The run of Mercedes wins is finally over. Daniel Ricciardo has broken through to claim his maiden Formula 1 victory by winning Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix.
It was what could best be described as an absolute thriller. The Mercedes pairing of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton looked set to romp to another 1-2, only for both to suffer a failure in their brake energy recovery systems. Hamilton would retire, but Rosberg managed to keep going, only surrendering the lead to a charging Ricciardo in the closing stages. Sebastian Vettel completed the podium, and was fortunate to avoid being taken out in a huge final-lap accident between the dueling Sergio Pérez and Felipe Massa.
You just sensed that this was going to be an unusual day. Sunday broke amid clear skies, but the big news came from the Red Bull Racing camp, which silenced weeks of wild speculation about the future of its design ace, Adrian Newey, by confirming that the Englishman had renewed terms with the Milton Keynes team, although he would be stepping back from his day-to-day operational role.
The 70-lap race got underway and there was action throughout. Front-row starters Rosberg and Hamilton both made clean getaways, but Hamilton’s was ultimately better and he drew alongside his teammate on the short sprint to the Turn 1 left-hander. Rosberg held the inside line and kept his braking seriously late, squeezing Hamilton onto the outside of the corner, which proved enough for an enterprising Vettel to sneak into second place and split the pair.
Two corners later and the race’s sole (!) safety car was triggered: Max Chilton overcooked it going into the Turn 3/4 chicane and swiped Marussia teammate Jules Bianchi, sending the unfortunate Frenchman backwards into the wall and immediate retirement.
Bianchi’s car was destroyed, while Chilton limped a few more metres and stopped as well, his left front suspension smashed.
It was the Englishman’s first ever DNF, bringing to an end a 25-race run of successive – and not particularly pace-worthy – finishes.
Marussia’s double-DNF put Caterham in a position to capitalise on its rivals in a typically high-attrition race, and hopefully claw back the two points it lost last time out in Monaco. But the green machines fared little better: Marcus Ericsson retired as the safety car pulled back into the pits with a broken turbo hose, while Kamui Kobayashi lasted until Lap 24 before his left-rear suspension failed.
It was a tough day for fellow Renault-powered runners, Lotus, who had both Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean retire after a less than competitive weekend at a circuit unsuited to the twin-nose E22. Maldonado appeared to have damaged bodywork – not surprisingly suggesting he’d had one of his usual accidents – but it actually turned out to be a failure within the Renault power unit, while Grosjean retired late in the race when his rear wing mount collapsed.
Racing resumed once the Marussia mess was cleared and Hamilton immediately moved ahead of Vettel to resume normal service with a Mercedes 1-2. Hamilton steadily chased down Rosberg’s early advantage and started to put the German under serious pressure following their switch from Super Soft to Soft rubber. He forced Rosberg into an error at the final chicane, with the championship leader skipping over the run-off as he outbraked himself.
Rosberg was lucky to avoid a pit lane penalty and that ensured the race at the front remained a two-horse one, but further drama would follow as both Silver Arrows suddenly slowed.
Their near half-minute lead was being rapidly slashed at the rate of two seconds a lap, and the chasing pack quickly closed them in. When both Rosberg and Hamilton pitted – Hamilton managed to nip ahead only to outbrake himself and throw the position away – they emerged behind Felipe Massa, with the Brazilian trying to gamble on a one-stop race and keep ahead of the pair for an unlikely win. It marked the first time this season that something other than one of the two works Mercedes had led a race.
Hamilton’s outlap lock-up gave an early sign that his brakes were being boiled and he knocked up his second DNF of the season when he pulled into the pits for good. His four-point deficit to Rosberg in the Drivers’ Championship standings would extend unless the similarly limping German suffered the same fate, but somehow Rosberg carried on for now.
The problem was identified as an electrical failure within the MGU-K of the Mercedes power unit, the component designed to harvest heat energy from the brakes and convert it into around 160bhp of engine power.
Despite a massive horsepower disadvantage, Rosberg hung on to Massa’s rear wing, and the Brazilian was quickly forced into the pits and surrendered his brief lead back to the championship leader.
Behind Rosberg, the battle waged. Sergio Pérez headed the charge, having run a monster 28-lap opening stint on the Super Soft tyres before making his one and only pit stop for the Soft rubber to see him through to the finish. He and Force India teammate Nico Hülkenberg (who did completely the reverse strategy of a long opening stint on Soft tyres) had steadily moved their way up the order after qualifying outside the top ten.
