So there we are, Lewis Hamilton and the McLaren strategists delivered a well earned victory in Montreal and with it, the 25 points that take the 2008 World Champion past rivals Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, and into the lead of the current drivers’ standings.
But as much as this was McLaren’s victory, it was also Red Bull and Ferrari’s loss; not that by two-thirds distance, the main result looked in any doubt, but in the way that they failed to protect the positions and points that they should have accumulated. Interestingly, in the 24 hours following, the Maranello media machine has been working overtime to justify a strategy aimed at outright victory, yet as much as this is what racing is all about, if the first seven races of this year have told us anything, it is that nobody will dominate and that come the year’s end, it is likely that every result will count (remember Hamilton’s single-point victory over Felipe Massa in that dramatic season finale four years ago?) This is what Ferrari had to say earlier today:-
“In hindsight, it (the strategy) was a mistake and no one denies it, but it did not cost anything too dramatic. It cost the lead in the championship, but being first after just seven races doesn’t count for much: the important thing is to be there on 25 November, in Sao Paolo, Brazil.”
Now these are fine words, fighting talk from the marque that means more to Formula One than any other, but they can’t disguise the truth. Had Ferrari reacted to Hamilton’s second stop, they would, at the very least, have secured third place and 15 points; quite possibly second, and perhaps more importantly, have given the Spaniard the chance to challenge for the win had Hamilton either suffered a problem, or, had there been a late safety-car. As it is, Alonso took home just 10 points, 2 short of Vettel and 15 less than Hamilton.
To his credit, Christian Horner was more circumspect. He can probably afford to be, and Vettel too. The two-time champion demonstrated his reading of the situation on-track when Hamilton came to make his move; this was not the time to block and delay the inevitable. With the McLaren driver clearly holding the upper hand, the best result for the young German would be for championship leader Alonso to be displaced too. Allowing Hamilton an easy pass was his way of aiding the damage limitation.
We are, of course, only a third of the way though the season, but as I’ve said previously, the 2012 crown is going to be won via defining moments, and Canada produced plenty of these.
11th June 2012