Robert Kubica has taken his first victory at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, propelling him to the very top of the drivers championship by four points. The win, which was also BMW’s very first in the sport as well, proves Kubica’s worth and Robert’s fine result was backed up by team mate Nick Heidfeld taking second place ahead of David Coulthard in his Red Bull. Considering what happened twelve months ago, the result will be fondly cherished by Kubica for a very long time, and for sure it is only the beginning of a successful career.
Before the race even started though, there were fears that it may not be able to take place at all. Following qualifying it was clear that the track was literally falling apart in places. However, overnight the race organisers added a layer of resin over the damaged parts of the circuit and by-and-large it held together. The hairpin looked shocking on the television cameras, and the railway racing line was still apparent as the track rubbered in, but at least it stayed together for the seventy laps.
As the drivers took to the grid to start the race, only Lewis Hamilton from the front-runners was starting on the softer compound of tyre, everyone else choosing to start on the harder compound. As the red lights dimmed the gas pedals went down and everybody managed to be polite enough to get through the first cornmer in one piece. The first complex of the lap is notorious for eating front wings and noses, but 2008 saw nothing but good manners.
Nico Rosberg did well off the line and immediately made up places, emphasising how well the Williams has been running around Montreal all weekend. Kazuki Nakajima was also doing well in the second FW30 on track, the Japanese driver quietly getting on with his job and performing moderately well in his first year of Formula One racing. In the similarly powered Toyota team, Jarno Trulli dispensed of his team mate Timo Glock pretty early on, but unfortunately a poor qualifying effort from both drivers meant they were sitting behind a slightly out of position Rubens Barrichello. For once, it was Trulli caught in a Barrichello-train.
The early stages of the race proved to show Nelson Piquet Jr as a competitve young spirit, the Brazilian looking pretty hot as he chased down slower cars in front of him. The Renault-charger actually looked like a proper racing driver for a while, but of course it didn’t last too long. Piquet Jr was spinning around in circles by lap 28.
It took sixteen laps before the safety car was ordered out on track to slow the pack up, but the reason for deployment wasn’t anything too severe. In fact, it appeared that Charlie Whiting was in two minds as to what to do when Adrian Sutil parked his Force India on the side of the track, and intially the situation was covered by waved yellow flags. However, a few minutes later and the brakes on Sutil’s strickened car started to burn, forcing a marshal to venture out along the wall to extinguish the burning wheels. The fact that a marshal had to walk some distance along the wall and the car appeared to be a danger, it had to be removed and Whiting threw the safety car.
As the safety car was deployed the pit lane was closed and the pack slowed up. After a short period the pit lane was re-opened and just about everybody came in to change tyres and take on fuel. Lewis Hamilton came into the pits as did Robert Kubica and Kimi Raikkonen. The BMW got away from the garage well and Kimi Raikkonen had to take a very aggressive strategy to ensure he made up a place – the two drivers were fighting for position. Side-by-side the Ferrari and BMW came to the end of the pitlane but were forced to slow right down to an almost standstill; the pit lane exit was closed to allow the passing pack on the race track to clear the exit of the pitlane.
And then Lewis Hamilton came thundering down the pit lane looking to rejoin the race and get on with his afternoon. Seemingly oblivious that the two cars ahead of him had stopped, Hamilton ploughed straight into the back of Kimi Raikkonen, causing his McLaren to jump up into the air onto Kimi’s rear wing. Both races were over and Kubica simply waited for the green light, applied his throttle pedal and drove away in the [net] lead of the race.
Unfortunately for Rosberg, he followed Hamilton down the pitlane and unlike the Briton, Nico would have had his vision of the exit hindered. Thus, the German couldn’t do much but clout the back of the McLaren as they piled up. Rosberg suffered a damaged front wing and was forced to pit after one more lap of the track.
This all brings us to lap twenty, Nick Heidfeld is actually in the lead of the race, although he was yet to stop at the time. Heidfeld’s team mate Kubica was essentially in the lead, although further down the pack struggling with traffic that were on different strategies to himself. Rubens Barrichello was amazingly in second and behind him were the Toyota’s and David Coulthard in the Red Bull.
On the 28th tour, Nelson Piquet dropped his R28 and spun it around coming off the kerbs. From the agle of the video it was hard to tell if his car went wide and onot the notorious marbles or if there was another cause for his moment. Either way the Brazilian did well to keep it out of the barriers, and his reversing move to get his car out of the corner and facing the right way left Felipe Massa looking his mirrors in utter disbelief as he weaved his Ferrari off the kerb having missed the Renault by inches.
