The 2014 Canadian Grand Prix won’t just be remembered for Daniel Ricciardo’s opportunistic maiden victory; it will surely enter F1 folklore as one of the greatest events the Montreal circuit has ever witnessed, and all courtesy of a bizarre simultaneous engine malfunction that befell Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes cars.
Rosberg brutalised Hamilton at turn two after the Englishman got an inital better start from 2nd on the grid, pushing the Briton wide and retaining his pole position start advantage and avenging his similar treatment when roles were reversed in Bahrain earlier this season. The gap grew even further when Sebastian Vettel took advantage and passed Hamilton, especially after a seven-lap safety car period caused when Marussia came crashing down to earth after their Monaco success when Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi crashed out at turn three.
Hamilton was soon back past Vettel, and put a spurt on to recoup the lost time to Rosberg that brought him within 0.5 of the German’s rear wing after their first pitstops for the harder, yellow-walled Pirelli compound tyre. Suddenly the gap grew drastically to two seconds as Hamilton reported engine problems, a gremlin that also hit Rosberg a lap later and saw the duo running around almost three seconds a lap slower than 3rd placed Nico Hulkenberg – who had started on the harder compound and executed a stunning 47-lap stint on the fragile rubber before pitting and handing the chase of the Mercedes over to Williams’ Felipe Massa.
The Brazilian was soon carving into the ailing Merc pairing, but was forced to make a second and final pitstop some twenty laps before the finish despite an early attempt to make the chequered flag without the extra call for tyres. This in turn left Sergio Perez – closely followed by Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel – to close up the remaining distance.
However, the two cars leading the race soon became one; Hamilton and Rosberg switched places after their final stop when Rosberg suffered a bungled pitstop by his crew, but the German was soon back ahead when Hamilton retired with brake failure the very same lap. Though Perez and his Red Bull pursuers were soon less than two seconds behind Rosberg, the Mercedes suddenly recovered a measure of form that was enough to keep his slender advantage.
Meanwhile Massa had charged back toward the chasing trio after his late stop, using his fresher rubber to good effect and attempting to make a last-gasp charge for potential victory. Ricciardo was having none of it and made his move to pass Perez, unsettling the Force India driver enough that he made contact with Massa when the Williams tried to follow. Both men ended up in the wall at turn one with heavy impacts, both fortunately unharmed. Ricciardo slashed Rosberg’s meagre lead and made a DRS-assisted pass for what instantly became the win when the safety car was summoned to neutralise the Perez-Massa incident effects.
Ricciardo took his first Grand Prix victory on the same circuit that saw maiden wins for Jean Alesi, Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica alike with team-mate Vettel a credible 3rd, split by a Rosberg relieved to pick up 18 points with a broken car on a day when main title rival Hamilton failed to finish. Jenson Button was a surprising and impressive 4th after passing both Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso on the final lap, with Bottas 7th, Jean Eric Vergne 8th and Kevin Magnussen and Kimi Raikkonen the main beneficiaries of the last-lap tangle between Massa and Perez, picking up the final points on offer.
More to follow.