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#774 2007 Canadian Grand Prix

2023-01-19 17:19

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#2007, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Margherita Schiatti,

#774 2007 Canadian Grand Prix

A test session was held on May 17 and 18 at the Paul Ricard circuit in France, with the track configured to replicate the characteristics of the Circu

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A test session was held on May 17 and 18 at the Paul Ricard circuit in France, with the track configured to replicate the characteristics of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the final two days after it had been in the style of Monaco for the first two. Despite the fact that the McLaren team had dominated on the Monaco set-up of the circuit, Ferrari was better on the Canadian set-up. Kimi Räikkönen had the fastest time on the first day, with a time of 1'28"833. Rain after lunch caused the test to be halted, when the test resumed Räikkönen was forced to finish early when his car experienced electronic problems. Scott Speed achieved the second fastest time, two-tenths of a second behind Räikkönen, with seven-tenths separating the first eight drivers. The Red Bull team focused on testing their suspension. Rubens Barrichello and Christian Klien shared testing for the Honda team over the day, however, Klien's engine failed on his first lap. James Rossiter in the Super Aguri completed the most laps with 115. Räikkönen was also the fastest on the second day with a time of 1'28"624, with Renault driver Giancarlo Fisichella ending the day with the second fastest time. Fisichella also completed 111 laps, the second most of the day, behind James Rossiter's 131. Pedro de la Rosa was third fastest despite completing fewer laps than other drivers due to his engine failing early in the day. The testing session was stopped twice when Adrian Sutil's and Jenson Button's engines failed. Red Bull continued to perform high and low downforce work and BMW performed low and medium downforce work. Fisichella was optimistic about the race after these tests saying:

 

"He had more grip, the brakes were good and the front suspension gave him a better turn-in".

 

On the eve of the Canadian Grand Prix, Kimi Räikkönen has no desire to give up, despite the gap from Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, who are tied at the top of the championship standings with 38 points.

 

"I'm fourth, 15 points behind the leading pair. The gap is not that unbridgeable and my position is not that bad. In Formula 1 it's easy to go from riches to rags. I just try to do my job as best as I can".

 

Felipe Massa loves North America: large spaces, tracks as smooth as highways, lots of substance and little glitter. The opposite of the Principality, a circuit where the Ferraris manoeuvred with the agility of a limousine. 

 

"Monte-Carlo was a one-off. And the case is closed".

 

Montreal and Indianapolis are two fiefdoms of the Maranello team. Last year Michael Schumacher's comeback began at the United States Grand Prix and at that time the deficit was 25 points, not the current 5. Kimi Räikkönen also knows he is playing an important card. Maybe the last one:

 

"If it goes wrong again, it could be a disaster".

 

The gap is 15 points, which does not contemplate any more missteps. It starts in Canada. Ferrari has prepared a small aerodynamic revolution. The new wings must allow the F2007 to exceed 300 km/h on four straights of the circuit. The brakes have been upgraded accordingly. The innovations were tested at Castellet: Kimi Räikkönen was consistently faster than the McLarens. Good sign, waiting for confirmation. For now, the new rear suspension and lenticular front wheels will not be used. It is cold in Montreal. Rain is on the forecast for Friday, the thermometer does not rise above 13 °C, and perhaps the sun will shine again tomorrow and Sunday. No alarm for the tyres: Bridgestone, Formula 1’s only supplier, brought the same compounds used in Monte Carlo. For the drivers, the problem is getting them up to temperature, but - unlike in the past - the tyres will not make the difference. Felipe Massa says:

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"We prepared very well".

 

The opportunity is important: overtaking Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton in the standings, taking the lead in the World Championship for the first time. Does the championship start here?

 

"No, too easy. I lost precious points early on. Imagine if I hadn't had reliability problems in qualifying in Australia: maybe I would already be first. Last year I was also very strong in the second part of the championship, but then the objective was third place. Getting it was a personal triumph. Me number one? We only have one team game: to score more points, beat our opponents, put two Ferraris in front".

 

The theory is unassailable. But for Kimi Räikkönen it is not that simple:

 

"I only scored one point in the last two races. There's nothing else to say. It happened to me, maybe it will happen to others".

