Robert Kubica masterfully scythed his way through a characteristically chaotic Canadian Grand Prix en-route to his first career victory and a BMW 1-2 after a rookie’s error from Lewis Hamilton threw the race and championship wide open.
Quarter distance in the Canadian Grand Prix and not a McLaren or Ferrari in sight, that was the scale of the drama that unfolded on the Ile Notre Dame on Sunday.
While many were touting the fragile track surface to instigate the bedlam, it was a frenzy of activity in the pit-lane that ultimately culminated in the BMW white-wash, not to mention Robert Kubica’s charge to pole position in the drivers’ championship – only a week after he had ruled himself out of the title hunt.
Adrian Sutil, the man who triggered events in last year’s chaotic Grand Prix, was once again the catalyst in the equation after his ailing Force India brought out the safety car on Lap 18. The front-runners who were generally lighter on fuel than the rest of the field – including leaders Hamilton, Kubica, Raikkonen, Alonso, Massa and Rosberg – scurried into the pit-lane the moment the pace car came in, some needing fuel there and then, others pre-empting the safety car’s next appearance which would prove even more fatal in the context of a bunched field.
Then, disaster for pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton. Taking on slightly more fuel than his rivals, the McLaren driver left his pit slot after Raikkonen and Kubica, but was not expecting them to be patiently queuing at the red light as he stormed down the pit-lane. The British ace ploughed into the gearbox of Kimi Raikkonen ending both their races there and then. Rosberg, who likewise had failed to grasp the situation, ran into the back of Hamilton damaging his front-wing but living for another day.
The incident, allied with the safety-car situation mixing up the front-running lighter cars with those who had ran heavy, left Nick Heidfeld leading from Rubens Barrichello, Nakajima Kazuki, Mark Webber, David Coulthard, Jarno Trulli, and Timo Glock, Giancarlo Fissichella, Sebastian Vettel. Chasing this pack were Robert Kubica and Fernando Alonso who were among those front-runners to pit after the safety car. Felipe Massa meanwhile had to stop again for fuel dropping him to the rear of the pack, not far behind Heikki Kovalainen.
Nick Heidfeld had looked in good shape to challenge for the victory after building up a significant cushion before his first and only pit-stop on Lap 30, his stop gifting the lead to Barrichello who in turn passed the batten down the line to Nakajima, Coulthard, Trulli and Glock as each took their turn to refuel.
While Heidfeld had done enough to emerge ahead of Kubica, it wasn’t long before the Polish ace despatched his heavier team-mate, leaving the German to fend off a charging Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard whiffing his first podium of the year. Try as he may, the Renault driver was unable to find a way past and ended up losing control of his R28 on debris at Turn 7.
Kubica meanwhile was on scintillating charge and by Lap 49 had built up a sizeable gap over Heidfeld which allowed him to make his final pit-stop and rejoin with a comfortable cushion. Game over. The BMW drivers held station until the chequered flag clinching the Hinwil-based outfit’s first win and 1-2 finish in its brief history in Formula One.
Behind them, David Coulthard was having the drive of his life and had stayed out long enough before his first and only pit-stop to leap frog Rubens Barrichello. With Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima dropping out of the fray as a result of making contact with the Honda driver and damaging his front wing, allied to Alonso’s retirement, Coulthard was promoted to third place where he stayed to clinch his best result in over two years, and Red Bull Racing’s second podium of the season.
Timo Glock was on course to lead Jarno Trulli home to fourth and fifth for Toyota when a mistake at Turn 2 in the dying laps compromised his team-mate enabling Felipe Massa to pass the Italian on the run up to Turn 3.
It was not for the first time that Massa had seized on others misfortune. On Lap 51 Heikki Kovalainen dived up the inside of Rubens Barrichello at the hairpin, only to get out of shape on the exit. Massa, who was watching the battle unfold behind Barrichello, seized the moment and hurled his Ferrari up the inside of both the Honda and McLaren drivers, taking fifth place in the process.
Barrichello and Kovalainen eventually classified seventh and ninth respectively after making their second pit-stops while the one-stopping Sebastian Vettel split the pairing to take the final point.
Nico Rosberg, who was almost a lap behind the leaders at one point as a result of running into Lewis Hamilton during the early pit-stop fiasco, finished tenth ahead of Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Sebastien Bourdais.