Nick Heidfeld went right through to lap 29 of the race (I don’t remember him stopping during the safety car period), highlighting that he qualified in eighth with quite a lot of fuel onboard. The German may seem to be struggling at times, but perhaps he is just running aggressive strategies that haven’t quite worked out as well as they should have? Either way, the BMW driver pitted on twenty-nineth tour and allowed Rubens Barrichello to lead the race. As Heidfeld left the pit lane he snuck out in front of Robert Kubica, and the lighter, faster Kubica needed to get past.
As the pair came down to turn one and the start of the following lap, Robert made his move and Nick allowed him by – it was the only thing to do given the circumstances and for Heidfeld to try and run his own race would potentially have damaged the result for the team. Kubica (essentially) took the lead the race and everything looked very, very rosey for the Swiss-German team.
Of course, the BMWs were down in the pack and weren’t actually in the lead, although when everybody ahead of them pitted, they duly would be. Right behind the second BMW of Heidfeld was the Renault of Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard enjoying a wonderful race from fourth on the grid. On lap thirty he received a message from his engineer that Heidfeld was fuelled to the end and Alonso piled on the pressure, swerving over his gear box looking for a way past.
At the very front David Coulthard was enjoying a moment in the limelight, his Red Bull Racing car leading the race while he waited for the call to stop. His Renault powered car was throwing out a lot of brake dust though, as were both the Renault-powered Renaults. However, Coulthard was keeping his machine on the black stuff and a poor showing on Saturday was actually turning out to be a very good showing on Sunday.
On lap 38, Coulthard pitted and the Toyota’s were now first and second. Of course, it wouldn’t last for long and sure enough, Trulli and Glock peeled off into the pit lane as and when. In the mean time, Nelson Piquet Jr allowed his brake issues to get the better of him, the young driver being seen having his car rolled backwards into the garage with brake dust pouring out of the front. By lap 42 Kubica was back in the actual lead and enjoying his time at the very front of the race.
To highlight the problems of the track surface and the marbles that form just off the racing line, Fernando Alonso went for Nick Heidfeld at the hairpin. However, the Spaniard went too wide and Heidfeld just tucked himself up the inside and re-passed, leaving Alonso once again behind and struggling to get traction out of the corner. His move would be academic though, as Alonso was forced to retire a few laps later having clouted the wall and damaged his R28.
Kazuki Nakajima’s excellent run came to a halt when he hit the back of Honda at the hairpin. With his front wing hanging off the nose of the FW30, the Japanese driver almost made back to his garage. However, entering the pitlane the wing dropped and became lodged under the car, lifting his front wheels up and rendering Nakajima’s car useless. The rookie driver had faced a similar experience in testing prior to the season start in Spain, however, that time he smashed heavily into the barrier. This time around, Kazuki rested his car at the top of the pit lane and stalked away.
Lap 48 proved to be the final of the race, Robert Kubica having pitted and left in the lead of the race. Nick Heidfeld couldn’t respond and it was all for Robert to lose. Further down the order Heikki Kovalainen, Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa were battling for the lower order points, and going into the hairpin the McLaren driver attempted a pass on the Honda. However, Heikki went too deep and in doing so held up Barrichello which allowed Massa to squeeze past the pair of them. A few laps later and Barrichello was under attack from the Toyotas, the Brazilian eventually having to concede the position as he too ran wide.
A similar scenario confronted Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel, the Williams pilot making a move on Vettel but running wide onto the marbles. This allowed Heikki to drive by and move up the order and Rosberg suffered the most as Vettel regained the position. For the remainder of the race Kovalainen hassled Vettel for the final point, but Vettel held his ground and scored again for Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Three laps from the end and Jarno Trulli was forced to back off to avoid a struggling Timo Glock. In getting out of the throttle Felipe Massa seized the opportunity and passed the Italian, the Ferrari finishing the race in between the two Toyotas. And with just two laps to go Mark Webber was the final driver to have an issue, the Australian spinning his Red Bull around. Webber managed to avoid contact with the barriers and was able to continue.
Robert Kubica took a fine maiden win and BMW rejoiced with Nick Heidfeld completing the perfect result. Coulthard finally scored points and enjoyed the podium celebrations after his difficult start to the season. Toyota scored big with both drivers finishing in the points, but Massa and could only collect the tail of the top eight along with Barrichello and Vettel.
On a day when the number twos should have stepped up and saved the day for their teams, the victory was lost to the well-driven BMWs. A silly error from Hamilton has blown open the championship and Robert Kubica leaves Montreal as the leader of the drivers’ campaign. As Martin Brundle said during the ITV commentary, can he really go on and take the title? I think it is still a little early to tell, but one thing is for certain: BMW deserved their win and if they can keep up with the development, they will be in with a shout towards the end of the campaign.
Undoubtedly I’ve missed some things – there was a lot to take in – so feel free to add in other things in the comments below.[poll:17]