Canadian GPR Race Recap: Hamilton for the win, Grosjean & Perez podium

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Lewis Hamilton won the 2012 Canadian Grand Prix despite two slow pit stops, sliding past the fading Fernando Alonso in the DRS zone with less than ten laps to go. Alonso went right down the order at the end, having attempted to keep the advantage he gained with a leapfrogging single pit stop, ending the race fifth. Romain Grosjean, Sergio Perez, and Sebastian Vettel finished second through fourth in a race generally uneventful until pit strategy called the racing order into question. The race saw some drivers and teams going for a single stop strategy and others for a two-stopper under the hottest temperatures of the weekend in Montreal.

Race Start:
The seventy-lap race got going under a cloudless sky, on a scorching hot track. Only Button in the top ten started the race on the soft, rather than the super soft tyres, while Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Perez, Maldonado, and de la Rosa did so as well further down the field. Vettel led the way, with Hamilton slotting in behind him. Webber took a look at getting around Alonso, but the Spaniard held him off as Rosberg looked for his own way around Webber but could not manage to move ahead. Through the first two turns, things were remarkably clean, though Massa was pushing Rosberg hard through the first lap for sixth.

At the end of L1, Vettel had just over a second on Hamiltion, as Alonso, Webber, Rosberg, Massa, Di Resta, Grosjean, Schumacher, and Button completing the top ten. Massa moved up around Rosberg for sixth on the final turn, as the third lap began. Di Resta became the next driver to get around Rosberg, in a similar move on the next lap. Just a couple of laps later, Massa had a spin across the grass at the first turn, dropping down the order to twelfth. Even early in the race, Rosberg needed a reminder to keep looking after his tyres, while Massa worried about the state of his own after his spin. Soon thereafter, Mercedes reminded Rosberg that he also needed more fuel saving.

End L10:
Vettel’s lead over Hamilton could not grow beyond two seconds as L10 ended. Alonso, Webber, and Di Resta completed the top five, with a train of cars including Rosberg, Grosjean, Schumacher, Button, Kobayashi, Massa, Perez, and Hulkenberg completing the top fourteen behind the Scotsman.

Pit Stops Begin (L13):
Massa became the first driver to pit, switching to the soft tyre. Di Resta and Schumacher followed him in on L14. At the front, Hamilton had begun inching his way closer to Vettel, with just over a second separating them. Further back, Grosjean sped past Button, with Raikkonen the next to take position from the Brit, dropping him down to eighth. Button pitted on L16, rejoining in eighteenth. At the front, his teammate had gotten the gap to Vettel down to less than a second. Into the hairpin, Hamilton managed to have a look with Alonso close behind, but Vettel dove directly into the pits, as did Vergne from eleventh.

That left Hamilton in the lead, but Alonso was directly behind his old teammate. The Briton and Webber stopped on the next time ‘round, getting a relatively clean stop but was a bit slow to get out of the box. Still, Hamilton and McLaren managed to take the shuffled-back-lead from Vettel. In the actual lead, Alonso soon pushed to post a quick lap while Vettel attempted to tussle for position with Hamilton. Alonso pitted on L19, as did Rsoebrg who had sat in second. That left Grosjean in the lead, though the Frenchman also had yet to stop. However, Ferrari and Alonso managed a great in-lap, pit stop combination to get Alonso out in front of Hamilton.

At the end of L20, Grosjean led across the line, but Hamilton managed to use his DRS to slide past Alonso to take second in to the final turn. Vettel, Raikkonen, Kobayashi, Perez, Hulkenberg, Webber, and Rosberg rounded out the top ten.  Grosjean pitted, as did Hulkenberg, on the next lap. Raikkonen, Kobayashi, Perez, Maldonado, Senna, de la Rosa, Pic, Glock, and Karthikeyan also had yet to stop. Hamilton spent the next few laps flying, gaining a two second lead as Alonso came under pressure from Vettel. Meanwhile, Karthikeyan was again the first out, parking his HRT alongside the track. Kobayashi fell down the order as he pitted on L25. Just a couple laps later, de la Rosa finally pitted, only to be pushed back into the garage and listed as retired. Word later came that brake issues affected both drivers, and de la Rosa had been forced to spin his car instead of running into the wall.

Halfway (End L35):
As halfway approached, Hamilton’s race engineer reminded him that they needed to get to the target length of his stint. Meanwhile, Raikkonen and Perez in fourth and fifth had yet to stop and were looking increasingly safe for a one-stop strategy. Button pitted for the second time on L34 as his teammate had pulled out a four second lead over Alonso at the front. At the end of L35, Hamilton led Alonso, Vettel, Raikkonen, Perez, Webber, Rosjean, Massa, and Di Resta completed the top ten. Schumacher, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Vergne, Maldonado, Button, Kovalainen, Petrov, Senna, Pic, and Glock rounded out the twenty-two drivers still running.

