Kubica celebrates first win as Hamilton rues pit-stop shunt
Some days you eat the bear, other days the bear eats you. In Montreal, BMW Sauber tucked into a post-race ursine feast as Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld scored a fabulous one-two on a day when favourite and early leader Lewis Hamilton inadvertently took out Kimi Raikkonen in a costly pit lane collision.
At the start Hamilton sprinted away from pole position, leaving Kubica to put the squeeze on Raikkonen as the Finn sought the inside line into the first corner. Using the supersoft Bridgestone tyre option, the McLaren driver set a series of fastest laps and moved clear of the BMW Sauber. By lap 15 Hamilton was 7.1secs ahead, but now Raikkonen, on the soft tyre, was really thirsting after Kubica.
The first Safety Car period duly came at the end of the 17th lap after Monaco hero Adrian Sutil's Force India had come to a halt at the back of the circuit on the 14th lap.
The pit lane opened on lap 19, and all the leaders headed in. And that's where it all so dramatically went wrong for Hamilton. His stop was longer than either Raikkonen's or Kubica's, and as he rejoined he suddenly found himself confronted with the Ferrari and the BMW sitting stationary at the end of the pit lane, restrained by the red exit light. Hamilton could not stop in time and struck the back of the Ferrari, removing its rear wing and damaging his front one. Nico Rosberg was also caught out in the mêlée, and Hamilton's friend and former team-mate ran into the back of the silver arrow. For both Raikkonen and Hamilton, it was game over. Raikkonen gestured angrily at Hamilton and pointed to the lights, as the two main title protagonists trudged back to their garages.
Hamilton was summoned to the stewards afterwards, and was given a 10-grid place penalty for the upcoming French GP.
"I was focusing on making sure I didn't lose the lead and obviously two cars jumped me. It looked like they were battling in the pit lane so I was trying to be cautious. I went to look at the red light and I looked back and they'd stopped and I tried to avoid them. It was an unfortunate situation where you had two cars side by side. If they'd been in a line I would have seen it a bit faster. But that's what happens sometimes. It happened so quickly. I was doing 80 kmh and they were at a standstill. It was such a short period of time.
"I'm not feeling that bad. I'm gutted for the team, I feel gutted for and I've apologised to Kimi, but also for my team because we were the best this weekend. No one could touch us, and something as small as that ... it's not like I crashed into them all while I was racing because then I'd feel really bad."
That was when the race began to unfold for Kubica, who crashed here so dramatically last year. "We were pitting, everybody together, and the red light was still on at the exit, similar to last year," he said. "Kimi and I stopped side by side, and then I heard a big shunt and saw Kimi moving. I saw it was Lewis going over his rear wing, so I just concentrated on the green light."
A man of very dry humour, he could not help but add: "I have to thank Lewis that he chose Kimi and not me..."
Nick Heidfeld now led until his pit stop on the 29th lap, rejoining just ahead of Kubica as Honda's Rubens Barrichello, Red Bull's David Coulthard and Timo Glock in the Toyota all led briefly before their own pit calls. But BMW Sauber had switched Heidfeld to a one-stop strategy, and with a lighter car two-stopping Kubica was faster.
"I was stuck behind slower cars and couldn't overtake them, but when the last one went in I had eight laps to make a 16 second margin to come back out ahead of Nick," Kubica said. "It was like several laps of qualifying, I never had to push so much, but it was a great race."
"I had pulled out a nice gap and got out ahead of Robert for my second stint," Heidfeld said, "but at that stage we decided to convert me to a one stopper on the soft tyres. It was the right thing but I struggled on them. As I was on a different strategy, let's say I didn't make it difficult for him."
Now Barrichello led for Honda, from Nakajima and Coulthard, with the Toyotas of Trulli and Timo Glock leading Sebastian Vettel as the last of those who had not yet stopped. Then came Kubica, once again looking good, in sixth place from Heidfeld, who had Fernando Alonso and Heikki Kovalainen hunting him down.
Barrichello's sole stop on lap 36 put another former star back in the limelight as Coulthard went ahead for Red Bull, but he was living on borrowed time too and duly refuelled on lap 37, as did Vettel. So now it was momentarily a Toyota 1-2, Trulli leading Glock, but Kubica was stalking them and had already opened up 9.6 seconds over Heidfeld.
At this stage the greatest threat to the Swiss-German cars came from Fernando Alonso, who was pushing his Renault for all he was worth. On lap 44 he sneaked by at the hairpin, only to slide wide and hand back second place. A lap later he spun off when the gearbox malfunctioned. Thus Kubica and Heidfeld cruised home to a great victory over Coulthard, who was more than happy with his podium in the Red Bull.
The Scot said: "I'm delighted because I would never have expected to get a point here this weekend. "I've had a horrible start to the year – as have all my guys on my car, the whole team and everyone back at the factory, who've had a lot of repairs because of all the various incidents. I am delighted for them. It's a real credit to them and the efforts they're putting in.
"This adds to the points Mark (Webber) has already scored this season and helps us build our total in the championship," Coutlhard said. "The start was pretty hairy with all the cars bunched up round Turn One and Turn Two, but my goal was to get to the finish and get points, so to get my 62nd podium is a great result."
The German rookie Glock brought his car home in fourth place to get his first points of the season. He said: "The result is great for the team, great for my crew, the mechanics and the engineers who have done a perfect job in the last few weeks. I dedicate the points to them."
Massa salvaged fifth place for Ferrari after an audacious passing move on both Barrichello and Kovalainen.
Kubica's 10 points move him to the lead of the World Championship, with 42 to Hamilton and Massa's 38 and Raikkonen's 35. And BMW Sauber jump to second on 70 to Ferrari's 73 and McLaren's 53.
As an antidote to the recent bitterness associated with the Mosley Affair, it could scarcely have been a better afternoon.
1 R Kubica (Pol) BMW-Sauber 1hr 36min 24.447sec
2 N Heidfeld (Ger) BMW-Sauber +16.495sec
3 D Coulthard (GB) Red Bull-Renault +23.352
4 T Glock (Ger) Toyota +42.627
5 F Massa (Br) Ferrari +43.934.
6 J Trulli (It) Toyota +47.775
7 R Barrichello (Br) Honda +53.597
8 S Vettel (Ger) Toro Rosso-Ferrari +54.120
9 H Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes +54.433
10 N Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Toyota +57.749
11 J Button (GB) Honda +1min 7.540sec
12 M Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault +1:11.229
13 S Bourdais (Fr) Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap
Not classified (Did not finish): G Fisichella (It) Force India-Ferrari 52 laps completed; K Nakajima (Japan) Williams-Toyota 47; F Alonso (Sp) Renault 45; N Piquet (Br) Renault 40 K Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 19; L Hamilton (GB) McLaren-Mercedes 19; A Sutil (Ger) Force India-Ferrari 13.
Constructors' championship: 1 Ferrari 73pts; 2 BMW-Sauber 70; 3 McLaren 53; 4 Red Bull 2; 5 Toyota 17; 6 Williams 15; 7 Renault 9; 8 Honda 8; 9 Scuderia Toro Rosso 7.
* Super Aguri-Honda have withdrawn from the 2008 Formula One championship
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