 

From Finn to Finn, Mika Häkkinen had told him:

 

"I told you not to go to Ferrari".

 

But Kimi replies:

 

"After the first race I was right, since I won. I don't know anyone who reads the future, so let's wait and see".

 

He then ends by acknowledging the reason for a start to the season that was below expectations:

 

"I feel good in the team, there is great professionalism, and the people are nice. The problem is that so far I haven't felt comfortable with the car".

 

And on the poisons that Jacques Villeneuve spreads on the Canadian Grand Prix, and especially against Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa takes to the field to defend his McLaren colleague:

 

"He never did anything irregular".

 

The rest of the paddock joins in. Giancarlo Fisichella does not mince his words:

 

"Jacques has the habit of talking a lot. Sometimes it would be better to remain silent".

 

Alexander Wurz says:

 

"For Villeneuve it is increasingly difficult to find topics to discuss".

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Nick Heidfeld plays dumb:

 

"I don't even know what he's referring to".

 

In five races he has already doubled the joys of his career. Two victories and three pole positions were his harvest at the end of 2006, in less than three months he has raked in the same treasure, a conspicuous haul that pushed him much higher than Kimi Räikkönen and made Ferrari understand (Jean's words Todt) to have a World Championship man at home. Felipe Massa, no longer a wingman, but a leader, started off as strong as he dreamed of on the eve, two triumphs in Bahrain and in Spain, three times king of Saturday, with that Malaysia still burning in his stomach, the false start, the immediate overtake by Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, the mistake that dropped him to fifth place. He immediately showed his character, equaling last season's laurels, but it is still not enough for him. He is no longer a man of intermediate stages, but of final victory.

 

"And my dream, the only one that matters, is the world title".

 

A desire that has transformed his gaze, still friendly, but with a tighter jaw, which has changed his character, always kind, but with a decidedly more combative attitude, which is influencing his every behaviour.

 

"The pressure? It doesn't bother me at all. I know what Ferrari wants from me, what it asks of me, I'm here specifically to satisfy it. We want to win the title and I feel ready to do it. I have to fight with the McLarens, with two strong drivers like Alonso and Hamilton, it is a tough task, but it doesn’t scare me. The important thing is to go faster than in Monte-Carlo, to return to those of the first races, fast and competitive, the rest can come as a consequence. Räikkönen had two misses, a retirement in Barcelona, and a point in Monte-Carlo, in such a balanced world championship these are missteps that could be decisive, but I am convinced that he can still give me a hand. Two people fight better, the McLarens have no illusions, for now, they're in front, but we're gearing up to overtake".

 

Help from Kimi Räikkönen, who has been rather disappointing so far. Felipe Massa hopes so. At the beginning of the season, Ferrari blessed the new course, no more announced leaders, equal drivers, points in the standings and the stopwatch to establish the role of the first driver, but now the World Championship is underway, the McLarens are running away, better to rely on the certain Felipe Massa rather than to the uncertain Kimi Räikkönen. Canada is a point of reference in this respect, Ferrari has always done very well here, almost as important as the United States Grand Prix, where Ferrari, largely favoured over McLaren, just cannot waste its wild card. Felipe Massa has clear ideas.

 

"In these two Grands Prix, we have to do our best, do like our opponents in Monte-Carlo, and take advantage of their ideal race, otherwise everything risks becoming very complicated. I'm five points behind, it's not many, but the sooner I close the gap, the better".

 

A way to put even more pressure on himself, in front of the affectionate eyes of his tutelary deity Schumacher, also present in Montreal. After all, trouble never made his legs tremble. Eduardo, his brother, explains:

 

"When there was one in the family, it was always Felipe's turn. He was always the man of the house".

 

The driver who now aspires to transform himself into Michael Schumacher's true heir. With his blessing. And to the happiness of Ferrari: optimistic, but no longer so certain of being able to destroy McLaren's ambitions.

