By Lee McKenzie
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has never been shy about putting on a show. Over the years we’ve seen some real classic grands prix and while I know the law of averages says you can’t have that every time, this year was a little like watching an Open University maths lecture.
The only saving grace in terms of overtaking was that Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel both had problems in qualifying which meant they started at the back of the grid and had to work their forward. Add in a bit of McLaren frustration and there was something to keep it going throughout – just not at the right end of the grid.
After Ben’s rousing “lights out and away we go” in the commentary box, the race was on. Lewis Hamilton got the jump and the top four charged off as they had lined up. By my count it took almost 20 laps until we had a proper look at the leader again, just under a third of the race. There were the replays of the start, which I’m not counting, but I agree with those that wonder why the TV shows a car being chased with no real threat when there is overtaking further down the grid.
The battle with Ericsson and Massa was worth seeing and Vettel scattering cars like skittles was certainly entertaining. As was the Grosjean vs Stevens battle and a spinning Räikkönen. There was action, no doubt, but a battle for the lead would have been great.
The same goes for some team radio messages that didn’t involve saving tyres, fuel or lift-and-coast. It didn’t really feel like Hamilton was ever in danger from Rosberg on Sunday, but what value is there for a world champion team and all its sponsors if it’s on TV less than most of the other teams on a Sunday afternoon? There were a couple of messages towards the end of the race which had a less-than-anxious sounding Lewis asking if he was OK on fuel and being told to lift 50m before his braking points. That was enough to get TV coverage back to the front of the grid and several laps later he took his fourth win of the season, extending his lead in the championship to 17 points.
Further down the grid, McLaren had a dreadful weekend: Alonso needed an engine change after FP2, which meant he only completed a lap on Saturday morning. He did manage to split the Saubers in qualifying, but his team-mate Button fared even worse… His ers failed in FP3 and he had to miss the entirety of qualifying. He started from the back of the grid and then had to serve a drive-through penalty because of replacing his MGU-H.
Alonso started 13th, but it wasn’t long before he was under attack from everything on the circuit, apart from the groundhog, which had the good sense to run in a different direction.
Fernando saying publicly that “we look like amateurs” was no heat-of-the-moment call. The brave face was off and he was venting. After the race I asked him if he regretted the move to McLaren-Honda and he said no, because five years of me asking about him finishing third, fourth or fifth was frustrating and the only way he could win again was to take that chance. The onus is on Honda, and of course McLaren, to give him that chance.
Also in turmoil is Red Bull, which is easy to forget while they finish in the points and can hide behind McLaren’s headlines, but they seem to be in a mess. The always-polite and very talented Daniel Ricciardo wasn’t even angry after the chequered flag on Sunday, just confused and almost speechless as to how so much could not be working on a car that 12 months ago helped him to his first race victory.
As Formula 1 heads to the Red Bull Ring next week for that team’s home Grand Prix they will be hoping for some magic, otherwise Dietrich Mateschitz will be left embarrassed at his own party – he has made his feelings clear about where he stands on F1 if he is not winning.
It was good to see a Williams on the podium – in Austria last year it had a 1-2 in qualifying, so let’s hope it can spice things up once again this year. The weather looks like it will be hot, which would suit Ferrari more. Failing that we have Silverstone coming up which will provide four seasons in a day. Surely the next two GPs can give us what we all want to see and races that drivers enjoy driving. That is of course why we stick with F1, because when it’s good it is very good indeed.
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