Canadian Grand Prix 2007- Hamilton's first win
Woah, what a race. Who said nothing ever happens in Formula 1 races any more?
The big news of course is Lewis Hamilton's first F1 win. He qualified on pole position and aside from the usual pit-stop lead changes, he lead the whole race. I was amazed before the race that ITV's unapologetically biased coverage stated that Lewis's pole position had taken away some of the "disappointment of Monaco". I'm sorry but how can finishing second for the 4th time in your first year of F1 be disappointing by any standard? I know what they were thinking - that Hamilton was prevented from winning the race by McLaren's team strategy/orders, but the reality is that if Lewis wanted to win in Monaco he needed to stick it on pole on the saturday because his only hope for the race was that Alonso would break down. Anyway, consider that Jenson Button had to wait until his 5th season of F1 in 2004 before he had a season with four second place finishes (and it's all been downhill from there). Consider also that Hamilton could have joined McLaren in one of their many 'lean' years but instead has joined in what looks to be a golden year for the team.
The start of the race all went wrong again for teammate and current world champion Fernando Alonso. He made a decent start but tried to go around the outside of Hamilton at the first corner. Too much speed left him cutting across the grass over the curbs on the far side. He managed to only lose one place to Nick Heidfeld's BMW, but it appears to have damaged his car's aerodynamics for the rest of the race because he was to have many more spins and offs with him only finishing 7th in the end. That finishing place was largely influnced by the 10 second stop-go penalty he recieved for pitting while the pit-lane was 'closed' following the deployment of the first safety car, but Alonso's problems went way beyond that and were summed up perflectly by him being overtaken in the 3rd to last lap by Takuma Sato in the Super Aguri. There is a lot of talk on the bulletin boards about how Alonso is finding it impossible to deal with the pressure of a fast teammate. I'm not so sure about that, but I'm at a loss to explain the errors of judgement he's made at the starts of the Spanish and Canadian GPs.
Hamilton's win and Alonso's race of woe leaves that seperated by 8 points, having been tied on points prior to Canada. It is the lead that both McLaren drivers hold after the Ferrari drivers that is more interesting though. Kimi Raikkonen had another problematic race finishing in 5th. He was passed by many cars (including Takuma Sato again) in the middle section of the race after picking up debris from Rober Kubica's crash in his front-wing. It has to be said he hadn't looked spectacularly fast all weekend and could only qualify 4th (although Nick Heidfeld in 3rd was lighter on fuel). At least Raikkonen scored points - Felipe Massa was black-flagged (along with Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella) for leaving the pit-lane while the red light was showing after he pitted during the first safety car period. This will probably be regarded with much controversey in both Brazil and Italy because the safety car and train of cars behind it was well past the end of the pit-lane when Massa and Fisichella left, but the rules are clear: if the red light is showing you don't pass. Montoya learnt that the hard way in Canada co-incidentally.
If it wasn't for the first win of Hamilton, it would surely be Robert Kubica's crash that would make the headlines in tomorrow's papers. We haven't seen a crash like that Formula 1 for years and I think everyone felt a bit sick watching it. It came following the restart after the first safety car period as the train of cars on under-pressured tyres and cold brakes headed down to the hairpin. It looked on the replays like Kubica tagged the back of one of the Toyotas, but the Toyota seemed unaffected by the incident so it's possible Kubica lost control by himself. In fact I suspected brake failure at first because he'd seemed to lose very little speed by the time he left the track. For some reason there is curbing on the outside of the bend leading to the hairpin and that launched his car through the air and into the wall that seperates the track on either side of the hairpin. From there his wheel-less car skidded across the track on it's floor, narrowly missing Liuzzi's Toro Rosso, before ending up on it's side in the run-off area on the outside of the hairpin. It took many more laps under the safety car for the medical people to remove Kubica to the medical centre and for the track staff to clear up the debris and remove what was left of the BMW Sauber.
I think we were all really worried about what had happened to Robert, but news filtered through as the race progressed that he was able to speak to his manager and had no broken bones. He's now been taken to a local hospital of observation as surely concussion-related injuries will be the doctors main concern. There have been many complaints about the emphasis on safety taking something away from motor racing, but watching Kubica's crash today should convince everyone of the value of the HANS device and the cockpit side padding.
Nick Heidfeld finished 2nd having passed Alonso at the start and never looked back. He never looked like challenging Hamilton for the lead either, but BMW will be very happy at having beated Ferrari today. In 3rd was Alex Wurz in the Williams-Toyota who looked exceptionally happy to be on the podium and given the performance of the Williams cars over the past few years, I'd say he should well be. Wurz was a surprise choice for the second Williams seat this season and after spending years testing for McLaren and then Williams, he was probably happy just to be racing, so to be stood on the podium is extra special.
Also having a great race was Heikki Kovalainen in the Renault. He's had a tough start to he F1 career after winning GP2 in 2005 and testing for Renault in their championship winning year of 2006. It had looked like Canada was going to be another bad weekend for him after he had to change his engine and then crashing in qualifying left him at the back of the grid. However a good strategy from the team and solid driving meant he would up in 4th. Makes you wonder where Fisichella would have finished had he not got himself black-flagged. I already mentioned Sato's amazing drive to finish 6th in the Super Aguri. He had qualified in 11th so the team has obviously found some speed in the car and while the row over the use of customer cars rumbles on, it should be Honda who are most bothered because Super Aguri are making the works Honda operation look very stupid right now.
There will be much to talk about from this race, but we are already looking forward to the USA Grand Prix at Indianapolis next weekend now.