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Practice started on Friday, June 10, 2007, with Alonso leading at the end of both the two practice sessions. In both sessions, he outpaced his teammate and the closest Ferrari driven by Felipe Massa. BMW Sauber were pleased with 5th place in the first session and 7th in the second from Nick Heidfeld despite his report that the car was very difficult to drive. But Robert Kubica's car suffered a fuel leak resulting in him being unable to post a timed lap in the morning session, Kubica also told the press after the fuel leak, the car was quite difficult to drive. Both Red Bull drivers finished in the top ten of the morning practice. Honda were slower than its customer team Super Aguri in the first practice, but Barrichello was faster than Takuma Satō in the second practice. Toyota's suspension problems meant that their second practice was cut short, but not before Ralf Schumacher narrowly missed a groundhog that ran across the track. After experiencing problems with Jarno Trulli's suspension, Toyota stopped both drivers for 45 minutes as a precautionary measure. By the time they got the cars back on the track, they only managed a few extra laps until the problem recurred. Heikki Kovalainen ended his practice day by going into the wall at turn 7, damaging the suspension. His teammate, Fisichella, performed better, staying in the top 8 in both sessions. At the end of the afternoon practice, Mark Webber slowed down unexpectedly before turn 8 causing Scott Speed to drive into the back of the Red Bull. Webber had overtaken Speed just before this accident. Alonso leads. First in both free practice sessions. The Spaniard, happy with his McLaren, leads with a racing pace that his opponents themselves define as alarming, and Ferrari is a little worried. Here in Canada, they were expecting a return to the past, an immediate change of gear, a restoration of the old dominance, the one manifested on several occasions at the beginning of the season, but instead, they found himself dealing with a car that slips on the track, with tyres that have poor grip, with a car that seems to have some braking problems and does not seem to excel in corner entry. Alonso gloats, while Räikkönen is forced to play defensively:

 

"I'm aiming for pole position, it's clear, you always have to think about the maximum, but I would already be happy if we managed to place both cars in the first two rows. To be honest, I was expecting something more, especially in terms of grip. McLaren is fast, even if it doesn't have the advantage it showed in Monte-Carlo. Our car, on the other hand, is a bit unstable and above all slides along the circuit, which is the reason for my mistake. Maybe in qualifying and the race everything is going to change".

 

What is worrying is the gap from Fernando Alonso in the last session. In the final minutes, Ferrari tried to go for the fastest lap, also to reduce the gap and save the day a little. The two drivers, Massa and Räikkönen, gave their all, probably even lowering the fuel level in the tank a little, but the result was not exciting. Massa, the faster of the two, finished in second place, 0.540 seconds behind the Spaniard, Räikkönen was also beaten by Hamilton's McLaren, and his fourth-fastest time placed him almost a second behind the leader. Heavy gaps, which absolutely need to be closed today if we want to believe in pole. An objective that Trulli cannot even dream of with Toyota. Two broken suspensions in a few minutes, a record, with the alarm outweighing the bad luck because it is always the front right. A car that goes slowly is fine. But there is also a risk here that should not be underestimated. If it is a defect, it must be corrected immediately. The Saturday morning practice session was 17 minutes shorter than the scheduled 60 minutes, due to Kovalainen's Renault having a suspected engine failure. The failure caused oil to be spilled on the track, this failure persisted during the race weekend. This resulted in a red flag period, from 10:33 am until 10:50 am local time. Hamilton led the practice with the fastest lap; with Räikkönen, Alonso and Massa posting the second, third and fourth fastest laps respectively. Satō finished the session with the fifth fastest lap in the Super Aguri car, outpacing the Honda team for the second time during the race weekend. Toyota continued a disappointing race weekend, with the 14th and 16th fastest laps. Their suspension problems from the day before had not been resolved, and the two drivers were given instructions to avoid the kerbs at turn 8 to minimize further damage to the suspension. Red Bull came back with both of the two repaired cars entering the top ten. A few hours later, in qualifying Hamilton took his first pole position as part of a McLaren one-two. Heidfeld improved on his practical performance to take third position, in front of the Ferraris of Räikkönen and Massa. 

