4.40pm Hello and welcome to forumula1.com’s minute-by-minute coverage of the Canadian Grand Prix. It’s sunny and warm at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on the Ile Notre Dame in Montreal this afternoon, with no sign of the much-predicted rain.
4.41pm Felipe Massa’s Ferrari has been wheeled off the grid, and we know not why unfortunately. It’s ”not normal” practice, according to David Coulthard.
4.43pm A couple of Vitantonio Liuzzi’s mechanics are chuffed with their Italian mate. He’s qualified in sixth, of course, and they waggishly suggest he could win. The man himself says “it was a good qualifying lap, we are back in business. We’ll push for the win because in Montreal you never know.”
4.45pm Mark Webber is no longer in second on the grid, because Red Bull were forced to change his gearbox last night, which incurred a five place grid penalty. This is good news for his crash-buddy Sebastian Vettel, who is promoted to second, and Fernando Alonso, who jumps into third.
4.48pm McLaren are on the softs, but received wisdom is that the harder tyre is the one to start on. An early safety car could benefit them then. “Time will tell,” says Martin Whitmarsh, who must be wondering about how much that decision might cost his team.
4.49pm “We are going to see some very interesting strategies, and some of them will involve a bit of risk,” says Jenson Button. He hasn’t looked comfortable in his McLaren all weekend, and certainly has not been a match for Hamilton. Button’s ability to manage tyres could come into its own, though, today.
4.52pm Word is that a number of the teams have short-fuelled their cars. Which, roughly translated, means that the drivers will have to fuel-conserve at various points. Could be very interesting indeed, when allied to the tyre factor.
4.56pm There are great crowds at the track today, a welcome sight. They are sure to see an entertaining race, but one where all the factors at play might not be immediately obvious. This is an excuse; live bloggers may get it wrong.
4.58pm The grid is being cleared now, tyre warmers are off. The field are just about to leave on the parade lap. Meanwhile, information is filtering through that both Red Bulls have had issues overnight – Vettel has had to change his steering wheel.
5.00pm Martin Brundle is warning on the BBC that there are a lot of ‘marbles’ off line, which means that off the main racing line it is treacherous. They are lining up on the grid now.
5.01pm And they’re off! Into the first corner it’s Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, but there’s chaos at the back. Massa has hit Liuzzi a lot, and de la Rosa was hit at the back. We have yellow flags but as yet no safety car. End of the first lap sees Kobayashi hitting the Wall of Champions after a battle with Hulkenberg.
5.03pm Massa is in the pits after repeated collisions with poor Liuzzi, whose ambitions to win might have to take a back seat now. Webber is harrying Button for fourth, and Kubica is hot on their heels.
5.05pm It’s Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, Button from a very close Webber, Kubica, Sutil, Schumacher and Hulkenberg. Kobayashi is out now, after hitting that wall hard. Massa and Liuzzi were playing dodgems at Turn One.
5.08pm Webber is through past Button, and Kubica is pressing.
Lap 6 “Soft tyres are not working for McLaren,” opines Brundle. It’s true. Vettel is very close to Hamilton and they look like they might crash. Hamilton is very defensive and is causing a traffic jam behind him. Hamilton pits, as does third placed Alonso, who was fending off Webber. Alonso has taken Lewis in the pits. Incredible, heart in mouth stuff here.
Lap 9 So the McLarens have lost out majorly as a result of being on the softer tyres. Vettel and Webber are one and two, followed by Kubica, Schumacher, Buemi, Alonso, Hamilton.
Lap 10 Vettel is putting half a second a lap on Webber, and Hamilton is very racy behind Alonso. They are faster than the leaders, according to Ferrari team radio. Petrov gets a drive through for jumping the start, and he is battling with Rubens Barrichello quite far down after having made contact with Pedro de la Rosa at the start.
Lap 13 Schumacher pits, and the harder tyre boys are going much quicker now. The German comes out just ahead of Robert Kubica, and with neither yielding they take a trip across the grass. We had dodgems, now it’s motocross. The Schumacher of old, that was. Webber comes in.
Lap 15 Sebastian Buemi leads, can you believe. Vettel has changed onto the softs, which is apparently a hedged bet from Red Bull.
Lap 16 The charging Alonso and Hamilton come up behind Buemi, and while Alonso is battling with the legitimate Toro Rosso, Hamilton takes the initiative to get the run on Alonso on the straight. With Buemi then pitting, Hamilton now leads.
