Ricciardo seizes chance to put one over Mercedes and clinch first win

2014 Canadian Grand Prix review

Mercedes’ crushing start to the 2014 season had to end eventually. But few could have expected it to be so soon, or to happen at a venue which so obviously played to their strengths.

But after both their cars were struck by the same glitch halfway through the Canadian Grand Prix, it seemed at first as though no one was going to take advantage of the rare opportunity to beat the W05s.

In the end it was the driver who’s been one of the stand-out performers of the season so far, Daniel Ricciardo, who pulled off a stunning maiden grand prix triumph.

Rosberg runs Hamilton wide

Start, Red Bull, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2014The first half of the race followed the usual 2014 script. The contest at the front was an all-Mercedes affair, and following the tense events of Monaco there seemed to be a bit more needle between the two of them.

That was certainly the case at the start, when Lewis Hamilton got away more cleanly from second on the grid and reached turn one before Nico Rosberg. But pole position is on the inside line for a reason, and Rosberg used that advantage to edge Hamilton wide and off the track, allowing Sebastian Vettel up into second place.

Hamilton was deprived of the chance to hit back immediately as the Safety Car was summoned following a first-lap crash. Max Chilton had blundered into his team mate at turn three, and any hopes Marussia had of repeating their giant-killing feat from Monaco was wrecked along with both their cars.

It took seven laps to get the mess cleaned up, during which time the likes of Vettel and Hamilton helpfully alerted race control about debris and oil patches which needed attending to. Or were they hoping to drag the Safety Car period out for longer and reduce the need for fuel-saving later on in the race?

Whichever, when the restart finally came Hamilton didn’t seem ready for it, which allowed some breathing space for Vettel, who had been having trouble whit his KERS harvesting behind the Safety Car. But any hopes the Red Bull driver had of staying ahead when DRS was enabled two laps after the restart. The Canadian track usually has a single detection point followed by two activation zones, and Hamilton only needed half of the first straight to sail past Vettel.

Hamilton hunts Rosberg down

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2014After normal Mercedes-versus-Mercedes service was resumed at the front, the first sign Rosberg was feeling the heat came following his first pit stop on lap 18. Having switched to the soft compound tyres his car skidded alarmingly at the exit of turn four, and only his quick reactions kept it out of the barrier.

Hamilton’s stop on the next lap was a few tenths of a second slower, but even without that he wouldn’t have jumped Rosberg at that point. But he immediately began cutting the gap to his team mate and within four laps was in DRS range.

He was closer than ever when they reached the final chicane on lap 25 and Rosberg braked too late, sailed across the run-off area and did so quickly enough to set a new fastest lap – which stood until the end as his best of the race.

Given that, and the fact his ploy pulled him out of DRS range of Hamilton, he was perhaps fortunate to escape a sanction from the stewards. He wasn’t alone, however – Daniil Kvyat also cut the chicane while defending from Kimi Raikkonen and also went unpunished. But Rosberg was put on notice that he wouldn’t get away with it again.

Disaster strikes Mercedes

It took Hamilton five laps to regain the deficit, but soon after he got within range of the other Mercedes he began dropping back again. Suddenly the gap opened up to two seconds. The next time by, lap 37, the pair were over two-and-a-half seconds off their former pace.

It transpired a control electrics fault had struck both cars at around the same time, leaving them without the boost from their MGU-K.

“When you lose ERS then it doesn’t harvest any more,” Rosberg explained, “and then all the braking on the rear is being done by the brakes and then the rear brakes overheated”.

“So it was one problem and then the next problem happened. That just made it massively difficult. I needed to cool the brakes a lot, I lost a lot of power on the straights.”

The pair coped with the problem as long as they could, even making it to their second pit stops. This time Hamilton, despite pitting after Rosberg, made up the deficit and finally got ahead of his team mate. But it proved cruelly short-lived: his brakes had already begun to fail and he retired on lap 46.

Massa takes the lead

Felipe Massa, Williams, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2014Rosberg had also fallen behind Massa at his pit stop, and if the Williams driver had been able to reach the end of the race without pitting again the win would surely have been his. But his tyres soon began to fade, and on lap 48 he made for the pits.

Now Rosberg had a queue of potential winners behind him: the one-stopping Force India of Sergio Perez, followed by the two Red Bulls, with Ricciardo ahead of Vettel, who had caught traffic after his second pit stop.

