There’s always something a little special about Montreal and in 2014 it was Daniel Ricciardo who profited to claim a sensational maiden Formula 1 win in a thrilling and chaotic Grand Prix. The Australian put in a storming drive and profited when his rivals struck trouble to take the first win of his burgeoning career.
Up until the mid-point of the race, the talk was all about the continuing fight for supremacy between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. Rosberg claimed the advantage in qualifying and he maintained his position despite a slow start. The duo ran side-by-side through the first corner until Hamilton wisely backed out, his resultant loss of speed handing second position to Sebastian Vettel.
The safety car was deployed early on due to a collision between Marussia duo Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton. The Brit got into a slide and clipped the back of his team-mate, sending Bianchi on a heavy collision course with the turn four wall. Chilton sustained sufficient damage to the front of his Marussia MR-03 to end his run of finishes.
After a seven lap caution period – to clear up oil at turn four – the racing resumed with Rosberg edging ahead of Vettel, who in turn came under pressure from the other Mercedes of Hamilton.
Hamilton naturally took little time to pass the reigning world champion and set about hunting down his main contender for this year’s title. The Mercedes pair eased away from Vettel and maintained their positions following a pit stop, after which the timing screens began to light up next to Hamilton’s name. Rosberg, under pressure, miraculously saved a slide through turn four, coming within inches of the exit wall.
The Brit carved his deficit to Rosberg by half a second a lap until he got to within DRS range, at which point the #6 Mercedes locked his front tyres and opted to cut the chicane, setting the fastest lap as a result and opening up an advantage over Hamilton.
The stewards investigated Rosberg’s error and Mercedes told Hamilton to stay put, just in case a penalty was received. Ultimately Rosberg was given the all-clear and Hamilton set about eating into Rosberg’s lead, getting the gap down to 0.321s before beginning to slip back. On the radio came the cry – a loss of power. His sector three time was slow, but on the next lap he matched Rosberg’s effort in the last sector. Crisis averted? Quite the opposite. Crisis exacerbated.
Rosberg was beset by the same electrical issues, leading to a complete loss of MGU-K on both W05 Hybrids. The next result was that both drivers were losing two to three seconds per lap, with the time loss concentrated in the high-speed final sector.
Was the dominant run about to be ended – and if so, by which driver?
At this stage it was Force India’s Nico Hülkenberg who was their nearest challenger, some 25 seconds down the road and yet to stop after starting the race on the prime tyres. He was holding up Sebastian Vettel, who rapidly caught up with the VJM07 following his own stop but couldn’t get past the Force India, which was quicker in a straight line.
Then there was Sergio Pérez, who stopped mid-race for a set of options, and was in turn holding up Ricciardo. By lap 40, Ricciardo had got ahead of Vettel after stopping a lap later than his Red Bull counterpart. Little did they know it, but the timing of the stops for the Red Bull duo would actually decide the winner.
But could it be Felipe Massa, whose sole stop earlier in the race had now put him in a prime position. More pertinently, would any of these guys be able to catch the wounded Mercedes drivers?
In the end, both Rosberg and Hamilton made a second stop – and Rosberg’s slow stop handed the advantage to Massa, with Hamilton also jumping ahead of his title rival.
But all was not well with Hamilton’s Silver Arrow.
Hamilton ran wide at the hairpin, providing Rosberg with the initiative and the duelling pair went side-by-side down the back straight, until Hamilton braked and went straight on at the chicane.
It was clear that Hamilton’s car had suffered a sizeable brake problem and he duly pulled into the pits at the end of the next lap.
“The thing is I was following him and when you are following someone you are getting more heat – he was in clean air the whole time in front and so there was not much I could do,” said the Brit.
It was a massive blow to his world title prospects, but would Rosberg be able to go the distance?
Williams had Massa in the lead of the race with a four second gap to Rosberg but felt that his tyres wouldn’t last the distance and opted to pit him for a second time, astonishingly handing the lead back to the Mercedes driver.
Herein began a fascinating tactical battle between an ailing, but dominant car, and rivals desperate to collect an expectedly huge haul of points.
Rosberg’s ERS problems meant that his speed deficit in sector three was massive, but second placed Pérez was unable to capitalise through the first and second sectors and couldn’t get close enough to get within DRS range. Lap after lap the Force India racer crossed the line just tenths behind Rosberg, but the German would promptly pull out the required lead before the back straight.
Behind Pérez was the Red Bull duo – quick through the first two sectors, but not able to get through the Mexican courtesy of the straight line speed difference between the two cars.
The leading five cars – now joined by Massa, who was blindingly rapid on fresh tyres – were separated by just two seconds with a handful of laps remaining.
