Formula 1

Button Steals Last-Minute Victory in an Epic Rain-Interrupted Canadian Grand Prix

7 Mins read

Jenson Button took his first victory of 2011 in a sensational Canadian Grand Prix that had five safety car periods, a two hour rain delay, and lasted for nearly four hours.

Button made six trips through the pit lane, including one for a drive-through penalty, was dead last at one point, and overtook Sebastian Vettel for the victory on the final lap of the race.

The reigning world champion finished second despite having led virtually every corner of the grand prix. He went  too deep into a corner on the final lap and conceded the lead to Button.

Mark Webber finished in third place, depriving Michael Schumacher of the first podium finish of his comeback. The seven-time world champion had to settle for fourth.

Vitaly Petrov, Felipe Massa, Kamui Kobayashi, Jaime Alguersuari, Rubens Barrichello and Sebastien Buemi picked up the rest of the points.

Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton both retired from the race following collisions with Button, and both incidents are still to be investigated by race stewards.

The rain that had been falling all morning in Montreal stopped about half an hour before the race began, but the track was still very damp, and extreme wet tyres were the order of the day. Toro Rosso chose to start Jaime Alguersuari – who qualified eighteenth – from the pit lane, allowing them to switch the STR6 to a full wet set-up.

The race started behind the safety car, depriving viewers of a first-corner battle between pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel and second-placed man Fernando Alonso, even though the track did not look too wet.

Everybody got away off the line without any trouble, and followed the safety car for four laps before the racing finally got underway.

Alonso had a look at Vettel around the final corner of Lap 4 but the first incident came when Lewis Hamilton tried to pass Mark Webber for fourth into Turn 1 of the first racing lap. He tagged the Red Bull, spinning it round. The move dropped Hamilton down behind Michael Schumacher, and Webber right down to P14. Schumacher and Hamilton both passed Jenson Button fairly quickly.

Hamilton tried to get by Schumacher on the next lap, but ran wide at the hairpin and lost the place back to team-mate Button.

On Lap 8 there was more drama as the two McLaren drivers collided. Hamilton was attempting to make a move on his team-mate down the start/finish straight, but Button moved across him and the two hit one another. A bewildered Button, who had clearly not seen Hamilton, came over the radio to ask his team: “What is he [Hamilton] doing?!”

Hamilton fared much worse than Button in the accident, and had to park his car on the side of the track. Button went into the pits at the end of the lap, but only took on a set of intermediate tyres.

Under the safety car, Vettel led the two Ferrari drivers of Alonso and Felipe Massa. Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher were fourth and fifth and Kamui Kobayashi, who started thirteenth, was sitting sixth. Webber was down in ninth after his early collision with Hamilton and Button was twelfth.

The safety car came in at the end of Lap 12 but there were no shenanigans on this restart. Button got a drive through penalty for going too quickly under the safety car which he took at the next opportunity and slotted back into P16.

Vettel had a 2.5 second lead over Alonso by the end of the first full racing lap, and seemed set to run away into the distance. Button was scything his way through the field, making great use of the intermediate tyres. Williams were watching this, and brought Rubens Barrichello in for a change of tyres at the end of that lap 15.

Alonso and Rosberg pitted from second and fourth at the end of the Lap 17 and several backmarkers also dived in for the Pirelli intermediates. Schumacher came in on the following lap, but Vettel and Massa, who were now running first and second, elected to stay out.

The rain then began to come down much heavier now though, and those on intermediates started to struggle. The safety car came out on Lap 20, presumably to pre-empt any accident, and most of the drivers who had pitted early then had to come back in for the extreme wets.

Sebastian Vettel also came into the pits as the safety car emerged to take on a fresh set of extreme wet tyres. This gifted Massa the lead of the grand prix temporarily, but Massa pitted for new extreme wets the next time round.

Once these pit stops were over, Vettel led from Kobayashi, who hadn't yet stopped, and Massa was in third. Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov were fourth and fifth for Renault and Paul di Resta was sitting sixth, ahead of Webber and Alonso.

However, the rain continued to pummel the track, and it was getting heavier and heavier. Vettel started to complain about the amount of water in some sections of the track, and Button quickly followed. Then, on Lap 25, the red flag came out, and racing was suspended.

And it stayed suspended for a long long time. Spectators sat around for over two hours waiting for the race to restart, which it finally did at 15:50 local time, 20:50 BST. The race restarted under the safety car with all runners required to fit extreme wet tyres.

The restart was very short-lived for Heikki Kovalainen, who lost drive and could not keep up with the rest of the field as they all followed the safety car. The problem with the Team Lotus was terminal, and mechanics had to push the car into the garage.

The safety car finally came in at the end of Lap 34. Just to emphasise how dry the track was, Jerome D'Ambrosio came in for a set of intermediate tyres and Jenson Button told his race engineer that the extreme wets were no longer necessary.

Felipe Massa almost managed to get past Kamui Kobayashi into the first corner of Lap 35 but the Sauber driver bravely held off the charging Ferrari. A lot of the backmarkers dived into the pits for intermediate tyres, indicating that the safety car must have stayed out for too many laps.

Nick Heidfeld, Paul di Resta, Jenson Button and virtually everybody behind them took on intermediate tyres the next time round and so it was just the top six still running on the extreme wets.

Sebastian Vettel stayed out the next time round but everybody else came in behind him. Ferrari had to queue their drivers, with Fernando Alonso sitting waiting for his pit crew to service Felipe Massa first.

