Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A First for Ricciardo: Red Bull Driver Wins Canadian Grand Prix

Photo Credit: Infiniti F1 Racing

Entering the Canadian Grand Prix weekend, the 2014 Formula 1 season was dominated by the Mercedes AMG team in the previous six events. Winning every grand prix before arriving in Canada, Mercedes AMG drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have paired up to accomplish a feat that proved unaccustomed to the sights of modern Formula 1 fans. The last time a single team won the first six races to start a season was in 1988 when the legendary Formula 1 pilots Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna took victory driving a McLaren-Honda for what ultimately turned out to be 11 races. Posting top speeds on Friday practice and Saturday qualifying, the Mercedes AMG cars appeared in destined to close in on the near-impossible accomplishment of 26 years ago. 70 laps around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve would be Mercedes AMG's next challenge to see if the German team could repel rivals once-again.

Completing another one-two qualifying effort for the Silver Arrows, the pole-sitting car of Nico Rosberg sat alongside Lewis Hamilton. On the start, Rosberg stormed into turn one and through the Virage Senna. However, Hamilton's launch was a little more jerky as he was forced to brake early allowing the third place-starting Red Bull-Renault of Sebastian Vettel to take the second spot.

After triumphing with their first-ever grand prix points in Monaco, the Marussia team's race in Montreal lasted for only a few corners. Drivers Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi collided with each other ending their races with severely crippled cars. The two early retirements of the Marussia cars would define the tone of the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix as Chilton and Bianchi would be the first of many vehicles not making it the full 70-lap distance around the 4.361-kilometer track on Sunday. By the end of the Canadian Grand Prix, a total of 11 cars failed to cross the start-finish line. Totaling half of the race entries, the list would also include a list of reputable race contenders.

When the race resumed on lap 7, the second Mercedes AMG car of Lewis Hamilton immediately sought to dispense of the second-place running Red Bull-Renault. On lap 10, Hamilton flew by Sebastian Vettel allowing the Silver Arrows to once-again take a customary position in the top-two spots for a 2014 grand prix race. Battles on track heated up early as the fast stretches gave the new turbocharged V-6 Formula 1 engines plenty of room to rev up to full song. The hard braking corners also provided the benefit of recharged the electrical components found in the modern Formula 1 car's powertrains. Combined with the DRS zones along the Casino Straight and the front starting stretch, the Canadian Grand Prix remained a tense but exciting challenge for drivers. The early yellow also gave teams the confidence to race without concerns to save fuel.

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

In addition to the Mercedes AMG and Red Bull Racing cars showing the way near the front of the Canadian Grand Prix field, the Williams Martini Racing team were holding their own early as Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas drove another competitive race in this 2014 Formula 1 season. Last year, the team raced in Montreal without scoring a single race point. So far in 2014, the Williams Martini Racing team had 52 points before taking to the grid at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

As the race progressed the majority of teams utilized a two-stop strategy that saw most Formula 1 runners entering the pits for the first time between laps 11 and 19. The only team gambling on a difficult pit schedule was the Force India team. With both cars qualifying outside of the top-10 on Saturday, the Mercedes-powered race machines driven by Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg addressed their pit service crews only a single time apiece. Hulkenberg was the latest one to pit after spending 41 laps on track on soft compound Pirelli tires.

Photo Credit: Pirelli Photo Service

Fielding the first and second placed cars at the halfway point of the race, Mercedes AMG was enjoying another dream weekend as the main battle on track in Montreal was between Rosberg and Hamilton. However, it was passed the midpoint of the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix where some of the first signs of vulnerability appeared amongst the Mercedes AMG race machines. During lap 36 and 37, the cars of both leader Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton experienced a loss of propulsion. While Rosberg would be able to soldier on in his car, the #44 machine of Lewis Hamilton would be retired shortly after it started trailing smoke. The problem later attributed to the high-voltage electronic component failure among the MGU-K (Motor Generator Unit-Kinetic) of the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 W05's energy recovery system.