Could Rosberg do the seemingly impossible and hang on for victory?
Pérez was still holding up Ricciardo but beginning to struggle with a rear brake issue and the Australian finally made the move work on the back straight.
Ricciardo’s rapid pace through the first two sectors aided his progress and he soon caught up with Rosberg, making the move stick approaching the chicane with just over two laps remaining.
Pérez’s struggles meant that Rosberg was in a safe second place, but the battle for the final step of the podium ended in a frightening high speed crash at the first corner.
Pérez jinked slightly to the left approaching the first turn, catching Massa unawares. The Williams clipped the back of the Force India, sending Pérez into the barrier at high speed. Massa’s out of control FW36 came horribly close to side-swiping Vettel; an impact avoided due to the alertness of the Red Bull racer. Massa came to a stop after a ferocious impact with the barriers and although both drivers were deemed okay, the g-forces registered meant that both drivers had to go to hospital. The stewards deemed that Pérez changed his racing line and was thus at fault – as a result he sustains a five place grid drop for Austria.
The race was neturalised, meaning that Ricciardo had an easy last lap to claim a popular maiden Grand Prix victory, ahead of Rosberg and Vettel.
Jenson Button collected fourth place after being the main beneficiary of a few scraps; the Brit passed both Hülkenberg and Fernando Alonso during the closing stages.
That Alonso was only sixth in a race of such high attrition was a damning indictment of Ferrari’s current predicament and with Red Bull’s win it means that third in the championship is probably their best chance.
Valtteri Bottas was seventh, ahead of Jean-Éric Vergne, who showed his worth in a race where he finally had some fortune.
Kevin Magnussen collected two points in ninth although lamented having to save tyres, while Kimi Räikkönen was a lowly 10th and spun at the hairpin.
Pérez and Massa were classified in 11th and 12th, while Adrian Sutil was a very distant 13th for Sauber.
As in Monaco, technical failures struck several drivers.
Esteban Gutierrez retired during the closing stages with an energy store problem, while Daniil Kvyat spun at turn one early on in the race before retiring with a transmission failure. Neither Lotus driver made the distance – Pastor Maldonado suffered a repeat of power unit issues which scuppered his qualifying, while damage to his rear wing left Romain Grosjean on the side lines. Caterham also had a double retirement as Marcus Ericsson suffered a mechanical failure while a suspension failure ended Kamui Kobayashi’s day prematurely.
But while a couple of Renault teams struggled, the French engine supplier broke Mercedes’s strangehold on the 2014 season courtesy of Ricciardo’s fine win. The man himself was overwhelmed by his first success in the top echelon of the sport.
“I’m still a bit in shock,” he said on the podium. “Thanks everyone. This is ridiculous!”
By the time he arrived in the press conference, he was still surprised by his achievement.
“It’s still a bit surreal but yeah, just realty cool. It’s not that we were leading the whole race, so it’s not that I had time to understand that I was going to win, it all happened in the last few laps, so I think that’s why it’s still taking a while to comprehend in my head. But really nice, a really good feeling.”
Ricciardo’s win was universally popular across the Formula 1 paddock and a good tonic for Red Bull ahead of their home race in two weeks’ time.
|1||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||Winner||6||25|
|2||6||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||+4.2 secs||1||18|
|3||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||+5.2 secs||3||15|
|4||22||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||+11.7 secs||9||12|
|5||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||+12.8 secs||11||10|
|6||14||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||+14.8 secs||7||8|
|7||77||Valtteri Bottas||Williams-Mercedes||+23.5 secs||4||6|
|8||25||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Renault||+28.0 secs||8||4|
|9||20||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren-Mercedes||+29.2 secs||12||2|
|10||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Ferrari||+53.6 secs||10||1|
|11||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||+1 Lap||13|
|12||19||Felipe Massa||Williams-Mercedes||+1 Lap||5|
|13||99||Adrian Sutil||Sauber-Ferrari||+1 Lap||16|
|14||21||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber-Ferrari||+6 Lap||22|
|Ret||8||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||+11 Lap||14|
|Ret||26||Daniil Kvyat||STR-Renault||+23 Laps||15|
|Ret||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+24 Laps||2|
|Ret||10||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham-Renault||+47 Laps||21|
|Ret||13||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus-Renault||+49 Laps||17|
|Ret||9||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham-Renault||+63 Laps||20|
|Ret||4||Max Chilton||Marussia-Ferrari||+70 Laps||18|
|Ret||17||Jules Bianchi||Marussia-Ferrari||+70 Laps||19|