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GP Week : Issue 157
W ith authority, and despite a pit stop glitch or two, Lewis Hamilton in Canada became the seventh winner from seven races. I say “authority” because we were talking (Dan Knutson and I) to the Technical Director of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, Patrick Lowe, on the eve of the race about DRS and its development. He said this: “We’ve believe we’ve got strong DRS authority...” When questioned about the vernacular he replied: “Effective DRS. A good delta between open and closed...Authority.” Indeed. Flap down, and just after the first round of pit stops, Lewis was able to breeze past Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari on the long Montreal finishing straight, flat in seventh, at 319kph. Fernando, who had earned the lead by dint of his excellent P3 in qualifying and then by nicely massaging his Pirelli options in the early stages, could do nothing but move to the right and let the McLaren past. Behind him now sat the pole-winner, Sebastian Vettel. Still relatively slow in top speed, the Red Bull was inevitably going to find the Ferrari more difficult to pass. And so it proved. Fernando effectively won the race for Lewis by steadfastly protecting second place for the bulk of the afternoon. Lewis was thus able to stop for a belt- and-braces second set of options late in the race, and thus temporarily to bring the large crowd to its feet. He needed to chase down the two leaders with 15 laps remaining, but the result was inevitable. Lewis was a second a lap quicker; with that DRS authority to help him, the job was securely done. Vettel, from the start consuming his qualifying option tyres more aggressively than those around him, had stopped early, handing the lead first to Lewis and then, when Lewis stopped, to Fernando. P4 (with a late-race pit stop) was a poor result from where Seb started – but then this was a weekend when grip, and thus pace, seemed to turn with the wind gusts that blew off the adjacent St Lawrence Seaway. Take Saturday, for instance. The grid was defined – as it often the case these days – by what appeared to be a sudden change in grip level as the track ‘evolved.’ Drivers and engineers would say after wards that they were ‘caught out’ by the condition changes, the more so because the Canadian sun just shone brightly throughout the afternoon. These Pirellis, they’d add, are more sensitive to ambient and track surface changes than in 2011; and the Pirellis in general, they’d conclude, are considerably more sensitive than were the Bridgestones, Michelins or Goodyears. Ultimately, though, we’re talking here of a motor racing variable to which the drivers must adapt, regardless of expectations. Pirelli have the monopoly and – given the excellent consistency of the Pirelli tyres from set to Turkish-built set – it’s the same situation for all. The Red Bulls, to my eye, seemed to love the ever-hotter Saturday sun. Seb Vettel and the RB7-Renault looked to be the 2011 RB6-Renault at its best in every department, be it braking, corner approach or exit. Helmet cocked slightly to the outside, car methodically and beautifully-positioned, power exquisitely applied. It looked easy. It was prodigiously, deceptively fast. Lewis, you could tell, had to work harder for his grid time. As the grip fell away a little, and as the pressure-point of Q3 quickly approached, it was going to be critical to warm-up the tyres without damaging their sensitive outer tread layer, for graining – even on short runs – was always the threat. This Lewis did pretty much to perfection, energizing the rears without breaking away the tail, and the flying lap that followed was one of those knife-edge works of art that had you wincing needlessly with every approach. There were no lock-ups, no jinks. Lewis extracted The Maximum. The sharp edge of grip may have gone; Lewis perfectly manipulated the McLaren on the blunter, less tangible lower level, pinching the car in early, braking hard and flat into a 21 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> CANADA