In the late stage of the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix, Nico Rosberg remained in the race's lead but was hardly comfortable as contenders were breathing close-by with their carbon fiber noses. Sergio Perez was vaulted into a podium spot through a daring pit stop strategy engineered by his Force India team. Stopping only once on lap 34, Perez had second place in the running order with 10 laps to go. However, the brakes and the tires on the Force India-Mercedes were beginning to surrender to the Mexican driver. While Sergio Perez was able to keep close contact with leader Nico Rosberg, the top-5 cars were tight through the final laps. By lap 66, Daniel Ricciardo snuck by the Force India car for the second place and promptly set a course towards Rosberg with only four laps remaining. With the Mercedes AMG car apparently weakened by issues with its hybrid drive system, Ricciardo's hard charge netted a big award with two laps remaining. On lap 69, the Red Bull-Renault of Ricciardo out-powered the Mercedes AMG car in front of the front spectator's grandstands.  

The final lap of the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix consisted of a scary moment resulting from a battle for fourth place. With Sergio Perez defending track position in the last turn around Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, he was fending off a charge from the Williams-Mercedes of Felipe Massa. Along the start-finish stretch, Massa had gained a powerful run on Perez. Heading into turn one, Sergio Perez's Force India-Mercedes slightly weaved in front of the fast-approaching Williams-Mercedes. Resulting in contact, both cars of Massa and Perez were sent into the turn one barriers at high speeds. The impact was said to register up to 27Gs when Sergio Perez hit the wall. After a brief medical stay, Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez were discharged without major injuries from the crash. After the race, Formula 1 ruled that the accident was the fault of Perez and will move the Mexican driver back five places in qualifying at the next race in Austria.

Under a safety car period, Daniel Ricciardo sailed across the checkered flag to take his very first Formula 1 race win. Progressing from the Toro Rosso team last year, Ricciardo's potential was seen as worthy enough to be paired with reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel for 2014 as fellow Australian Mark Webber ventured back to sports car racing. Missing out on a podium finish in his first event with Red Bull Racing due to a fuel use issue in Australia, Ricciardo remained steady during the 2014 Formula 1 season to the point he earned the first-place and the accolades that came with hoisting the Canadian Grand Prix winner's trophy. Daniel Ricciado was all smiles at the top of the podium as the Australian national anthem rang over the Montreal track. The spectators who watched all 70 laps of the Canadian Grand Prix were resoundingly pleased with the exciting end and the crowning of the race's 2014 champion. The win was the first for Red Bull Racing this season and the first for a Renault powerplant.

Photo Credit: Pirelli Photo Service 

After leading much of the race, Nico Rosberg settled with a second-place finish. "Towards the end of the race, I tried to defend against Sergio which was fine but Daniel was too fast on the straights with much more power than I had available and he was able to get past. With so much going on, I had to ask my engineer where I finished at the end as I thought I was probably about fifth or sixth. I was so happy to hear that I was in P2!" said Rosberg regarding his late race issues. The runner-up result aided the German in building his lead in the season-long drivers' standings to 140 markers overall. Following the results of the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix, Nico Rosberg's lead is 22 points over teammate Lewis Hamilton. 

Before the Massa/Perez crash, Sebastian Vettel had raced around the Force India-Mercedes for the third and final podium spot. Vettel also narrowly missed being collected in the turn one wreck on the final lap. The defending Canadian Grand Prix winner is still trying to regain his championship form he had shown over the past fourth Formula 1 seasons. Scoring only his second podium in 2014, Vettel is currently outpaced by his Red Bull Racing teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the Drivers' standings after seven races.

Outside of the podium, some quiet but productive outings for Jensen Button, Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso allowed the trio to inherit fourth through sixth place. Unlike last year's race day disappointment after a solid qualifying effort on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Williams driver Valtteri Bottas parlayed his qualifying success into a seventh place spot in the final running order. Jean-Eric Vergne, Kevin Magnussen and Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top-10 in the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix.

The last race for on the 2014 Formula 1 tour is a return to Austria. A return to a track now-called the Red Bull Ring, the Austrian Grand Prix is set for June 22nd.

2014 Formula 1
Canadian Grand Prix
Race Result

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
3 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault
4 22 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes-Benz
5 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
6 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari
7 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Renault
8 25 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
9 22 Kevin Magnussen McLaren Mercedes-Benz
10 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
11 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
12 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes-Benz
13 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber Ferrari
14 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber Ferrari
15 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault
16 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
17 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
18 10 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham Renault
19 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus Renault
20 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham Renault
21 4 Max Chilton Marussia Ferrari
22 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia Ferrari

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