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Massa shared the third row with Mark Webber, who did not seem to be suffering the same braking problem that almost put teammate David Coulthard out in the first session of qualifying, he had only one attempt at a lap in the second session as a result. Nico Rosberg, Robert Kubica, Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli completed the top ten. Consistent with the previous form, the Hondas of Barrichello and Button failed to make it into the top ten; they qualified 13th and 15th respectively. Takuma Satō, once again out-qualified the two Honda cars, just missing out on the top ten, in front of Vitantonio Liuzzi. He made it through to the second session of qualifying by 94 hundredths of a second, where he qualified in 14th. Scott Speed was the slowest car in the second session of qualifying putting him in 16th position. Anthony Davidson missed out on the second session of qualifying, putting his Super Aguri in 17th position, 3 places behind his teammate Satō. Ralf Schumacher and his team were disappointed with qualifying in 18th. Heikki Kovalainen crashed into the wall at turn 5, damaging his rear suspension and losing his rear wing, resulting in the session being stopped temporarily. Once the debris had been cleared, Kovalainen in his repaired car managed one impressive lap that put him in 13th, after which six drivers outqualified him. Kovalainen then had to make an engine change due to an engine failure and was demoted to the back of the grid. Wurz, Sutil and Albers qualified in 19th, 20th and 21st respectively after being pushed up a place by Kovalainen's engine change.

 

So much for a change of gear: in Montreal, the identical red-coloured disaster is repeated, with McLaren in control and Ferrari forced to trudge on. The verdict of qualifying, often more than a preview of what will happen in the race, is actually slightly different, the king is not Fernando Alonso, but Lewis Hamilton, who secured the first pole position of his life. Kimi Räikkönen is not at the back of the grid, in that sad sixteenth place he occupied in the Principality, but fourth, with some more hope of a comeback, better chances than those of Felipe Massa, who from fifth position (worse than the third he had in Monte -Carlo) can consider even the podium a utopia. The Canadian verdict is not exactly the same, but in essence, it reproduces the same discomfort experienced in Monaco, showing that the atypical race on the street circuit was not an episode, that at the moment the real arrow is McLaren and that Ferrari has lost a lot of its initial competitiveness. We clung to the hopes of a track traditionally favourable to the Maranello cars, to carry out the overtaking operation, and instead, we once again found ourselves having to deal with the excessive power of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, who are so superior that they allow themselves the luxury of making fun of the first corner, with the rookie ready to swear that he will pass his more illustrious teammate, and with Fernando Alonso who, faced with such gallantry, is not happy and is determined to refuse the nice gesture. They are joking, of course. In reality, they will battle because they are now a broken couple, they both want to win and neither of them will pity the other. Lewis Hamilton's boundaries grow larger with each Grand Prix. After five consecutive podiums. The Brit took the first pole position of his career:

 

"And it's another step forward in my life; this first place is better than sex".

 

The debutant only needs to break down the last, big taboo: victory. It could happen in Montreal. But the British driver will still have many obstacles. Just to name one, his teammate. Fernando Alonso does not even think about leaving him space, both in McLaren and in the World Championship: whoever wins takes the lead alone in the standings. A couples’ game that could erode energy, even if not at the moment. The tension is there, even if it has not yet reached its peak, and therefore there is still room for a bit of mutual irony. Fernando, what do you do if Lewis attacks you in a corner, how do you behave?

 

"I'll let him pass".

 

Collective laughter, and here is Hamilton who does not want to lose the thread of the conversation and takes the microphone spontaneously:

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"Me too".

 

The ballet seems destined to last a long time, and this time McLaren can smile: these are no longer the times of conflict between Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Räikkönen, these two guys know how the system works, they wage war where it is necessary to win, that is inside the pits, without media shows or embarrassing dramas. Hamilton says he learned a lot from the Monte-Carlo lesson:

 

"I said what I felt, and I think that was right. But from today onwards I'll think twice before speaking, I'll be more careful".

 

Already in Montreal, you could notice the difference: kind and helpful, always and everywhere, but that spontaneous smile of his had disappeared. Concentrated, on every word.

 

"Exciting, this is the day. I enjoy the moment, but I am preparing for tomorrow".

 

Lewis, will you sleep?

 

"I really think so. I will spend the day before with my dad and with the trainer, but in general I don't think I will have problems with insomnia".

 

The World Champion, Fernando Alonso, lets it be said and done.

