McLaren extend their lead as BMW outpace Italian team
McLaren came away from Montreal with a 28-point lead over Ferrari in the world championship for constructors, after a fabulous maiden win by Lewis Hamilton, but even team boss Ron Dennis admitted it was a bitty day after Fernando Alonso lost out on a higher placing than his eventual seventh due to having to pit under the first safety car before the pit lane was officially open.
The nature of Hamiltons race drive, allied to the McLarens speed in practice and qualifying, came as a major blow to Ferrari, who had hoped to get back on terms after their problems in Monte Carlo.
Worse still for the Italian team, BMW Sauber made a big jump forward on this low-downforce track, with Nick Heidfeld running ahead of the F2007s all race and setting the third-fastest lap, ahead of them and right behind the two McLarens.
For the record, this is how the five fastest laps stacked up: Alonso 1m 16.367s; Hamilton 1m 16.494s; Heidfeld 1m 16.696s; Felipe Massa 1m 16.849s; Kimi Raikkonen 1m 16.861s.
While Hamilton put in a pluperfect performance, Alonso slid and slithered his way home seventh after no fewer than four mistakes under braking for Turn One. Massa was savaged in that corner by Raikkonen at the start, in the traffic, and was later disqualified because he failed to see the red light at the end of the pit lane during his refuelling stop on lap 25. Raikkonen had another troubled afternoon with that incident with Massa, a prolonged and bumpy trip over the grass in the back chicane on lap 11, and then excessive understeer caused by debris from Robert Kubicas accident becoming jammed under his car. So while McLaren garnered 10 points from Hamilton and two from Alonso, Ferrari got only four from Raikkonen.
BMW Sauber were delighted with Heidfelds strong second place, which he would probably have secured even if Alonso had not been penalised, but that was tempered by the scare when Robert Kubica clipped the right rear tyre on Jarno Trullis Toyota and went off the road at around 300 km/h in the flat-out left-hander leading to the hairpin. This was as nasty an accident as Formula One racing has seen in many years, and for a while things looked bleak. But in testament to the inherent strength of the modern F1 car, and as a ringing endorsement of the current safety standards, the Pole emerged almost completely unhurt, with nothing more than a concussion and a sprained ankle.
Heidfelds eight points lifted BMW Sauber further clear of Renault, who nevertheless scored another five points courtesy of Heikki Kovalainens gutsy drive to fourth place in the wake of Giancarlo Fisichellas disqualification for the same crime as Massa. They have 21 points to BMW Saubers 38.
Williams again came home in the points, this time a healthy six thanks to Wurzs survivors third place. In truth this really should have been the property of team mate Nico Rosberg, who drove superbly all weekend but, like Alonso, lost out badly when his lap 23 refuelling stop was penalised. Williams 13 points leave then well ahead of the other Toyota-powered team, the works squad for whom Ralf Schumacher took the final point. Trulli sustained a puncture in the Kubica accident, and later admitted that his heart wasnt in the contest afterwards. He crashed exiting the pits under the safety car, after his stop on lap 57.
If Barcelona was a big deal for Super Aguri, Montreal was even better, as a clever choice of the soft Bridgestone tyres for Takuma Satos last stint (based on single-stopping team mate Anthony Davidsons report that the super-softs were graining horribly on his sister car) enabled the feisty Japanese racer to catch and pass not just Schumacher, but also Alonso with two laps to go. Their three-point haul leaves them eighth, level on four points with Red Bull.
Davidsons chances of points ended with a collision with a groundhog on lap 37 which so damaged his front wing that he locked up the front tyres approaching the last corner and was obliged to head for the pits instead of getting round it. Since the team werent ready for him, he lost a lot of time and finished 11th.
At one stage, when Mark Webber was running second to Hamilton from lap 48 to 53, a healthy dose of points seemed on the cards for Red Bull, even though the Australian had spun down from ninth to 14th on lap four. But the safety cars did him no favours and his final pit stop on lap 54 put him back down to 12th. By the finish he was alongside Schumacher, but just failed to get the final point. David Coulthards race ended much sooner, when his RB3 was struck down with yet more gearbox problems while running 15th on lap 36.
Honda, too, looked good with Rubens Barrichello running third on lap 54 to 62, but he needed a final pit stop and fell back to 12th by the finish.
Spyker had both of their cars in the wars, Adrian Sutil hitting a wall out the back of the circuit on lap 22 and Christijan Albers, who had started from the pit lane, smashing off his front wing on lap 48 after running over the back chicane. Earlier the Dutchman had also brushed a wall.
With the focus now immediately on Indianapolis next weekend, the teams have precious little time to regroup before they go into action again on Friday. Small wonder the North American leg of the world championship is regarded as being a particularly tough part of the season.