Massa reappeared behind his team mate, who in turn was following the other Force India. Massa was soon on the radio urging the team to move Valtteri Bottas out of the way – an ironic role-reversal of the situation in Malaysia.

It didn’t look like Bottas complied, but even so he could scarcely have helped his team mate more. He made an ambitious attempt to pass Hulkenberg at the second hairpin but ran wide. That allowed Massa through and teed him up beautifully for a run past Hulkenberg as well.

With the rate Massa closed on the lead quartet it seemed he might breeze past the lot of them. But with three of the cars ahead of him all using DRS they were not easy to pass. When he got a run on Vettel on lap 64 the world champion defended fairly and Massa paid the price of not activating his DRS in the first zone.

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Ricciardo grabs his chance

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2014Ahead of them Rosberg had settled back down into a rhythm. “Once I re-sorted my braking points and everything – because I arrived with so much less speed – so once I sorted out those out, then the power one was actually OK,” he said.

“But the brakes, that was more difficult because I also had to run the brake balance forwards, very very far forwards just to use the front much more, so it was just much more difficult with front locking, and to find my way with that.”

But with Perez increasingly struggling for tyre life and dealing with an electrical problem, Rosberg was able to keep ahead at the all-important DRS detection point. That in turn allowed Ricciardo onto the tail of the Force India, and on lap 66 he bravely dived around the outside at turn one and prised second place out of Perez’s hands with two wheels in the dirt.

“He was driving well and wasn’t making any mistakes and realistically I needed a bit of a mistake from him because they were just getting off the corner so well,” said Ricciardo.

“But then I think, yeah, he got quite close to Nico and perhaps just overshot the braking a little bit in the last chicane. I managed to just stay with him on the exit, get the tow and use the DRS. I knew we were strong braking into turn one, we were really quick into there so, yeah, once I had the outside line free I just basically went in and made it work.”

Now the chase was on and a few laps later came a most unusual sight: a Red Bull slipstreaming past a Mercedes on a straight. Rosberg could do nothing to defend and was finally forced to surrender what might have been an incredible victory in adversity.

Last-lap smash

Vettel, meanwhile, was unhappy his team had brought him in for his second stop when they did. He’s been stuck behind Hulkenberg during his second stint and believed he should have stayed out until the Force India driver pitted.

“As we saw, until the end there was no way to get past for us down the straights,” said Vettel, who made an unsuccessful move on the Force India on lap 23.

“The Mercedes-powered cars were just too quick. Equally we were in trouble defending to the Williams behind. Basically I was asking to do something with strategy, which I think was possible.

“On the pit wall they have a much better overview but in my case they didn’t really help me to create something different and to use the pace we clearly had. So in the end I pitted and also lost a position to Daniel.”

Nonetheless Vettel grabbed his chance to pass Perez at the end of the penultimate lap. But it all went wrong when Massa tried to follow him by.

They were in the right-hand kink before the first real corner when the pair made contact. Massa appeared to be following the curvature of the road, and Perez jinked left, leading to a catstrophic collision. Both drivers made heavy contact with the tyre wall and were fortunate to escape without injury following a check-up in hospital.

The carnage handed fourth place to Jenson Button, who had pounced on Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso at the hairpin on the previous lap.

It was a forgettable weekend for Ferrari, as Raikkonen only took tenth thanks to the last lap shunt after spinning on his own at the hairpin, much as he had in practice. Ahead of him were Bottas, Jean-Eric Vergne and Kevin Magnussen.

Ricciardo takes first win

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2014When the Safety Car came out in response to the last-lap crash it virtually guaranteed Ricciardo the win. He duly crossed the line to collect his first ever grand prix victory, and a totally unexpected one at a track which historically has not suited Red Bull.

“I’m just really pleased that I was able to really capitalise today on the opportunity,” he said afterwards. “I could see it in front, when Nico was there and Perez was in between us. I was like, ‘if we can just get Perez I think we’ll be able to make a charge on Nico’. Really pleased.”

“It’s going to take a little bit to sink in but OK, so very proud, great to hear the Aussie anthem. It’s been a few years since I won a race, I think 2011, Monaco in World Series or something, so like three years, it’s a long time, standing on a top step. It’s a feeling I missed a lot.”

After a performance like that, you wouldn’t bet on it taking him three years to score another.