 

"Well, of course, I wanted pole position. But the front row is fine too. The track conditions were different compared to Friday. I think qualifying went well for the team, and that we can win".

 

A plural maiestatis addressed to himself, obviously. The unwritten rule is to speak well of the team with your own interests in mind.

 

"We have improved. We have to keep the momentum high, here in Montreal and, why not, also in Indianapolis".

 

Then, Fernando Alonso downplays:

 

"If I will fight to the death? Let's see how the race goes, it depends. But the World Cup is won in Brazil, not in Canada".

 

The other, the rookie, the young challenger, listens. Maybe he records, to understand how to behave in the future.

 

"For me it will be a new experience, the start. Nobody in front of me. My main opponents? Many, but especially those who come close to me at the first corner".

 

And the late Ferrari? Lewis Hamilton replies:

 

"I expect them to be competitive in the race".

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Be that as it may, their duel promises sparks, the hope for Ferrari is that the third wheel, Nick Heidfeld with the BMW, does not join the fight because otherwise there will be trouble for the Maranello team. Those who call for calm, in fact, pass off the theory that the two Ferrari drivers have a lot of fuel on board, a choice resulting from a different strategy from McLaren, a tactic that should help Felipe Massa and Kimi Räikkönen, extending the times of the first stop and thus allowing a recovery on the fastest opponents. But judging by the mood of the two drivers, any optimistic thoughts struggle to find space. Felipe Massa is perplexed:

 

"I don't know whether to call myself bitter, I was certainly happier other times. There is no doubt that McLaren was faster than us in qualifying, we hope to have a strategy that can make the difference. Evidently, the problem was not just Monte-Carlo, the gap was more general. We're not talking about a compromised world championship, but I recognise that we thought we were faster".

 

Even Nick Heidfeld is ahead of the Ferraris.

 

"It doesn't bother us at all if it's an advertising move by BMW. If it is very light, it will quickly get out of the way. But if it has the same fuel as us, then it's a big problem".

 

Kimi Räikkönen is less direct in his despondency.

 

"We weren't fast enough on the straight, that's for sure, for the rest the result will depend on the amount of fuel and the strategy adopted. I'm quite heavy, which is why I'm happier than in Monte-Carlo".

 

Where, moreover, he took a hard-fought eighth place.

 

"We know we have a competitive car in terms of race pace and today's result is always influenced by the unknown quantity of fuel taken on by the drivers. We didn't have any particular problems today: we lacked more speed, especially against our main rivals. However, before we wrap our heads around it, we have to wait and see how the race will go: we will do our best to get the best possible result".

 

Jean Todt, however, is very disappointed.

 

"It was a very disappointing qualifying, the worst of the season: we were inferior to our main rivals. It is clear that the points are awarded in the race and that tomorrow the crucial factors will be the same as always - strategy, reliability, performance, teamwork - but the picture of the situation today is not favourable to us: I hope that the race can change that".

 

Even Luca Baldisserri, Ferrari’s sporting director, is also not very satisfied:

 

"On this circuit, the result of qualifying has less weight than elsewhere but we must not deny that today our direct rivals were faster than us. We know we have a competitive package in terms of race pace and here the strategy and work of the team pit stops can be decisive. It's a very tough race for the cars and reliability will be fundamental. We will try to bring home the maximum points, aware that a difficult race awaits us".