Second Pit Stops Begin (L39):
Rosberg made the first second pit stop from seventh, just after setting a new race fast lap. Meanwhile, Button had been asked to change his gear change positions on the track, but informed hi engineer that he didn’t have the rear grip for it. Raikkonen finally pitted on L41, dropping down to eighth. At the hairpin, Schumacher went charging down the inside of Kobayashi, locking up dramatically and barely managing the pass. Kobayashi soon retuned the favor to take the position back. Perez made his first stop, rejoining in the middle of the battle over eighth as Rosberg had just passed Raikkonen. Perez soon passed the former world champion. Schumacher and Vergne pitted for the second time on L44, only for the German to have DRS issues. It appeared to be stuck open as he pitted, then he ran over the grass on his out lap and was forced to pit again and return to the garage for a fix, only to retire. Vergne, meanwhile, received a drive-through for speeding through the pit lane.

At the front, Hamilton was holding on with about a three and a half second lead over Alonso, despite complaining that his tyres were going off. Hamilton made his second stop on L51 as Alonso had dropped the gap. The Briton rejoined after another long stop with trouble on the right rear in third. Alonso himself was pushing hard, looking for a good set of in laps. Webber pitted next, while Button did as well from fifteenth. Hamilton himself pushed hard as Alonso continued to stay out without stopping. With fifteen laps to go, Alonso led Vettel, Hamilton, Grosjean, Massa, Rosberg, Perez, Webber, Raikkonen, and Kobayashi as the top ten. Some had stopped once, others twice, and strategy continued to remain fuzzy to those who were not planning it.

Meanwhile, Rosberg, Massa, and Perez locked themselves into a right old battle for a coupld of turns, as Rosberg cut the chicane to pass Massa, had to give the position back, then both came under attack from Perez, who managed to end the squabble over fifth. Soon, Rosberg nipped back past Massa, who fought with Webber just before diving into the pits.

10 Laps Remaining:
Alonso and Vettel looked ready to complete the race without stopping with just ten laps to go. Hamilton was just over three seconds behind Vettel, and barely more than six seconds behind Alonso. Grosjean, Perez, Rosberg, Webber, Raikkonen, Kobayashi, and Massa completed the top ten. However, Hamilton gained nearly all that time against Vettel in a single lap as the German also gained heavily again Alonso as their tyres went away. Hamilton worried Vettel through the hairpin, sliding past with the DRS into the final turn. By the time they next went through the hairpin, Hamilton was nearly as close to Alonso as he had been to Vettel. Meanwhile, the German pitted from third, dropping to fifth with a slow stop.

At the front, Hamilton looked for the outside under the bridge, only to have another look down the straight into the hairpin. He still could not pass, but managed to do so through the DRS zone. Alonso nipped in behind and seemed to immediately lose time to the Briton. Soon, Grosjean could be seen just behind Alonso on the track with five laps remaining. Grosjean moved up around Alonso to take second through the DRS zone, just flying past the Spaniard with four laps to go. Meanwhile, Vettel smacked the wall of champions with his right front, but continued on in fifth, having set the race fastest lap on that lap. Perez was the next to  come right up behind Alonso, less than three seconds behind him while setting laps nearly four seconds faster. The Mexican managed the pass neatly with the use of DRS after charging hard to catch the Spaniard. Vettel pushed past Alonso in his turn though the German managed to do so into the hairpin and without the use of DRS. Hamilton ended the race the seventh different driver of 2012 to win a race, with Grosjean and Perez rounding out a very happy podium.

Final Positions, 2012 Canadian Grand Prix:

 DriverTeamGapPit
1. Lewis HamiltonMcLaren2.52
2. Romain GrosjeanLotus5.21
3. Sergio PerezSauber7.21
4. Sebastian VettelRed Bull13.42
5. Fernando AlonsoFerrari13.81
6. Nico RosbergMercedes15.02
7. Mark WebberRed Bull15.52
8. Kimi RaikkonenLotus24.41
9. Kamui KobayashiSauber25.21
10. Felipe MassaFerrari37.62
11. Paul Di RestaForce India46.22
12. Nico HulkenbergForce India47.02
13. Pastor MaldonadoWilliams64.41
14. Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1 Lap2
15. Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1 Lap3
16. Jenson ButtonMcLaren1 Lap3
17. Bruno SennaWilliams1 Lap1
18. Heikki KovalainenCaterham1 Lap2
19. Vitaly PetrovCaterham1 Lap2
20. Charles PicMarussia3 Laps1
 Timo GlockMarussia14 Laps2
 Michael SchumacherMercedes27 Laps3
 Pedro de la RosaHRT46 Laps1
 Narain KarthikeyanHRT48 Laps

{author’s note: apologies for the delay…the one downside to a race held in one’s actual timezone is when one works weekends and is forced to miss the live showing of said race}

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