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"There's a lot of junk out there today. If you want it straight, read Kirby." -- Paul Newman

The Way It Is/ A fierce, rain-soaked Canadian Grand Prix

by Gordon Kirby
A long wait on Sunday at Montreal's le Circuit Gilles Villeneuve through a red flag lasting for almost two hours of torrential rain was well worth it. This year's Canadian Grand Prix was dominated by Sebastien Vettel but in the end he came under a fierce eleventh hour attack from Jenson Button who passed Vettel halfway through the last lap to score his first win of the year. It was one of Button's most satisfying victories as he fought his way back from a pit penalty for speeding behind the safety car which dropped him to near the tail of the field.

"It had its ups and downs," Button remarked. "It was definitely one of those Grands Prix where you're nowhere, then you're somewhere, then you're nowhere, and then you're somewhere. As we know, the last lap is the important one to be leading and I was leading half of it. It was really an amazing day.

"It's the most action I've probably had in a Grand Prix and that's makes it a good one to win. My first Grand Prix win was pretty special and always will be. But I would personally say that this race is the most satisfying to win."

© Gary Gold
Button survived an early collision with teammate Lewis Hamilton and made five pitstops for tires on the way to his win.

"I felt like I spent more time in the pits than on the pit straight," Button said. "The guys did a great job of calling the strategy. We definitely lucked out on the strategy, especially when the red flag came out. We couldn't run very well down the straights but the car was working really well in the tricky conditions.

"I enjoyed it very much coming through the field. That feeling of fighting your way through the field is almost as good as winning the race. That feeling of getting one up on someone. It was a great race and to be on the podium is a pretty exceptional result and to fight my through from I think last position, it's definitely my best race."

Button damaged his left front wing and suspension in a collision with Hamilton on lap seven when Hamilton made an over-optimistic attempt to pass his teammate on the outside. Button never saw Hamliton and moved to the outside of the track on his normal line, squeezing Hamilton into the wall and ending the latter's race.

"There were lots of incidents today and it was very tricky," Button said. "It's the first time we've been on wet tires here for many years. 2003 was the last time. It's a very, very slippery surface here and a lot of people were finding it difficult to judge braking and also it's impossible to see in your mirrors when it's wet. There were incidents that you don't like to see, but sometimes this happens."

Late in the race Button was running fourth behind Vettel, Michael Schumacher and Mark Webber but was able to attack and pass both Webber and Schumacher before reeling in Vettel. The defending world champion appeared to have the race under control but Button caught the Red Bull ace, turning the race's fastest lap as he closed in, then passed Vettel when the later ran wide and got sideways on the slick off-line surface. Button said the use of this year's drag reducing rear wing opening was essential to his victory.

© Gary Gold
"I wouldn't have had a chance if we didn't have DRS," Button observed. "If Sebastien didn't make a mistake it would have been very tricky but I was getting very close to making the loop because of the DRS. The previous lap I got DRS but I wasn't really close enough to make a move. It could have been one of those moves into the last lap on the last corner but we didn't get that far because Seb put a wheel onto the wet surface and ran wide and I'll take that. After Monaco, which again was a great race for me, to get the win here and get some luck in the end was great."

Vettel admitted to trying a little too hard on the final lap.

"I was a little bit late on the brakes," he grinned. "I could see Jenson was a bit quicker than us. Probably I should have pushed much harder after the restart. I picked up something like a four second lead and I wasn't trying to pull away too much. Probably I was a bit too cautious there. If I would have pulled away something like six or seven seconds it would have been a different story. It was a difficult finish to a hard race. I could see especially in the last sector that Jenson was catching up a lot."

Button said his car handled superbly and thanked the McLaren team for making a series of sharply correct pit and tire strategy calls.

"Chassis-wise, sometimes we get it wrong, but a lot of the times we get it right," Button remarked. "Moving on to intermediates in the first part of the race and then moving to intermediates in the second part of the race was the right call. The car was fantastic on wet tires. It was a very special race to win. I'll remember this for a long time."

