Just about everyone got something wrong in Montreal in the 2012 Canadian Grand Prix. McLaren
misread the race strategies of their chief rivals and had yet another pit stop fumble or two; Red Bull
gambled on a pit stop strategy that backfired spectacularly in the closing laps.
In the end, up was down and left was right: just 24 hours earlier, pole sitter Sebastian Vettel
had declared Canada to be a "crazy place" that delivered "crazy races", and it turned out he was spot on. It just came down to raw driving ability of the various contenders to decide the outcome, with some unexpected faces delivering the goods and duly claiming podium positions as a result.
The race had started soberly enough, with Vettel leading into the first corner and Lewis Hamilton
and Fernando Alonso
dutifully slotting into line behind him. Mark Webber
had a tougher time of it fending off Nico Rosberg
through the first corners but he finally made it stick, leaving Rosberg to try - and fail - to hold off first Felipe Massa
and Paul di Resta through successive runs through the DRS activation zone into the final chicane.
Unfortunately Massa blotted his copybook soon after and spun through turn 1 on lap 6, dropping him down to 12th and also flat-spotting his tyres in the process which doomed him to an early first pit stop. Paul di Resta was also on an early stop strategy, and that backfired for the Scot when it stuck him in the middle of traffic and as a result neither he nor Massa featured strongly for the rest of the day, Massa ultimately just pipping di Resta for the final championship point in 10th place.
Not much was happening at the front of the field in the early stages, with the biggest moment being a lovely DRS-aided move by Kimi Raikkonen
on a struggling Jenson Button
to claim seventh place on lap 15. Button pitted next time around for a change to the supersoft tyres, having been one of the few to start on the prime tyres off the grid; but the new tyres did little to help alleviate his ongoing dismal form in Canada and he continued his slide backwards for the rest of the afternoon, finally finishing down in 16th place and a lap off the lead, having been told to make way for his team mate at the most embarrassing lowpoint of the entire weekend for the 2011 race winner.
Sebastian Vettel was also in early, his stop on lap 16 surely ruling out the possibility that he could be planning on running the next 54 laps on a single set of harder prime tyres. Hamilton was in two laps later having pumped in some fast laps in the interim, but a problem with the anti-stall kicking in as he tried to get away nearly frustrated the plan to jump in front of Vettel on the exit. In the end he'd done just enough, and now they just had to wait and see what happened when it came to Alonso's stop.
He was in next time around - and as he came out, he was just in front of the McLaren, making that slight anti-stall fumble look potentially very costly. But Hamilton had other ideas about that and wasn't about to settle for second spot quite yet: aware that Alonso would be having to work to get his new tyres to their optimum temperature, he realised he had maybe one lap to take advantage through the DRS activation zone into the final chicane. He gambled, and he won: he made the move and Alonso had no reply.
Hamilton wasn't in the lead at this stage, Romain Grosjean
still having to pit which he did at the end of lap 21, thereby handing the top spot back to Hamilton. Now Hamilton had clear space in front of him and he promptly drove it like he'd stolen it, pulling out an impressive margin over his pursuers. The McLaren
team - confident in their assessment that everyone would be following the same two-stop strategy as they were - were relaxed enough to advise Hamilton to ease off a bit and not push the car or the tyres too hard. Hamilton duly obliged, not too worried as Alonso started to sneak back ever closer on the back of the McLaren.
Behind Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel came the interesting scenario of three cars that had still not come in to stop: Kimi Raikkonen, Kamui Kobayashi
and Sergio Perez. It started to dawn on everyone that these drivers were actually going to attempt a one-stopper. According to McLaren's analysis, this was never going to work - was it? Behind them were three cars that had
stopped and looked on course for two stoppers (Webber, Rosberg and Grosjean) and they were followed by Pastor Maldonado rounding out the top ten.