Images © Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Red Bull/Getty, Williams/LAT

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72 comments on Ricciardo seizes chance to put one over Mercedes and clinch first win

  1. JohnBt (@johnbt) said on 9th June 2014, 6:47

    Such a dramatic race! Congrats to Ric for his win but what a crash from Massa and Perez. Well we had some close racing although the result was not was it’s supposed to be. Hamilton retirement spoiled the two horse run for the day. Nico did a good job with 160hp down and deserved his position. Ferrari still sucks, period.

  2. Palle (@palle) said on 9th June 2014, 7:30

    Great, great article, however:
    “But any hopes the Red Bull driver had of staying ahead when DRS was enabled two laps after the restart.” – something is missing here, Keith.

  3. wsrgo (@wsrgo) said on 9th June 2014, 7:41

    @keithcollantine

    I think 2011, Monaco in World Series or something [it was actually the Circuit de Catalunya]

    I would like to point out that it was was Monaco, Ricciardo didn’t even start the races at Barcelona in 2011, Robert Wickens and Albert Costa won the two races held that weekend.

  4. Jimmy Hearn (@alebelly74) said on 9th June 2014, 8:24

    Congrats to Ricciardo, he seems like a genuine good dude. Great race too.

  5. Jimmy Hearn (@alebelly74) said on 9th June 2014, 8:30

    Also, thanks for the synopsis Keith, brilliant stuff as usual

  6. Hamilz0rs said on 9th June 2014, 9:26

    Obviously a software glitch, not a overheating problem, but mercedes cannot admit it or it would be terrible publicity for their road cars that rely on electronics a lot.

    • DaveW (@dmw) said on 9th June 2014, 15:52

      Every MB owner already knows that when her car “throws a code” that it probably means a four-figure visit to the local stealership for repairs. I’m sure plenty of people were nodding in sympathy yesterday.

  7. Aled Davies (@aledinho) said on 9th June 2014, 9:50

    Was good to see Ricciardo get a win, he’s been driving brilliantly and been a bit unlucky in the fact thay he joined Red bull the year they are playing catch up rather than the other way around.

    In terms of the Championship = still a long way to go, 12 races and 250 points still available for Hamilton but he can’t afford another DNF. IO still think at some point Rosberg will suffer some mechanical gremlin but Lewis needs to win in Austria that is for certain.

    I think Hamilton would have won the race but for the issue with the power/brakes he was clearly quicker than Rosberg (as seen by him going off at the chicane desperately trying to keep Lewis behind) but it was not to be. 7 races in and you could argue that Rosberg is yet to beat Hamilton in a straight 1-1 fight on a track where you can actually overtake (Monaco was won in Qualifying and we all saw what happened there) yet Lewis is 22 points behind. That Said i thought Rosberg was very good this weekend, he got pole even though Hamilton was quicker than him, he got the job done and he was doing a good job of keeping him behind before the issue struck the Mercedes. And to finnish 2nd with them problems was very impressive, luck seems to be with him at the moment but there is a long time to go yet and he willl need to beat Lewis in a 1-1 at some point.

    Massa = ruined Williams chance of scoring some good points, he could easily have had a 4th place i know the stewards have blamed Perez for the crash but he should of got past the Red Bulls before that.

  8. Funkyf1 (@funkyf1) said on 9th June 2014, 10:18

    Great round up. Who will Ferrari sack now?

  9. Keith Campbell (@keithedin) said on 9th June 2014, 10:46

    I must admit, when the two Mercedes appeared to have the same mysterious power loss at almost the exact same time my first thought was – did one car have the problem and they decided to give the other the same handicap to level the playing field? It quickly became obvious that wasn’t the case, as they were in serious danger of losing the race with the amount of time they were losing, it was just bizarre for two cars to have the same problem causing the same lap time deficit but for them both to be able to continue (albeit not for long).

    Great drive by Nico to bring it home in that condition, but i suspect he will be overlooked in DoTW polls.

    • Damonw said on 10th June 2014, 11:42

      Yeah but Nico still managed to finish second, not a bad days drive then. Me thinks Nico’s car had the problem and they sabotaged Hamilton’s car.

      Strange how Hamilton goes from destroying Rosberg in Malaysia and China to being slightly slower if anything recently. Toto Wolff’s comments about keeping the show exciting sounds suspicious to me big time!