Button added that he didn't believe he was helped by any extra downforce this year's McLaren might enjoy. He said he believes mechanical grip is the car's strong suit.

© Gary Gold
"I don't actually think we had a 'big wing' on compared to other people," Button commented. "I think that we have a very good car mechanically which worked in these conditions, but I personally don't think we had a 'big wing' compared to other people. I think some other people have a more efficient DRS system in qualifying spec. But in race spec I think our wing is more efficient than theirs, which is the trade-off you have with the rear wings with the DRS system. But mechanically our car is very good. We proved that in Monaco and we saw that again here, especially when there's very low grip on the circuit."

Until the last few laps Vettel dominated the race, pulling away from everyone on all the restarts.

"It was a long race in very difficult conditions," the young German said. "It was quite tough and I think one of the most challenging races we've had this year. All in all, I think I can be satisfied. Of course, I'm disappointed being in the lead for all the race and knowing that it was so difficult. It was a tricky race and the safety car never helped us but we did the best we could and got good points today. It's important to finish, especially with a race like that.

"The mistake on the last lap was probably the only real mistake I did the whole race. We're all pushing very hard and sometimes do mistakes. I have no problem to admit I went a little bit wide. If it had been dry it would have been no problem, but it was wet outside the dry line and very costly."

Vettel was asked if he had any problems with the tires going off in the closing laps.

"No issues," he said. "As I said earlier, I wasn't aggressive enough with the safety car. To me, initially there was no need but as it turned out I would have been much better off to have pushed. When I saw Jenson behind I kept him fairly close. He was very quick but it would have been very close. But with the mistake I did, it was not."

Still, Vettel continues to lead this year's world championship by a healthy margin with 161 points to second-placed Button's 101. Mark Webber is third with 94 points chased by Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, both of whom crashed in Canada. Webber had a tough race, much like Button, coming back from a spin on the opening lap after his was hit in the tail by Hamilton.

"Passing the backmarkers wasn't too bad," Webber remarked. "But when we got a dry line it was difficult to pull the passes off because there was not much room to go down the inside. I then decided to roll the dice a little bit and pop some dry tires on and it was very much on the edge. I knew parts of the track were going to be tricky. If you got in the grass it was going to be all over. But it seemed to work out.

© Gary Gold
"Then I arrived at the back of Michael (Schumacher) and we had a reasonable battle. I tried the dry line into the last chicane. Eventually JB arrived and he was very, very quick. It was very easy to make a mistake and be in the wall today. So it's very satisfying to be here. It was a very testing Grand Prix for all of us in these conditions."

There was some criticism that the safety car spent too much time on the track, but the drivers said they thought the safety car was used perfectly.

"Back in the pack, especially when it was very, very wet, it was good to have the safety car out because I couldn't see in front of my visor," Button commented. "I think they managed the safety car well with how long it should be out. I think they did a good job."

Vettel agreed: "I think it was fine. They had to make decision for all of us, not one team or one driver only. It was difficult to assess the track when you had a car crashed or dirt on the track. I think they kept everything under control and safe for us."

So did Webber.

"I think they deserve huge credit," Webber said. "Today they did everything perfectly. They didn't mess around. They got on with it and did a very, very good job for all of us."

From being a potential disaster this year's Canadian Grand Prix turned into an exciting, hard-fought race--a perfect advertisement for Formula One. And as always, despite the bad weather, a huge crowd turned out all weekend and on raceday in particular. The race at le Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has established itself as one of the F1's biggest and best, a tremendous pleasure to attend.

Next week, I will talk to Tavo Hellmund about his hopes of creating a similarly successful event in the United States at his Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. It's a big task to say the least, but Hellmund just might be the guy who's capable of making it happen.

Auto Racing ~ Gordon Kirby
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