Lap 17 There may be three stops here from some drivers. The rubber just isn’t going to last at this furious pace. Vettel and Webber, in that order, are now behind the leading group of Hamilton, Alonso and Button. Kubica is sixth, with Sutil seventh and Buemi eighth. It is very competitive, and great entertainment.
Lap 20 It’s calmed down a bit, thank Enzo. Button is hanging on by his nails to the leaders Hamilton and Alonso, and the track is rubbering in a bit. It is all about tyre management, basically, from here on in, but it could and should result in more great racing. It’s going to be close.
Lap 22 Webber sets a personal best, a few tenths quicker than his team-mate in front of him. Alonso gets told the positions, and tells his team, “it’s looking good, guys.” He is clearly confident and has the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton in his sights.
Lap 23 Webber is flying. 1.19.8s, apparently, which is much faster than his peers. A man to watch. The Red Bulls would presumably prefer to be at the front, though. Vettel tells his team that his rear tyres are falling off slowly, but his pace is not to be sniffed at as we speak. They might only have to stop once more. Sutil is wrestling with Kubica for sixth.
Lap 25 It is Hamilton, Alonso, Button, Vettel, Webber, Kubica, Sutil, Buemi.
Lap 27 Alonso just came up to take Hamilton on the back straight, and Hamilton pitted as a result. He must be three stopping. Meanwhile Vettel and Button have pitted, and Sutil nearly gets wiped out by a bonkers Kubica sweeping into the pitlane. Alonso has now pitted again, and come out behind Hamilton after having been held up by a Lotus.
Lap 29 It’s now Webber, Hamilton, Alonso, Button at the sharp end.
Lap 30 Webber sets a 1.19.6, extremely quick. He has one set of hard tyres remaining, which he could use. McLaren are probably intending to finish the race on these tyres, which is mad, thinking about the degradation that has been happening. Button wants to know what tyres Vettel has on, but he won’t like the answer. Red Bull are clearly easier on their tyres at this point.
Lap 33 De la Rosa is out, the victim of a blown engine it looks like. Webber has ten and a half seconds over Hamilton, but has pitted once less. Not necessarily meaning, you understand, that that is a disadvantage, because Hamilton et al will be slow towards the end if they stay on these tyres. Vettel wants to know if he has to pass Button to win. The answer is yes, because now it sounds like Vettel may not stop again, gleaning from the team radio feeds.
Lap 35 Schumacher is in tenth, and looking good. This is where the canny old racing brain may come into play, for serious points. Team-mate Rosberg is now eighth.
Lap 36 Vettel seems to be closer than ever to Button for fourth; the gap must be no more than a second. Kubica is going to be investigated for recklessly sweeping past Sutil and diving into the pits instead. “Just keep doing what you’re doing, Mark,” says Ciaran Pilbeam to Mark Webber. “Hamilton is leading a four, trying to get to the end on primes.” Webber’s tyres are slowly going, he says.
Lap 39 Massa has caught Liuzzi, and is challenging him. They have history.
Lap 40 Lewis Hamilton is in the 1.18s, looking dangerous for Webber. But Hamilton has repeatedly been told to conserve his tyres, something he is not necessarily the best at. “Webber is coming back to us,” says Andy Latham to Hamilton.
Lap 42 Hamilton takes two seconds out of Webber. Does Webber pit now? It’s a toughie for the Red Bull strategists. He is losing time, but could gain it later as the McLaren’s tyres fall off. Webber has just caught the aforementioned Massa/Liuzzi battle, which then ends as Massa pits.
Lap 43 Webber is stuck behind Sutil and Hulkenberg who are battling away now. It’s losing him chunks of time. Alonso is not looking shabby either as he chases. Webber will actually be able to see the men following him now. The gap is less than five seconds.
Lap 46 Christian Horner has ordered Vettel to pass the cars in front of him. Vettel doesn’t know how to do that while he is also supposed to have turned his engine down, and he tells his boss that. Horner says that his team are “managing an issue”, whatever that means. Hamilton’s rears are looking shoddy, and Alonso must be sitting pretty. He looks to be in a better position than anyone else.
