Before the Canadian GP, a new record of six different winners in six races had already been set. It was difficult to predict this record stretching to the seventh race of the season. However, with Hamilton and Raikkonen not having won a race so far, only the bravest would have bet against it. And inevitably, as if it had become mandatory this season, this unprecedented record stretched to Montreal as Hamilton Grabbed his first win of the season on Sunday.
Like a majority of the races so far (with the exception of Monaco), the Canadian GP was fascinating to watch. It resembled more of a chess match than just high-octane racing. And needless to mention, the tyres were responsible for producing this 300 kmph chess action.
Ever since the introduction of higher-degradation-rate Pirelli tyres, use of fresh rubber in qualifying, number and timing of pit stops and the use of compounds at the start has become critical in determining the outcome of the race. Even a pole position (unless it is Monaco) is no guarantee for coming on top. For in getting the pole time, the driver may have used more fresh rubber than he would have done otherwise.
All these aspects were on display in Montreal on Sunday.
At the start of the race, pole sitter Sebastian Vettel started pulling out at a break-neck pace. Soon, the top three – Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso – were clear of the chasing pack. In the good old days, this would have set the tone for the remainder of the race and given Red Bull’s aerodynamic superiority, the result would have been a foregone conclusion. Not so anymore. Along with the aerodynamic excellence, the driver has to be kind on tyres as well.
After the first round of pit-stop, Vettel found himself behind Hamilton and Alonso. The rate at which they were going, it seemed that’s how the race would probably have ended had the three stopped approximately at the same time. However, Alonso and Vettel gambled on one stop strategy while Hamilton stopped one more time for fresher rubber. No one knew whose strategy would turn out to be right. Even Hamilton could be heard on the radio enquiring about the strategy of Vettel and Alonso.
Ultimately, the gamble of Alonso and Vettel to stop once backfired. Vettel did stop with just few laps of the race left. However, it was too late to repair the damage. By then, Hamilton with better grip had already overtaken Vettel. Alonso, who led the race with few laps left, was the biggest loser as he not only lost out on a podium finish (which would have been a certainty had he done a second pit stop at the same time as Hamilton) but finished fifth just half second ahead of two stopper Rosberg.
Alonso and Vettel’s result though was not a refutation of one-stop strategy. In fact, the one-stop strategy turned out to be an equally good approach as exhibited by the two other podium finishers Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez.
Both had stopped only once and were not in the reckoning for a podium finish for the majority of the race. However, they were able top nurse their tyres in a better way by not pushing it from the word go, unlike the front runners who had to do a two stop because of their initial scorching pace. Eventually Grosjean finished just two and half seconds behind Hamilton and Perez wasn’t too far behind.
What is even more interesting is the différence in performance between drivers of the same team. While Hamilton won, Jenson Button finished an incredible 16th. Similarly, Grosjean’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen finished 8th.
It was a great result for the 2008 champion who won his third Canadian GP in six seasons. He would be hoping to launch his title bid considering his title drought for the last three seasons.
The championship has now been thrown widely open with just nine points separating the top four. Every race has now become a guessing game. Only being fast is not enough to win, you need to be smart as well.