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Vettel in masterful form in 2013 Canadian GP
9 June 2013
Sometimes the world 'emphatic' or 'dominating' simply isn't strong enough. Sebastian Vettel's hold on the Canadian Grand Prix began just seconds after he leapt away from pole position, and continued blissfully uninterrupted for the next two hours until the chequered flag welcomed him home.
For Vettel, it would have been a welcome sight indeed - because he must have been a very lonely multiple world champion as he circulated in a world of his own, lapping all but the top five cars on his war to one of the most sweeping victories in the team's history.
Everyone's spirits had been lifted on lifted by the sight of blue skies, bone dry track and significantly warmer temperatures after two days of unceasing chilly, wet gloom in Montreal. Although the possibility of showers was still in the air, everyone was hoping that the day was set fair as far as Grand Prix action was concerned.
Sebastian Vettel led the field to the line at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with Lewis Hamilton alongside him, and as the lights went out the reigning world champion shot off through the first corner leaving Hamilton trailing in his week. Behind them both, Valtteri Bottas was cannon fodder as he was squeezed out by Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber through the first corner, and then rapidly dismissed by the superior power of Fernando Alonso's Ferrari a few corners later.
As Vettel pulled out a two second lead in as many laps, Bottas stabilised his position in sixth place ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne and Adrian Sutil. Vergne was soon past as well, but the Force India was squeezed out by the the Williams and ended up spinning at turn 3 after getting punted from behind by Bottas' team mate Pastor Maldonado. That scattered the cars behind them as they managed to avoid any collisions, and won Maldonado his latest drive-thru penalty for causing a collision. The incident seemed to buy Bottas some time to collect himself, and he started to pull away from Daniel Ricciardo in eighth place..
The Toro Rosso was still ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who was complaining to the pit wall of a brake problem with his car and struggling to keep tenth place from a hard-charging Felipe Massa bearing down on him. Also having problems was Paul di Resta whose DRS had temporarily malfunctioned, while his team mate Sutil was early to pit lane with some rear wing damage from his earlier spin. Even Sebastian Vettel was not immune as he gave the outside wall at the exit of turn 3 worryingly firm whack on lap 9 as he continued to push hard to extend his now-five second lead.
Lap 12 saw a large number of cars coming in for their first round of pit stops and the chance to ditch the supersoft tyres that the overwhelming majority of the cars had started on. Vettel and Alonso were comfortable staying out until the end of lap 16 allowing Lewis Hamilton to briefly take the lead before he came in on lap 19 which allowed him to resume on the track 9 seconds behind Vettel but crucially still in second place ahead of his team mate Nico Rosberg and Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber, with Alonso back out in fifth place ahead of Raikkonen who was the fastest car yet to pit but paying for it by being almost two seconds off the pace of the cars in front while also burning through his fuel faster than expected.
Raikkonen finally opted to pit on lap 23 but to add to all his other woes the rear jack slipped out and cost him time in the pits - it was clearly not going to be the Finn's day unless something sensational upset the flow of the race. Nor was there going to be a miracle for McLaren, with Jenson Button struggling as he attempted to make it to two-stop territory and finally having to pit after 27 laps.
There were some classic battles shaping up through the field, Rosberg having to work hard to keep third place out of Mark Webber's hands while further back Adrian Sutil and Felipe Massa were having something of an epic battle over ninth place. All the time, though Vettel was disappearing further and further into the distance, a 17-second leap by the time the 30-lap marker was reached.
A DRS boost on the run to the final chicane on lap 31 finally allowed Webber past Rosberg for the final podium spot and the Australian immediately set a fastest lap in the clear air. The overtake also broke Rosberg's momentum to the extent that Alonso quickly sneaked past seconds later; Rosberg responded by pitting for the second time today for a fresh tyres next time by, the Mercedes clearly still struggling to make the Pirelli tyres last as long as they need in race conditions since Rosberg was now told he'd have to make it to the end of the race - another 39 laps! - on the newly-installed set of tyres.
As the race hit half distance, Vettel's lead over Hamilton was still massive, while Hamilton himself still had nine seconds in hand over Webber who had damaged his front wing in a collision with lapped backmarker Giedo van der Garde in the Caterham at the hairpin which earned the Dutchman a 10-second stop-go penalty from the race stewards. The top three were followed by Alonso, Rosberg, Vergne, Paul di Resta and Romain Grosjean (both still to pit for the first time having opted to start on the medium compound tyres) followed by Sutil and Massa whose early charge had fizzled out.