Lap 49 Webber, Hamilton and Alonso are circulating very close to each other now. Webber surely must pit, to save his race. On the pit straight, for lap 50, Hamilton takes Webber, who now is defending against Alonso.
Lap 51 Webber has pitted, conceding the race win, surely. He returns in fifth, behind all those he was leading.
Lap 52 As he’s on new tyres, Webber may catch those guys and the first one he’d get to? A certain S.Vettel. This could yet get more interesting.
Lap 54 It’s now Hamilton, Alonso, Button, Vettel, Webber, Kubica, Rosberg, Schumacher, Buemi, Hulkenberg, Sutil, Massa, Alguersuari, Liuzzi. But Massa is now through on Sutil.
Lap 55 Tyres again I’m afraid. Hamilton’s are looking increasingly shot, but Alonso’s pace is none too special. Button might be the outside bet for the win here, having as we do fifteen laps left. Not that it’s of any consequence, but we’ve just lost Glock.
Lap 57 Button has taken Alonso in a wonderful move when the Spaniard was boxed in behind Chandhok. It might be spicy now, with Button catching Hamilton.
Lap 58 But Alonso is not giving up on Button. He’s not far behind, and there are backmarkers galore ahead. Webber is taking a second a lap out of the leaders, by the way, and only half a lap behind in geographical terms. Vettel must be sweating, but presumably that issue he has means he won’t put up much of a fight. Or will he?
Lap 59 Button’s tyres are in impossibly better condition than Hamilton’s or Alonso’s. The world champion took nearly half a second out of his leading team mate last lap. Only ten laps to go: will they be allowed to fight or not? Pressure on Hamilton now. Meanwhile, Buemi takes Schumacher in a great move for eighth.
Lap 62 Hamilton is sooooo close to that Wall of Champions now each lap. But he sets a fastest lap, a statement of intent for the win. Alonso may well have a thrust or two at second if he can hang on to Button.
Lap 63 Massa had cruised up to Schumacher, whose tyres are officially gone, only to be uncompromisingly whacked off the track by his erstwhile team-mate. That wasn’t cricket, Michael. Expect sanction. Massa pits to repair a broken front wing.
Lap 64 A Vettel in full Florence Nightingale mode (nursing his car, see what I did there?) is still keen on getting the fastest lap. His engineer tells him to forget about it.
Lap 66 It’s Hamilton, Button, Alonso, Vettel, Webber, Rosberg, Kubica, Buemi, Schumacher, Liuzzi.
Lap 68 Liuzzi is threatening Schumacher now, and the old dog is in no mood to lose more places. He does though, and lets Liuzzi and Sutil through after a battle.
Lap 70 LEWIS HAMILTON WINS THE CANADIAN GRAND PRIX
It’s Hamilton, Button, Alonso for the one-two-three. Vettel takes fourth, with Webber fifth and a good drive from Rosberg for sixth. Kubica, Buemi, Liuzzi, Sutil follow, with Schumacher not getting a point, and may be subject to post-race sanction to add insult to injury. Alguersuari did well to come 12th, Then there’s Hulkenberg, Barrichello in 14th, Massa, Kovalainen and Petrov, Chandhok, and with di Grassi the last of the runners.
A wonderful drive from Hamilton, which was by no means easy. Button takes second but may be could have had more, if it hadn’t been for Hamilton’s outright pace. Alonso worked hard for the third, and maybe lost the win behind the Lotus that held him up when Hamilton was pitting.
McLaren take the one-two with a brilliantly-executed strategy, which was nevertheless risky. The tyres held out, just, and Red Bull did not have an answer.
“It was fantastic,” says Martin Whitmarsh. “A lot of people doubted the strategy but we knew what we were doing. We were able to see a gap in traffic and put the drivers in there, but you have got to have a little bit of good fortune.”
“Things have just gone so well,” says Hamilton. “This was one of the toughest races so far but that’s what you want…Traffic was the opportunity for us today and I capitalised.”
Button conceded that Hamilton had beaten him yesterday. “This type of race is very difficult. I had Vettel pushing me for over 20 laps…a great race and really enjoyable. We had to think about every situation, it made it very exciting,” said Button. “This guy [Hamilton] did a fantastic job yesterday.”
Alonso was circumspect, despite possibly having been capable of winning. “It was a good day for us. We had a good opportunity to win today, but we lost the position in traffic. We are moving in the right direction and we are back in the fight,” he stated.