June 15, 2010
Hamilton rules Canada but should Mclaren have been disqualified?
Without a doubt, the best car and best driver won in Montreal. Hamilton was faultless and, for once, on top of his tire consumption the key strategic issue of the race.
On Saturday, Red Bull gambled that conceding pole on Saturday in exchange for starting on the preferred hard compound when heavy on fuel would pay off in the race. As it turned out, Webber would have gotten pole on those prime tires save for a last second heroic lap by Lewis Hamilton which put him a colossal 2/10th ahead.
Talent aside, where did that 2/10th come from? Mclaren deliberately sent Hamilton out with a car that did not have enough fuel to make it back to the pits with the mandated one liter of fuel required to pass technical inspection. This is why they asked Lewis to shut the engine down on his in lap and strand the car.
Comically, Mclaren'ss party line was that the lack of fuel was a "misunderstanding" but obviously Woking employs a team of sporting regulation lawyers in full time radio contact because, in the 1:15 sec it took Hamilton to do his lap, they had already figured out there was no stated "rule" for the car to return to the pits under it's own power and that they would only incur a fine for not making it back in the required 1:30 seconds as stated by an FIA "memo". This is precisely what happened. After the race Martin Whitmarsh warned other teams should not try this in the future as the FIA is sure to crack down on running cars effectively under weight and stranding them by the side of the track... Some calculated Mclaren saved 2.3kg of fuel with this trick and that 2.3 kg in Montreal equals, you guessed it, 2/10th.
Regardless of the controversy, Hamilton deserved the win with a Mclaren ideally suited to the track with no fast corners, long straights, hard braking and requiring mechanical grip coming out of the chicanes. Button played it cool and towards the end he might have pressured Hamilton save for the usual "it's not team orders" call from the pits. Mclaren also benefitted from the old "unsafe release" rule having fallen out of favor and the stewards allowing side by side racing in pit lane again.
Montreal is also a good track for the downforce challenged Ferrari and Alonso put up a good fight. It might have been his race but for run ins with traffic. Buemi, the team should have told him was due to come in. The Lotus blocking his in lap was a big one which allowed Hamilton to come out of the second pit stop round ahead. Finally, Alonso made that inexplicable move to the dirty side of the track after misjudging Chandock's lack of speed and allowing Button to cruise by for second. Third is a good result after the Turkish disaster but there are once again many regrets.
Red Bull were the big losers and once more, it was mechanical reliability which clipped their wings. Webber had to give up the front row because of a gearbox change and Vettel first could not capitalize on their tire choice at the start and later had to nurse the car home to fourth. The team's tire strategy for Webber, I'll be frank, seemed more designed to make sure he finished behind Vettel than anything else.
All and all, a great race to watch with three world champions on the podium. Very cool. Bon retour au Quebec!
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