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There was supposed to be a great rebirth in Montreal and instead, the Finn once again risks seeing the two McLaren men through the telescope. Something that Jarno Trulli, already happy, however, to be able to take part in the race with his Toyota, is also in danger of doing. The repeated failure of the front right suspension had created alarm, and the team to limit the damage softened the set-up and ordered him to no longer drive over the kerbs, at the cost of worsening his performance. In other words: the important thing is to participate. Sunday, June 10, 2007, at the start of the Canadian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton maintained the first position, preventing Fernando Alonso from overtaking at turn one. Alonso ran wide allowing Nick Heidfeld to overtake him and move into second place. Alonso damaged his car in the process and subsequently ran off the track at turn one a further three times during the race. Jenson Button had a gearbox problem at the start of the race and was unable to select first gear causing him to stall on the grid. Christijan Albers started from the pit lane. The first accident of the race involved Scott Speed who clipped the rear wing of Wurz' Williams and went into the hairpin with a broken suspension. Alonso ran across the grass at turn one again on lap 15, which resulted in him falling further behind Hamilton. Three laps later he made a similar mistake at the same turn, resulting in him sliding across the grass for the third time in the race. This caused him to drop back to fourth as it allowed Massa to go around the inside of Alonso into third. Massa moved into second when Heidfeld pitted on lap 20. Hamilton pitted on lap 22, rejoining the race in third place. On lap 22 Adrian Sutil crashed at turn four and the safety car had to be deployed; Hamilton had pitted just before the accident. Thus the pit lane was closed but Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg were forced to pit in order to avoid running out of fuel and were given ten-second stop-and-go penalties. When the pit lane was reopened and the rest of the field pitted, Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella left the pit lane while the red light was still on. Both were later disqualified from the race on lap 51. The race was restarted on lap 26, and on the approach to the hairpin later in the lap Robert Kubica hit the back of Jarno Trulli's Toyota. The impact forced Kubica onto the grass at the edge of the track, where a bump launched his car into and along the concrete wall just before the hairpin. 

 

After losing three wheels, the nose and suffering major damage to the side pods in the initial impact, the BMW flipped back across the track and came to rest against the barrier in the run-off area on the other side of the track. Although initial reports said that he had broken his leg, Kubica only suffered a sprained ankle and concussion. The safety car was deployed again after this crash. The safety car was also deployed on lap 50, due to debris from a crash involving Christijan Albers on the previous lap, and on lap 55 due to Vitantonio Liuzzi crashing into the wall of champions once again. On Lap 58, Jarno Trulli was trying to pass Wurz but later his front track rod clipped away causing him to crash. Cement was placed at the hairpin around Kubica's accident. Räikkönen ran wide after he misjudged the braking on the dust. The Super Aguri of Takuma Satō went past him as a result and moved into 10th place. On lap 37, Trulli and Nico Rosberg were battling for position going into turn 1. Both spun off the track in almost synchronised fashion without touching each other. This occurrence amused reporters due to it resembling a form of dance. Both drivers were able to keep going. Also on this lap, Anthony Davidson made an unscheduled pit stop. He claimed after the race that a beaver had damaged his front wing although Canadian reports said it was more likely to have been a groundhog. One lap later David Coulthard was forced to retire due to a gearbox problem. Ralf Schumacher also stopped on this lap and this allowed Massa, Fisichella and Satō to move ahead of both of them. Räikkönen had his second pit stop on lap 52 at the same time as Alonso. The latter was able to pass him just after they had exited the pits side by side. This moved him into 5th. Including the two disqualifications, ten drivers failed to finish the race, six of them due to accidents including Kubica. Four of them were gearbox failures. Several cars were damaged during the race: Wurz's rear wing was damaged in the accident that took out Speed, while Davidson hit a groundhog on the racetrack. This meant that the safety car had to be deployed on four occasions. At the final restart on lap sixty, all of the remaining twelve cars were on the same lap creating some close racing and a lot of overtaking. Hamilton sustained his consistent pace throughout all of the incidents and pulled clear of Heidfeld in the closing stages, taking his first race win relatively comfortably. Barrichello dropped ten places on his final pit stop. Hamilton's championship lead was strengthened when Satō overtook the reigning World Champion to move into sixth place around the outside of the final chicane, having switched to the harder tyres on his final stop.

