Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa both produced very strong drives at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit to keep very much in the hunt for both championship titles. The Spaniard went from sixth on the grid to second on the podium, while the Brazilian battled all the way from sixteenth at the start to eighth, with both men pulling off an endless series of overtaking moves. The 22 points they brought back home today sees the Scuderia maintain second place in the Constructors’ classification and Fernando jump back up to second in the Drivers’. Felipe is still fifth place. However, championship leaders Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull produced a dominant performance for both driver and team to take their first ever Canadian victory. Completing the podium trio was Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes.
Finally on Sunday at the Ile Notre Dame, the rain jackets could be put away as the race got underway under sunny skies and warmer temperatures. The top 16 runners all started on the Supersoft Pirelli. The run down to turn 1 on the opening lap in Canada is always a tense moment and as the lights went out to signal the start of the seventh GP of the season, the cars left more or less in grid order, although Bottas was soon dropping back from third in the Williams after banging wheels with Webber at Turn 1 and Fernando passed him to go fifth at the end of the opening lap. Felipe made up two places to lie fourteenth. By the end of the second lap, Vettel had a 2.8 lead over the field in the Red Bull, followed by Hamilton, Rosberg, Webber, Alonso, Bottas, Vergne, Sutil, Ricciardo with Raikkonen rounding off the top ten. Felipe was thirteenth.
Bottas was passed by Vergne on lap 6, promoting the Toro Rosso to fifth and on the same lap Sutil spun the Force India when fortunately the cars behind managed to avoid him as Felipe moved up to twelfth. The gaps at the front were growing, with leader Vettel 4.5 ahead of Hamilton in the Mercedes, with Rosberg a further behind. Fernando was 11.4 off the leader. Felipe? His progress continued as he was eleventh on lap 8 and one lap later, the hard charging Brazilian had got into the points places in tenth. In eighth place, Ricciardo was causing the bottleneck so that he had Raikkonen, Felipe and Hulkenberg all nose to tail behind him. As they started lap 11, Felipe pulled the F138 alongside Raikkonen’s Lotus but could not make the pass. Lap 12 and Raikkonen passed Ricciardo and when the Toro Rosso driver pitted on lap 13, Felipe moved up to ninth. Hulkenberg and Maldonado also changed tyres on this lap. Webber came in from fourth on lap 13 in the Red Bull followed by Vergne from sixth in the Toro Rosso and Perez also changed tyres on the McLaren. The run of stops meant that Fernando was fourth and then third on lap 14 when Rosberg pitted, with Vettel and Hamilton still leading. The leading Red Bull came in on lap 16 followed by Fernando, with the majority of drivers now switching to the Prime Medium tyre, although Rosberg was still running Supersoft as he fought off Webber in a wheel to wheel battle for third. Felipe came in from eighth on lap 17, fitting a new set of Options, rejoining in fourteenth place, but he soon dispensed of Bottas and Guttierez to take twelfth.
Hamilton was going for a very long first stint, but he finally came in from the lead on lap 19 in the Mercedes. With 50 laps to go, the order was Vettel, Hamilton, Rosberg, Webber, Fernando in fifth, Raikkonen, Vergne, Di Resta, Grosjean, the Frenchman yet to stop, having started last and Button tenth. Behind them Felipe was engaged in combat with Sutil, getting alongside and nearly touching wheels. Raikkonen had also gone long and came in on lap 22 for Primes, but it was a slow stop. Fernando was having something of a lonely race in fifth, 1.4 behind Webber and over 20 ahead of Vergne. Sutil and Felipe both passed Button’s McLaren and again, Felipe nearly got the better of the Force India. Lap after lap, Felipe tried to pass the German, mainly at the end of the pit straight, while further up the order, Webber’s pursuit of third placed Rosberg was providing plenty of close action. However, as they duelled, so they let Fernando close up on them with the Spaniard just 0.2 off the Australian’s gearbox on lap 27. The crucial move came at the start of lap 31, when after Webber had passed Rosberg, Fernando also managed it going into the first corner, so that the Spaniard was now fourth.
The Mercedes driver immediately pitted next time round. Lap 37 saw Webber clip Van der Garde at the hairpin and a piece of the Red Bull’s front wing came away in the impact. At the same time, Fernando put in the fastest lap of the race so far and closed back to within 0.7 of the Red Bull. It seemed like the only two drivers not having an exciting Sunday afternoon were the two cars out in front, as Vettel led Hamilton by 16.2 and the Englishman had a 7.6 cushion to Webber. Felipe was ninth on lap 40 of 70, at which point, the two cars directly ahead of him, Di Resta and Grosjean had yet to pit at all. At the start of lap 42, Fernando finally got the better of Webber, on the run down to the first corner, so that he now had one foot on the podium. On the same lap, Felipe came into the pits to fit the Prime tyre for his final stint. The Ferrari man went down to twelfth and then up to eleventh after Perez changed tyres on the McLaren.