The lost positions did not really matter much for Alonso – he beached his car soon after coming out of the pit lane after a collision with Button. Button ended up with a puncture after his failed overtaking manoeuvre, and the safety car came out to remove the stricken Ferrari.

Vettel got another free pit stop with the safety car coming out. He took on some intermediate tyres and came out of the pits in the lead of the grand prix. Button recovered to the pits to have his puncture fixed but emerged plum last.

Under this fourth safety car period, the order of the top ten was Vettel, Kobayashi, Massa, Heidfeld, Di Resta, Webber, Schumacher, Petrov, Rosberg and Sutil. Button, already under investigation for the accident with Hamilton, was now under investigation for the collision with Alonso.

The safety car came in at the end of Lap 40. Schumacher got past Webber on Lap 42 and seconds later Paul di Resta broke his front wing in a clumsy attempt to get past Nick Heidfeld. He was a sitting duck for Schumacher and Webber, and continued to lose positions as nursed the Force India back to the pits.

Schumacher set a fastest lap Lap 45, and also passed Nick Heidfeld in the process of setting that time. At the beginning of Lap 46, the FIA deemed the track safe enough to enable DRS.

Mark Webber came into the pits at the end of Lap 50 for a set of super-soft dry tyres, and Rubens Barrichello did the same. Meanwhile, on track, Schumacher got past both Felipe Massa and Kamui Kobayashi to jump up to second place.

Schumacher, Massa and Heidfeld came in at the end of Lap 52 for some dry tyres. The race leader came in one lap later, as did Kobayashi and the remainder of the field.

Most drivers kept their cars on track, but Felipe Massa got out on wet track and brushed the nose of his Ferrari against the wall. He then required an extra pit stop, and put himself out of contention for the race win.

At the end of Lap 55, Vettel was leading Schumacher by 8.7 seconds, but had Webber close behind in third. Button had recovered to fourth and Kobayashi had slipped down to fifth place.

Heidfeld crashed out after running into the back of Kobayashi and brought out the fifth safety car of the afternoon so that marshals could clear Renault debris off the track.

The safety car came in at the end of Lap 60 and Webber, in third, was quickly onto the back of Schumacher. However, Button was watching them both from fourth, ready to pounce.

Webber used DRS to get past Schumacher at the end of Lap 63, but jumped the chicane at the end of the lap, and had to give the place back. Webber went over the same chicane on the next lap too, and Button got up into third place.

Schumacher was a sitting duck the next time round for Button, how opened his rear wing and just drove past the seven-time world champion. Such was the pace of the McLaren, Button was onto the back of leader Vettel within a couple of laps.

Webber got past Schumacher at the end of Lap 67 – easily, thanks to DRS.

And then, for the final piece of drama, Vettel went wide on the final lap, and Button took the race win.

Massa overtook Kobayashi down the start/finish straight on the final lap of the race, beating him over the finish line by fractions of a metre.


Canadian Grand Prix 2011: Provisional Race Result

Pos No Driver Team Laps Time/Retired Points
1 4 United Kingdom Jenson Button United Kingdom McLaren 70 Winner 25 Report
2 1 Germany Sebastian Vettel Austria Red Bull 70 +2.7 secs 18 Report
3 2 Australia Mark Webber Austria Red Bull 70 +13.8 secs 15 Report
4 7 Germany Michael Schumacher Germany Mercedes 70 +14.2 secs 12 Report
5 10 Russian Federation Vitaly Petrov United Kingdom Renault 70 +20.3 secs 10
6 6 Brazil Felipe Massa Italy Ferrari 70 +33.2 secs 8 Report
7 16 Japan Kamui Kobayashi Switzerland Sauber 70 +33.2 secs 6 Report
8 19 Spain Jaime Alguersuari Italy Toro Rosso 70 +35.9 secs 4 Report
9 11 Brazil Rubens Barrichello United Kingdom Williams 70 +45.1 secs 2 Report
10 18 Switzerland Sebastien Buemi Italy Toro Rosso 70 +47.0 secs 1 Report
11 8 Germany Nico Rosberg Germany Mercedes 70 +50.4 secs Report
12 17 Spain Pedro de la Rosa Switzerland Sauber 70 +63.6 secs Report
13 23 Italy Vitantonio Liuzzi Spain Hispania Racing 69 +1 Lap Report
14 22 India Narain Karthikeyan Spain Hispania Racing 69 +1 Lap Report
15 25 Italy Jerome D'Ambrosio United Kingdom Virgin Racing 69 +1 Lap
16 24 Germany Timo Glock United Kingdom Virgin Racing 69 +1 Lap
17 21 Italy Jarno Trulli United Kingdom Team Lotus 69 +1 Lap Report
18 15 United Kingdom Paul di Resta IndiaForce India 67 Accident Report
Ret 12 Venezuela Pastor Maldonado United Kingdom Williams 61 Spun off Report
Ret 9 Germany Nick Heidfeld United Kingdom Renault 55 Accident
Ret 14 Germany Adrian Sutil India Force India 49 Accident Report
Ret 5 Spain Fernando Alonso Italy Ferrari 36 Accident Report
Ret 20 Finland Heikki Kovalainen United Kingdom Team Lotus 28 Driveshaft Report
Ret 3 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton United Kingdom McLaren 7 Accident Report


Results Update: Jenson Button received no post-race penalties for the accidents with Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso and keeps his race victory.

Narain Karthikeyan was given a 20 second penalty for gaining the advantage by missing a corner. This demoted the Hispania driver to P17.

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David is an occasional contributer to the site on matters related to Formula 1. You can follow him on twitter at @Dr_Bean.
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