2013 Canadian Grand Prix analysis: Where Sunday's race was won and lost
Was there any stopping Sebastian Vettel in Montreal? Was Adrian Sutil harshly treated by the stewards? And which tyre was faster?
By James Galloway and Pete Gill
Last Updated: 11/06/13 5:12pm
Just how dominant was Vettel?
The overriding feeling following Sunday's race that we had just witnessed the most resounding victory of the season so far is certainly confirmed by the statistics, with Sebastian Vettel's winning margin of 14.4 seconds four seconds larger than any other victorious advantage in 2013.
In fact it was the largest distance between the first and second-placed driver since last October's Japanese GP which, needless to say, was also won by the reigning World Champion.
The German's exclamation on his slow-down lap that "the car was absolutely amazing" certainly seemed to reflect his own enjoyment of his 70-lap masterclass, two small scares aside. Indeed, it was the first time this season that Vettel had been fully able push the limits of the RB9 without any concerns about shredding its tyres.
He certainly wasted no time in stamping his mark on the race away pole with, even by his own renowned fast-starting standards, his two-second advantage over Lewis Hamilton by the end of the opening lap was deeply impressive. Immediately lapping between four and six tenths a lap faster than the Mercedes, he increased his lead to 3.2s by lap three, 4.2s by lap five and 6.5s by lap 11. By the time of his lap-16 pitstop, Hamilton was seven seconds behind, and with the Briton running a slightly longer first stint on the supersofts, the gap had stretched to 11 seconds in the Red Bull's favour by the time things had settled back down on lap 20.
Although soon encountering cars to lap into his second stint, Vettel was a model of fast-charging consistency. Lapping initially in the low 1:19s and then mid 1:18s, 11 of his 12 tours between laps 26 and 37 were within three tenths of each other, and with Hamilton invariably still in the 1:19s at the same stage, Vettel now had an effective earned himself a 'free' pitstop. Indeed, once his second and final lap-49 stop was completed with the minimum of fuss, it was a case of him just managing the car and gap to the finish and the Red Bull pitwall trying to come up with increasingly compelling ways to prevent him from going all out for the race's fastest lap!
But could Alonso have run him closer?
One fascinating detail divulged in the smallprint of Sunday's lapcharts is the clear evidence that Fernando Alonso had as much pace as Sebastian Vettel during the second-half of the race. In fact, the Ferrari was significantly faster than the Red Bull after both cars reached the half-way stage of the race.
Whereas Vettel only lapped in the 1:16s for nine of his final 35 laps, Alonso, running a near-identical strategy, did so 16 times. Particularly in the latter stages, the Spaniard was a model of consistency, his inexorable pace advantage only interrupted on lap 62 when he lost three seconds jousting with Lewis Hamilton and then again on lap 64 when a slight mistake triggered a 1:17.9 and almost allowed the Mercedes to reclaim second.
But otherwise, Alonso was very, very quick, finishing the race 14.4 seconds behind Vettel having fallen back 26.6 seconds at the halfway stage.
The caveat to such a positive impression is, though, the indisputable reality that Vettel will have eased off after building up an insurmountable lead. Whereas both Alonso and Webber set their fastest times of the race on the penultimate lap, when their cars would have been carrying the least amount of fuel, Vettel's quickest time was set on lap 55 of 70. He was in cruise control thereafter with plenty of speed in reserve.
Still, there is ample evidence to suggest that Alonso would have given Vettel a genuine fight for victory if only he could have qualified in the same section of the track as the Red Bull. Alas, that's an 'if' which Ferrari currently appear incapable of delivering at present.
Was the blue flag against Sutil unfair?
The Force India driver is so convinced he was a victim of injustice in Montreal that he intends to meet with FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting at Silverstone to discuss the reasons why he was handed a drive-through penalty on lap 61. The answer should not be long in coming: according to the FIA's own race briefing, Sutil ignored blue flags from Turn 3 to Turn 13.
To quote, as Whiting might well do, Article 20.6 of the Sporting Regulations, 'As soon as a car is caught by another car which is about to lap it during the race the driver must allow the faster driver past at the first available opportunity. If the driver who has been caught does not allow the faster driver past, waved blue flags will be shown to indicate that he must allow the following driver to overtake.'
For Hamilton, Sutil's reluctance - bordering on a refusal - to yield was costly in the extreme. Whilst some have sought to argue that Hamilton in fact benefited from a tow along the backstraight, any such defence doesn't stand up to scrutiny (or indeed seem to notice that, having held Hamilton up for over a lap, Sutil then let Alonso straight through). On lap 58, Hamilton registered a time of 1:16.646. On lap 60, he set a 1:16.651. And on lap 59, the fateful lap which the Mercedes spent stuck behind Sutil as Alonso closed in on second place, Hamilton was reduced to a 1:17.764.
Who got their tyre strategy wrong?
There was a common regret running through Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa and Jenson Button's respective assessments of their races on Sunday night - namely that they had each in one way or another got the timing of their supersoft tyre stints wrong.
While with the two-stopping Massa, and three-stopping Rosberg, this was in regards to their respective second stints, for the one-stopping Button it was his first after McLaren decided to run a reverse strategy to the one so effectively adopted by Paul di Resta. Pirelli themselves had predicted on Saturday night that the supersoft would prove the compound of choice for the field, but it turned out to be the comfortably durable white-marked 'prime' that most runners completed the majority of laps on.
Massa, attempting to make up for his crash in Q2, complained of supersoft graining during his 23-lap second stint as his early headway up the order stalled and indeed having initially run right behind Adrian Sutil following his lap 17 service, suddenly dropped eight seconds back on the Force India between lap 28 and his return to the pits on lap 41.
Meanwhile, despite also sticking with the theoretically faster 'option' tyre at his opening stint, the then third-placed Rosberg dropped a second or more per lap to race leader Vettel, and three-four tenths to team-mate Hamilton, on his return to the track which served to delay both Webber and Alonso before the pair eventually both got past on lap 30, with the Mercedes forced into a three-stop a lap later.
How did Force India gauge Di Resta's marathon first stint?
Probably the most remarkable thing about this year's Canadian GP - and further evidence as to why Force India have been desperate for Pirelli to resist calls to overhaul their tyres - was Paul Di Resta's 56-lap first stint which completely turned the Scot's weekend around after another nightmare Q1 had left him 17th on the grid.
Force India's bold one-stopping comeback plan with an opening stint on the medium tyres was somewhat in contradiction with F1's heavily-controlled modern strategy methods given it turned out after the race that the pitwall had left the call of when to stop entirely in their driver's hands. "The tyres lasted very well, the lap times were competitive and the team told me it was my decision about when to make my stop, Di Resta explained. "As soon as I felt the tyres starting to drop off, I came in."
Like a plane steadily dropping in altitude on its long approach to land, Di Resta's lap times over that marathon stretch were blocked together in neat chunks as he came down from initial 1:22s to mid-1:28s by three-quarter distance. When he ultimately did pit on lap 56, the Scot had just actually set his second-fastest time to that point (1:18.581) - which amazingly would actually prove his seventh fastest lap of the whole race - with his general laptimes at that point having only been around a second slower than Lewis Hamilton for instance, who had not long switched to fresh rubber, and as quick, if not quicker, than other two-stoppers further down the order such as Sergio Perez.
An eventual seventh-place finish was therefore a fitting reward.