, proving the strain put on the brakes, engines, energy recovery, tyres, and anything else attached to the car at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve. Until his retirement, Romain Grosjean had a rather competitive race, battling with the Saubers for position. Albiet they were scrapping for P15, though Grosjean won the challenge and took his mini lead. On lap 62, the Frenchman was forced to retire with a broken rear endplate on his E22. Maldonado had an uncharacteristically anonymous race before retirement on lap 21. Kobayashi took up the responsibility from Sutil of a pirouette this year, losing the left rear of the car and spinning at turn 2 on lap 23. The Caterham only continued until the exit of turn 3, where he pulled over to retire. Marcus Ericsson’s race had barely began after the safety car restart when he pulled into the pits on lap 7 to retire. Max Chilton broke his streak of finishing every race started in a truly spectacular fashion. A massive disappointment for Marussia after Bianchi scored their first points in Monaco.

I admit, I completely underestimated the Canadian Grand Prix. I needn’t have worried about staying awake at 3:30am for the race start, or my numerous cups of coffee throughout the 70 laps. I, like most others watching in Australia, am now running on pure adrenaline. It’s a public holiday in Australia today for the Queen’s Birthday, though I’m quite sure we’ve already passed a vote to rename today “Daniel Ricciardo Day”, so happy DRD to you all! The Canadian Grand Prix exposed a weakness for the Mercedes to hotter track conditions, where the likes of Red Bull, Williams and Force India coped well. The stewards have handed Perez a five place grid penalty for Austria, though replays don’t appear to show the Force India at fault. Interestingly, the stewards made the decision without interviewing either driver, who are both still being treated in the medical centre. In a fortnights time, the Championship returns to Europe for the Austrian Grand Prix after an 11 year absence of the event. It will be a home race for Red Bull. Here’s hoping that Ricciardo can make it two in a row. Until then, I’m hoping that the adrenaline fades away and I can get some sleep. So, bonne nuit (hopefully).

– Alex

* braking, get it…? My attempt at a very early morning pun

Qualifying Pole Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
Podium DANIEL RICCIARDO (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
Fastest Lap 1:18.504 Felipe Massa (Williams-Mercedes)

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