Initially it seemed that the wing damage to Webber's car wasn't too much of an issue, as he and Alonso continued to reel in Hamilton up ahead; but eventually on lap 42 the Ferrari pounced and flew past the hobbled Red Bull to wrest the final podium position away with surprising ease. Even so, the team opted not to change the front wing on Webber's car when he came in for his second and hopefully last pit stop.
Webber's old sparring partner van der Garde had front wing problems of his own after contacting the back of Nico Hulkenberg's Sauber on lap 48, and the two cars ended up pulling over and retiring shortly afterwards - the first cars out of the Canadian Grand Prix. Although a safety car was never in prospect, Lewis Hamilton took the advantage of the waved yellows out on track to dive into pit lane for his final stop, which prompted the race leader to do likewise next time by.
A rare mishap from Vettel on lap 52 saw him cut over the grass and lose four seconds from his lead, but he still had a comfortable 15 seconds in hand while Lewis Hamilton was far more concerned with the rapidly closing Fernando Alonso behind him, now flirting with getting into DRS range at which point it was surely game over for the Mercedes in terms of retaining second spot. At least his day was going better that that of his team mate, as Rosberg was forced to come in for a new set of tyres after locking-up and flat-spotting the previous set on lap 58.
One man not having trouble with tyre wear was Paul di Resta. Having gambled on a contrary strategy by starting on the medium compounds, the Force India had managed a mighty 57 laps before coming onto pit lane for replacements, which would have to be a set of supersofts in order to adhere to regulations. By contract the only other top driver to try the strategy, Lotus' Romain Grosjean, had been forced to pit on lap 43 leaving him much more to do on the short-lived options.
The inevitable battle for second place was momentarily delayed by the presence of Adrian Sutil just ahead which gave Hamilton a DRS activation with which to fend off Alonso. Once the pair were past the Force India - Sutil getting a drive-thru for ignoring blue flags in the process - it was finally Alonso's time to bring all his guns to bear on the Mercedes, and while Hamilton initially warded off the attack by parking his car on the apex of the hairpin on lap 61 it was just a matter of minutes before Alonso finally pounded and passed the Briton on the outside line into turn 1. There was contact, and some flying pieces of bodywork, but nothing serious enough to significantly affect either car.
Of course, this swung the advantage of the DRS activation to Hamilton's corner and now it was Alonso's turn to defend and it wasn't until he edged his way out of the one second gap on lap 65 that he could finally be sure that Hamilton wasn't about to counterattack. Hamilton would have to settle for third place, and that seemed relatively secure as Webber was still troubled by compromised aerodynamics as a result of his broken front wing.
With Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton clinching the podium and Webber and Rosberg the only other cars left on the lead lap by the finish, the remainder of the top ten was filled out by lapped cars - Vergne, a valiant di Resta, Massa, Raikkonen and Sutil. There was also a final retirement from the race when Esteban Gutierrez put his Sauber into the tyre barrier after exiting pit lane on a new set of tyres, but the threat of a finish to the race behind the safety car was averted by quick action by the track marshalls retrieving the stricken car under local double waved yellows instead.
Further back, there were some bleak results for a few teams. Raikkonen had hi weakest outing of the year as he shepherded a clearly unwell Lotus to a painfully distant ninth place finish. At least that was better than McLaren, whose drivers never made an impression on the race: with Perez ending up in 11th place one spot ahead of Button, it's the end of team's long 64-race run of always getting at least one of their cars in the points. Nor was there much consolation for Williams, whose excitement at Bottas' third place on the grid soon evaporated on race day as the Finn ended up down in 14th place by the finish, two spots ahead of his penalised team mate Maldonado.
But at the front, Vettel was overjoyed at finally breaking his Canadian jinx and claimed victory at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, - which was received by notable boos and jeer from the crowd as he was interviewed on the podium. The Canadians seemed much more partial to the other two men on the podium with him, Alonso looking pleased and not a little relieved at having limited Vettel's margin of advantage in the championship standings by successfully pulling off that move for to second place on Hamilton, and Hamilton himself surely reasonably satisfied at having been in strong contention for the top spots for the entire afternoon.
In the championship standings, Vettel's tally is now a heft 132 points, with Alonso clinging on but till 36 points behind. Although there's still a dozen races left in the 2013 world championship, there's a worrying sign that the die is already cast when it comes to this year's drivers champion.Full race results available