Canada flashback 2007 - Hamilton takes his revenge 06 Jun 2008
While the preceding Monaco Grand Prix had shown just how fast they could be, McLaren arrived in Montreal for the 2007 Canadian race under a dark cloud. After their dominant one-two in Monte Carlo, the team had been investigated by the FIA following claims that team orders played a part in Fernando Alonsos win over Lewis Hamilton. And while the enquiry had found the team innocent, it remained a sticking point internally.
As a result, Hamilton was even more determined to get a maiden victory under his belt, while Alonso was eager to retain his championship lead. And after some serious soul-searching following their Monaco rout, Ferraris Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa were equally keen to return to winning form and remain in the title hunt.
During practice it was the McLarens that emerged as the strongest contenders, with Alonso leading the way. Although the Ferraris were quick, both Massa and Raikkonen acknowledged they needed to find more grip before they could work on race set-up. For BMW Sauber there seemed to be a growing threat from the rest of the midfield - in particular Renault and Williams, who looked to be closing in on the German-Swiss team. Takuma Sato, meanwhile, impressed for Super Aguri, clocking the 10th-fastest time.
Saturdays practice was by and large a similar story, although it was Hamilton who topped the timesheets, with Alonso in third behind Raikkonen. With an engine failure for Heikki Kovalainens Renault leaving a huge smear of oil on the track, it was a disrupted session and, as a result, Sato found himself even higher up the order in fifth.
Hamilton continued to fly and in qualifying scored his first Formula One pole position, ahead of team mate Alonso. But it was BMW Saubers Nick Heidfeld who sprung the biggest surprise, nuzzling ahead of both Ferraris to take third. Matters for Kovalainen, meanwhile, went from bad to worse. Not only did the Finn need an engine change (thus dropping 10 places on the grid), but after damaging his Renaults rear wing in Q3 he failed to make it though to Q2. He would start the race 22nd.
For pole sitter Hamilton things were by no means clear-cut. McLaren believed that the Ferraris would be faster over a race distance and while Heidfeld might play a handy role as a protective buffer, a good start for the German was far from certain. Indeed, anyone expecting a few surprises on Sunday would not be disappointed, as the race proved to be a frantic affair. With a massive accident for BMW Saubers Robert Kubica - and no fewer than four safety-car periods - it was certainly dramatic.
At the start Alonso looked to have got the jump on Hamilton, but when the Spaniard ran wide at Turn One he almost hit his team mate. Although no contact was made, Alonso lost his second place to Heidfeld. From there it was Hamiltons race. While the Briton drove flawlessly to take his long-desired maiden victory from an excellent Heidfeld, subsequent mistakes by Alonso (caused by braking issues) and an ill-timed pit stop, meant the reigning champion dropped further down the pecking order to finish in seventh.
Aside from the victorious Hamiltons there were plenty other great drives worthy of mention. Alexander Wurz stayed out of trouble to finish third for Williams, while Kovalainen enjoyed a plucky afternoon to go from the back of the grid to fourth, quelling the mounting doubts abut his ability. Super Aguris Sato clinched three points for the Japanese minnows thanks to a clever tyre strategy, and Toyotas Ralf Schumacher took the final point on offer.
For Ferrari, however, things didnt go quite to plan. Massa was disqualified after failing to see the red light at the end of the pit lane following a stop (a similar fate also befell Renaults Giancarlo Fisichella). Raikkonen, meanwhile, had a troubled afternoon, wrestling with understeer caused by debris from Kubicas crash becoming stuck under his F2007. He eventually finished fifth.
So it was McLaren who received the biggest boost to their championship challenge in Canada, with a welcome 12 points boosting their lead over Ferrari to 28 points. The onus had therefore fallen firmly on Ferrari to improve quickly or lose out in the long term. The trouble was with the United States Grand Prix less than a week away, the Italian team had very little time to do anything about it.