  10. a track which historically has not suited Red Bull.

    16 chances of scoring points since 2005 (only 2009 there wasn’t a canadian GP)
    8 chances when there car was average (2005-2008): 4 points scoring finishes, 1 podium
    8 chances when there car was the best (2010-2013): 8 points finishes, 4 podiums, 1 race win
    + 3 pole positions (2010,2011,2013)

    That’s historically not so bad in my opinion :-)

  11. Bazza Spock (@bazza-spock) said on 9th June 2014, 11:52

    I just finished watching due to the crazy time it was on live here in Oz. Extremely happy for Daniel. All up an amazing race to watch. For the sake of keeping the championship interesting I was kind of hoping Rosberg’s brakes would pack up too.

    • Palle (@palle) said on 11th June 2014, 21:56

      @bazza-spock: Too keep the championship interesting we need for Rosberg to rake up as many points as possible, whenever Hamilton fails. The closer they are in points now the sooner the championship will be over, I imagine.

  12. Slava (@slava) said on 9th June 2014, 11:58

    It was a terrible race for Ferrari. They promised a great step forward.
    We all know that Alonso in such kind of races is the one who delivers most to get most from the situation. Unfortunately, he was not able to fight. Three teams! three teams were fighting for a win (besides Mercedes). Even Force India could do that. Astonishing.
    Congrats to Nico (Rosberg), Daniel and Button.

  13. WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 9th June 2014, 12:08

    Wow, what a race. Perhaps it didn’t have as much of the side-by-side action of Bahrain, but it a) gave Rosberg the head start over Hamilton he will perhaps need in coming tracks, and b) arguably had more drama and was perhaps even more significant. I say that because Daniel Ricciardo, who for many people, was promoted over Raikkonen mainly to fulfill Red Bull’s immense financial obligations to their driver programme, has just won the Canadian Grand Prix, having been trounced at that very same track by JEV just twelve months prior; the same race that saw his teammate dominate the field. Every rational prediction, every seasoned automotive brain would see Ricciardo challenge the four-time champion only on occasional Saturdays in 2014, and yet, he has often beaten the champion in most competitive sessions this year. He has been a true revelation, easily the best performer of the year so far, and it begs the question, if Ricciardo was not overtly stronger than Vergne in 2012/3, will we now have to revaluate the job being done by the perhaps more anonymous midfield faces relative to the sport’s megastars? In a top car what could Hulkenberg do? Or Bottas? Or Grosjean? Or Bianchi? Whilst I would suggest that the breadth of talent on offer in 2014 is perhaps not what it was in say 2012, the Ricciardo versus Vettel dynamic beautifully illustrates the true star quality of most on the grid (most on the grid are GP[insert applicable] or Formula [insert applicable] champions). To recapitulate, in the space of twelve months Vettel has won his fourth world championship, won nine races in row and found himself playing second fiddle, for now, to his new teammate, who has just won at the same track where he was steam-rolled by his former teammate last year who in turn is now under intense pressure for his seat. That is why Formula 1 is the best sport in the world.

    • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 9th June 2014, 12:08

      I would add that I don’t think Vettel is remotely performing at his optimum, his former style of rolling the car through the apex with plenty of throttle is simply not compatible with the high torque and low rear downforce formula of 2014 (in fact I’m surprised we haven’t seen any Raikkonen style spins from Vettel), but even if there’s a further 3 to 4/10ths in Vettel at most tracks, that still puts Ricciardo much closer to Vettel than Webber was.

      • BWH said on 10th June 2014, 4:53

        I don’t think it was raw speed that gave Vettel the massive advantage he took from 2011 on – more that Webber destroyed his tyres if he tried to match Vettel over sustained distances.

  14. Michael (@freelittlebirds) said on 9th June 2014, 14:18

    I feel for Hamilton – 2 DNFs, unable to put a 2nd lap in Monaco and unable to fight at the end. Miraculously only 22 points behind when he should have been 43 points but still this is a crazy situation for him.

    His car has a 30% DNF record while Rosberg’s has a 0% DNF record. Sister car reliability might win the WDC in 2014.

  15. Tim Edwards (@timpey) said on 9th June 2014, 14:33

    T’was a great race indeed. The ups of hamilton taking the lead and then the lows of his right rear brake exploding just before the wall of champions. Glad there is a big runoff there or that could have been VERY nasty.

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