Webber made his second stop on lap 46, with Fernando doing the same on lap 47 and one lap later it was Hamilton’s turn to pit, followed by Vettel on lap 49, but the positions remained unchanged for the top four. Felipe finally got back into the points by passing Grosjean for tenth on lap 53, just as Fernando popped in another quickest lap as he chased Hamilton, 3.4 ahead.
Lap 57 and Rosberg pitted from fifth, followed by Vergne from sixth, and on the next lap, it was another fastest lap for Fernando, as he closed the gap to Hamilton to one second and then 0.4 on lap 59. On lap 62 on the run to the hairpin, the Spaniard edged his F138 alongside the Mercedes but it didn’t stick, however a few corners later, yet again the run to the first corner, Fernando moved up one more place with just 7 laps to go to the flag. Felipe hadn’t finished his race either and on the very last lap, he slipped past Raikkonen to claim a very hard fought eighth place.
One third of the season is now over and now the F1 circus can pause for breath until the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in three Sunday’s time.
Stefano Domenicali: “Today, we absolutely had to make up for the difficult day we had yesterday, because we knew the more normal weather would allow us to demonstrate our true potential. The podium was in our sights and we can claim to have hit the target, in a race that was complicated from start to finish by our grid positions. Fernando produced an absolutely extraordinary performance, especially when taking into account that today, our competitors operated at a really high level. Felipe also showed exactly what he could do: managing to bring home points after starting from the back was the best response to those who felt he was affected by the unfortunate incidents of the last few days. I must congratulate the winners, because even if it’s easier to get the job done when starting at the front, it’s also true that they managed to produce a perfect qualifying, a task which we know we must improve on. Today’s race demonstrated how two of our closest rivals, Red Bull and Mercedes, have managed to make a step forward and that’s the same direction we are working in, so that we can be contenders right to the end of the Championship”.
Fernando Alonso: “At the end of an extremely complicated weekend, this second place tastes like a win, because we were competitive and managed to fight with the front running drivers. You never feel in danger with them, because, even wheel to wheel at 320 kilometres per hour, they have the necessary intelligence and experience to know to leave a margin of safety. The overtaking moves on the two Mercedes had an almost identical dynamic, although maybe the pass on Hamilton was more intense because we were running at the same pace, while with Rosberg, I knew it was only a matter of the laps going by, thanks to the advantage of having the Medium tyres, while he was on the Supersoft. In terms of points this is a great result: now we only have Vettel ahead of us, who was untouchable here and deserved the victory. Even if he has increased his lead, there’s still a long way to go in the championship and there’s plenty of time to catch up. I don’t know if I could have done better if I’d started further up. Qualifying, even in the wet, is our weak point and an aspect we absolutely must improve on: we are working very hard on that, both back home and at the track.”
Felipe Massa: “I am very happy with my race today, which was a real battle from start to finish. After going off the track yesterday, I knew it wouldn’t be easy starting from sixteenth place, but I also knew I had a good car and I tackled the race on the attack, managing to pull off several nice passing moves. However, because of a problem with graining, I lost precious time behind Sutil in the Force India: that’s why I think a strategy based on using two sets of Medium tyres would have seen me gain at least one or two places. Even if I can’t be satisfied with this result it was still a positive day, in which we showed we had a good pace and that we were able to fight. Now I’m looking ahead to the next race with a lot of confidence, because Silverstone is very similar to Shanghai and Barcelona, where our car worked very well”.
Pat Fry: “The long straights and the DRS zones at the Montreal track, which usually help with overtaking, meant we were hopeful of being able to race up the order, while aware that starting from sixth and sixteenth would not make that an easy task, especially as the performance levels of the front runners were very similar today. Fernando got a great start and managed to pass Bottas, moving up to fifth. From then on, he did an amazing job of managing his tyres, pushing at the most opportune moments which brought him in touch with the leaders. The climb up to second place was a performance worthy of his talent, with some daring passing moves, like the one on Hamilton. Felipe fought hard all race long, also pulling off several overtaking moves, including a very important one on Raikkonen right at the end. Maybe if we had opted to fit Mediums at his first stop, Felipe could have gained another place. From the pit wall, we had to manage the race for both drivers in very different track conditions to what we experienced in the past couple of days and all in all, after all the difficulties we encountered yesterday, it was a good result. Now, our priority is still to improve our qualifying performance and on this front, we will try to do that right from the next race in Silverstone”.