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Austria's own, Alexander Wurz, drove through the field in his Williams from 19th at the start to finish third by taking one pitstop, completing 40 laps on super soft tyres. By finishing third, Wurz recorded his third career podium in the race that marked ten years since his debut race in F1. Nick Heidfeld finished in second place after trailing Hamilton for the majority of the race. The safety car deployments also allowed Heikki Kovalainen to move up to fourth after starting at the back of the grid. The race was the first time in the 2007 season that a driver from a team other than Ferrari or McLaren made the podium. Satō overtook the McLaren-Mercedes of world champion Fernando Alonso on lap 67, just after overtaking Ralf Schumacher and having overtaken Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen earlier in the race. He finished sixth after having a race that had seen him move from the middle of the grid; to the back of the pack and to a peak of fifth before a pit-stop error caused him to move back to eleventh; as he then moved up 5 places in the last 15 laps. For Hamilton, the terrible rookie, in the first triumph of his life, it was a Sunday worth remembering. He will remember it forever. The page has finally been written. And the date will be remembered forever: June 8, 2007, which enters the history of the whole sport. Together with Carl Lewis, Hamilton enters the golden register of great competitive feats. Another boy of African origins imposes himself in the very white world of motorsports. Exactly ten years after the last great exploit of Eldrick Woods, better known as Tiger, the boy who later revolutionised golf. A black man in power in F1. First in the standings, in full flight. A rookie. Now those photos of Willy T. Ribbs, the first black American to drive an F1, a Brabham (private tests) on the Estoril circuit in 1986, make a cuttlefish-like tenderness, stale stuff. The reality is this predestined driver right from the name. Carl Lewis, in homage to the great son of the wind, the legend of athletics.

 

"Great, at the end I was counting the seconds because of the tension".

 

Hamilton says, without sensational gestures but it is his body language that speaks for him, with that enthusiasm, that uncontainable desire to receive the trophy on the podium, those tears clearly visible as soon as he takes off his helmet. The only joke is about sex:

 

"On Saturday I said that pole position was better than sex. Today I say that they are different sensations...".

 

Lewis won the most exciting and chaotic Grand Prix of the season and of recent years. He saw little, having always been in front. Behind him, everything happened: perhaps it was written that, for his first time, he had to impose himself in the most exciting Grand Prix, even too much so, thinking about Kubica's accident, and he had a thought for the Pole: 

 

"He's a friend of mine, I hope he's well and nothing has happened to him". 

 

Now he will have to defend himself from the chorus of consensus, which could be his most dangerous enemy. Because now everyone feels the right to speak out on his behalf. Says Jackie Stewart:

 

"He's different from a simple rookie, he's different from everyone else. He received a gift from God. It is a natural phenomenon".

 

Adds Niki Lauda:

 

"He's young, fast and doesn't make mistakes. He makes decisions in an instant and always makes the right choice. And he is inexperienced. Impressive".

 

Damon Hill concludes:

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"It's not a good thing for F1, his arrival is an exceptional thing".

 

From today Lewis Hamilton joins the millionaires' club. In fact, his earnings amounted to 750.000 dollars but, in the agreement, the possibility of earning 250.000 dollars for each Grand Prix won was included. Not only that, but from today, that other clause in the contract with McLaren (which is funny to think of now), which provided for the driver to be cut if he was not fast enough for F1, is to be considered torn up. And, from today, no one will ask who is the one with the yellow helmet? Everyone will know that it is Lewis Hamilton, and that yellow was a colour specifically requested by dad Anthony since he raced in the junior categories: so he could spot him more easily in the traffic on the track. Dad is the true mentor of this prodigy:

 

"I dedicate the victory to him. I wouldn't have gotten here without him".

 

It was on the sofa at home that, together, little Lewis (aged six) used to keep his daddy (who had meanwhile separated from his mother Carmen) company as he watched the Grand Prix on television. And Anthony Hamilton would explain to him the rules and meanings of those races, of those duels (Senna against Prost, at the time). Spontaneous, therefore, was his step and attention towards karting where talent did not take long to manifest itself and, at the age of eight, he gave his first interview - on a BBC show. Then the desired meeting with Ron Dennis who, who knows why, gives credit to an eleven-year-old boy. Thus was born the tale of the boy who grew up in the academy, who goes through the whole process (karting, F3, GP2) quietly and well and then, with merit, is promoted to Formula 1.

 

“I'm on another planet. What do I want? To win the World Championship".

 

So the world gets to know him, Britain goes crazy hoping that Lewis Hamilton is the heir to Jackie Stewart and Stirling Moss, McLaren Mercedes gloats and the sponsors rub their hands. Why? Lewis Hamilton is every marketer's dream. He is perfect: nice, kind, politically correct. There is one thing, however, that advertisers will soon learn: the Hamilton family cannot be controlled. They do not get instrumentalised.