They were now playing an exciting spoiler role mid-race. For lap after lap, the two-stopping Red Bulls found themselves pinned behind the two VJM07s before both finally pitted. But when Vettel and Ricciardo pitted for the second time – at which point they too, crucially, switched positions – Pérez was back in front of the duo and playing an inadvertent role of defensive rear gunner for the crippled Rosberg.
Rosberg managed to stay out of Pérez’s DRS clutches by being quicker through the first two sectors of the lap, and while this continued, he looked on course for a miraculous win.
Massa, meanwhile, on fresher tyres, was closing rapidly on the Rosberg-Pérez-Ricciardo-Vettel train, and soon joined the tail of the group after neatly overtaking both teammate Valtteri Bottas and the second Force India of Hülkenberg on the same lap.
Ultimately, Ricciardo – who had been conserving his tyres just enough – turned up the blowtorch and blasted by Pérez down the back straight with some DRS assistance with just a few laps to go, and before long he was on Rosberg’s tail and past as well, to the delight of every F1 fan wishing to see the silver cars’ dominance come to an end.
It was the first time ever that Ricciardo had led a race, and by completing the last three tours in the lead he equalled one-time winner Peter Gethin’s record of leading the fewest laps in his career before claiming victory – if that ever supported the adage that the only lap that matters is the last one, then perhaps that was it.
There was drama on the final lap as well. Vettel had managed to overtake a steadily slowing Pérez on the penultimate lap and the Mexican now fell into the clutches of Massa, who’d made a rather ham-fisted job of not using the clear tyre advantage he held over the pack ahead of him.
The Brazilian capped off the rather poor racecraft he’d shown over the preceding 69 laps and tried a desperate move on the Force India into Turn 1. Pérez twitched oh so slightly as Massa approached, meaning Massa tagged the left-rear and ripped off his right front wheel, while Vettel saw it all unfold in his mirrors and managed to keep out of the way of a high-speed T-boning.
Massa and Pérez were pitched into the barriers at massive speed, prompting an immediate full-course yellow while the medics rushed to both drivers, who were mercifully uninjured and quickly released after a brief check-up at the circuit medial centre. Pérez was issued a summons to the FIA Stewards’ office and slapped with a five-place grid penalty for causing the accident.
Ricciardo sportingly didn’t celebrate until he learned both Massa and Pérez were OK, crossing the line ahead of the limping Rosberg and Vettel, who completed the podium and was counting his lucky stars not to have been caught up in the accident behind him.
After a completely anonymous afternoon, Jenson Button finished fourth to mark his best finish since the season-opener in Australia; his McLaren came to life on fresh tyres in the closing laps, allowing him to overtake Hülkenberg, Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas in the final stages. Button’s teammate Kevin Magnussen finished ninth, one spot behind Jean-Éric Vergne’s Toro Rosso.
Hülkenberg ultimately couldn’t make his Super Soft rubber last on a long 28-lap stint, but his fourth fifth-placed finish underscored just what a class act the young German is.
Alonso’s sixth place was an embarrassing result for Ferrari who, despite early practice promise this weekend, continued to flounder in the midfield with their worst season to-date since 2009. Teammate Kimi Räikkönen continued to support the growing theories of his ongoing disinterest and imminent sacking with a lowly tenth-placed finish, suffering his second spin of the weekend exiting the hairpin when the power delivery came on too strong.
There were just eleven drivers who saw the chequered flag, with Adrian Sutil being the last to do so as the Sauber team continues the worst season in its history. The German kept his nose clean to finish, while teammate Esteban Gutiérrez retired late on with a Ferrari power unit failure.
2014 Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (70 laps):
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10||70||1:39:12.830|
|2.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05||70||+ 4.236|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10||70||+ 5.247|
|4.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-29||70||+ 11.755|
|5.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07||70||+ 12.843|
|6.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F14T||70||+ 14.869|
|7.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36||70||+ 23.578|
|8.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9||70||+ 28.026|
|9.||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren Mercedes MP4-29||70||+ 29.254|
|10.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari F14T||70||+ 53.678|
|11.||Sergio Pérez||Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07||69||Collision|
|12.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36||69||Collision|
|13.||Adrian Sutil||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33||69||1 lap behind|
|14.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33||64||Engine|
|DNF.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Renault E22||59||Rear Wing|
|DNF.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9||47||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05||46||Brakes|
|DNF.||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05||23||Suspension|
|DNF.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Renault E22||21||Power Unit|
|DNF.||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05||7||Turbo Hose|
|DNF.||Max Chilton||Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||0||Collision|
|DNF.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||0||Collision|
Images via FOM, Sutton Images and XPB Images
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