CANADIAN GP DEBRIEF
REASON FOR RICCIARDO TO SMILE
It only took a whiff of good luck to deliver to Daniel Ricciardo a memorable maiden victory
As Australia woke to the news of Daniel Ricciardo’s maiden victory in Canada there were calls to rename the Queens Birthday Monday public holiday Daniel Ricciardo Day. On the podium even Dan himself seemed surprised, but it was certainly a deserved win, one which only came after Ricciardo took full advantage of the few opportunities which did come his way. It was a shock to see a non-silver car take the chequered flag, because the early season form of the Mercedes team had made the prospect of anyone other than Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg winning this year remote at best. So to claim one’s first grand prix win in such circumstances, and in the process become the first non-Merc driver to win this year, is pretty damned special. From an Australian point of view, what made Ricciardo’s first grand prix win even more special was that it came less than three days before the state funeral was held for Sir Jack Brabham. From the Red Bull team’s perspective, it’s perhaps poetic that on the very day Ricciardo gave the team its first win for 2014 it came to light that Adrian Newey was to step back from his day-to-day Red Bull role, one of his cars won the Canadian Grand Prix, bringing to an end Mercedes’ domination of the 2014 season. Over the next few months Newey will move into a consultancy role to mentor new talent within Red Bull (and work on other projects), so it was fitting that young Daniel Ricciardo scooped his maiden F1 victory and gave the RB10 its first win of the year. It was a deserved victory, because during the race Ricciardo took full advantage of the opportunities presented to him, and and included the chance to take the lead for the first time just two laps from
home. His cause was helped, it must be said, by both Mercedes W05 Hybrids self-destructing in the heat of the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve on Montréal’s Île Notre-Dame. The start/finish straight is very narrow and the first- and second-placed cars were noticeably close to each other on the grid. It meant secondplaced Hamilton had a chance of passing his team-mate Rosberg if he made a good start. That’s just what he got, and the two approached the braking zone for Turn 1 side by side. Rosberg was on the inside and he locked up but managed to force Lewis wide – causing him to lose a place to Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton later described the move as “just racing…” At the next corner later there was mayhem at the back of the pack. Max Chilton lost control entering Turn 3 and speared into his Marussia team-mate Jules Bianchi, whose car was spun hard into the outside wall. Cue Safety car. In Chilton’s 26th grand prix, his remarkable 100 per cent F1 finishing record had come to an end. On the restart, Rosberg made the most of Hamilton being stuck behind Vettel’s Red Bull and began to open up a gap. But after ten laps, Hamilton had clambered up to second and began to slowly hunt down his team-mate. His good work came undone in the first round of pitstops as the two came in to change from the supersoft to the soft-compound rubber. Rosberg stopped for 3.1secs, Hamilton 3.6secs, increasing the gap between them to 2.5 seconds. It could have been more, had Rosberg not lost time with a slide that so nearly ended his race in the wall at Turn 4. Hamilton set about closing the gap to get within DRS range. But on lap 25 Rosberg locked up under braking at the final corner, dodged the kerb and cut the corner, extending his advantage over Hamilton. Pete Bonnington gave Lewis sound advice over the radio in the context of what had happened in Monaco: “Nico is under investigation,” he said. “Don’t take any risks.” Despite Rosberg leading, you suspected this race would fall in Lewis’s favour. Then – suddenly – Mercedes’ race hit the skids. Entering Turn 10 on lap 36, first Rosberg, and then in Turn 7 on lap 37, Hamilton – both suffered a significant loss of power from their engines. “We had a failure of the engine control systems on the MGU-K; we found a peak in temperatures and they shut down,” explained Toto Wolff after the race. “It was something we haven’t had before. We told both drivers to manage the brakes as when you lose the electric motor you lose the electric braking, so the brakes were overheating. We told both drivers to be careful.” Lewis had been running more rearward brake bias, and when he entered the pits for his second stop, temperatures rose so high that his brakes failed completely on his return to the track, which forced his second retirement of the year. Rosberg continued to drive superbly to nurse his stricken Mercedes, some four seconds off the pace, which allowed the rest of the field to close up. The charge was led by the one-stopping Force India of Sergio Pérez, just ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel. Ricciardo once again outclassed his team-mate, squeezing ahead thanks to his aggressive pace on the in-lap of his second pitstop on lap 37. That was enough to put him in contention in the latter stages. “Sebastian reported he was in trouble with his tyres and wanted us to look at strategy,” said Red Bull’s Christian Horner soon after the chequered flag. “So we put him into a bit of clear air, pitted Dan a lap later and his in-lap was massively impressive. The pitstops were within 0.2secs of one other, but it was the in-lap that did the damage and that’s how he got the jump on Seb.”
With the Renault lacking the straightline speed to compete with Force India’s Mercedes engine, Ricciardo knew he had to overtake under braking and passed Pérez on the outside of the braking zone for Turn 1. With two wheels on the grass, he managed to hold it together and had four laps in which to pass Rosberg. He did it three laps from the end, taking his first win in a thrilling finish. Sadly, his final lap wasn’t at racing speed, as the Safety Car was deployed again for a scary-looking double-shunt involving Pérez and Massa. Heading into the last corner on lap 69, Vettel managed to pass Pérez, who was struggling with his brakes, encouraging Massa, on much fresher tyres, to do likewise into Turn 1 for the final time. There was contact between Force India and Williams (Pérez was later held to have changed his line in the braking zone, triggering the shunt) and both cars crashed heavily into the Turn 1 barriers. Massa’s out-of-control Williams only just missed Vettel as he entered the left-hander. Post-race, both Massa and Pérez were taken to hospital for checks and were later discharged. The only lasting wound was a five-place grid penalty for Pérez, to be served in Austria. Looking up at a delighted Ricciardo on the podium was Adrian Newey. He reminded us of where the team had been just a few months ago: “If you remember in pre-season testing we could barely string a lap together and we’ve got into a position in this race so when others have problems we can take advantage of them…” It’s that never-give-up spirit Newey will be hoping to pass on to future generations.