 

"The colour of my skin, I repeat, is an aspect that interests the media. But if it's needed to talk about it, that's fine. For me, it's not that important to be the first black driver, but for the sport itself it means a lot".

 

But it will be difficult for everyone to forget this crazy Canadian Grand Prix, the race of Robert Kubica's terrifying accident, a frightening episode, which fortunately ended without serious consequences for the Pole, the driver who races with the name of the old pope on his helmet, that Woytila that he loves, the race of the four safety cars, the same safety cars that eliminate the gaps and put the drivers in line, the continuous accidents, the cars crashing into the walls, touching barriers and destroying the sides, the stewards who inflict severe penalties, ten-second penalties with forced pit stops for Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg, even the black flag (which forces the driver to stop and end his adventure on the track) waved in front of Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella. More than a car race, an authentic lottery, where the twists and turns eventually become routine, where the positions are continually overturned, where in the end even Takuma Satō, usually a bystander, becomes a hero with his overtake on Ralf Schumacher and above all Fernando Alonso, more or less at the same moment in which Lewis Hamilton crosses the finish line with his arms raised for the first time in his career. It was the race that highlighted McLaren's incredible dominance, perhaps made less clear by the four safety cars, which in some way caged Fernando Alonso, and highlighted the temporary decline of Ferrari, always slow throughout the weekend, unstable in its pace, slippery on the track due to the poor grip of its tyres. 

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The final verdict somehow shuffles the cards, on the podium ended up Nick Heidfeld (in any case standard bearer of the BMW revelation) and Alexander Wurz with Williams; the constant interruptions ended up faking the entire race, but Ferrari would do well not to underestimate certain irrefutable data: Lewis Hamilton outclassed everyone, Kimi Räikkönen and Felipe Massa struggled to stay close and in the end at least the Finn can legitimately rejoice, because in an unexpected way he took away two points (perhaps useless) from the Spaniard. Beyond the gap that emerged between McLaren and Ferrari, the continuous emotions deserve to be remembered above all. Already at the start, it was clear that it would not be an ordinary Grand Prix, with a very fast Lewis Hamilton who pulls away, but with Fernando Alonso who makes a mistake, goes off track and allows Nick Heidfeld to overtake him. Felipe Massa is also a protagonist at the start: he mocks Kimi Räikkönen (the two touch and risk a collision which could have thrown them out of the race) and resists Nico Rosberg. After 17 laps Lewis Hamilton is already uncatchable and the rest of the company is busy fighting for the podium, but without hinting at overtakes or any big upsets. If Kimi Räikkönen ends up on the grass, you might be startled, but if Fernando Alonso goes there (lap 19) and this costs him an overtake by Felipe Massa, then things get interesting. 

 

The problem is that no one imagines having to deal with the Safety car. There is the new regulation, you cannot refuel, Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg come into the pits anyway and get a stop-and-go. Worse still goes to Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella. They refuel at the right time, but upon exiting the pits they find the red light. But they do not care and return to the track, resulting in a black flag and exclusion from the race. Let’s not talk about how it ends for Robert Kubica. Driving in slow motion behind the Safety car, perhaps with new tyres, the tyres are cold, there is no grip, and the running of your car is at great risk. The Pole accelerates and takes off, in every sense. The images were really scary. The car slamming from corner to corner, splashing sideways along the track, bouncing as if it were made of plastic, breaking into several parts and tipping over like a twig. Only by pure chance no other driver is involved. This is, more or less briefly, what happened to Robert Kubica, the Polish BMW driver, during lap 27 of the Canadian Grand Prix, precisely at turn 9. In the end, he got away with little (the prognosis is reserved as a precaution), but the car stopped on its side, vertically with a dangling tyre and the motionless driver had dramatically taken us back in time, to Imola 1994 and the deaths of Roland Ratzberger and Ayrton Senna. Thrilling comparisons, but terror struck everyone, spectators and drivers alike. Jarno Trulli made it clear:

 

"Regarding the dynamics of the accident, I can only say that I suddenly felt a contact from behind, nothing else. Honestly, during the safety car period, I was quite worried to see the ambulance stopped at the edge of the track. And no one told us anything, this was even worse in my opinion".

 

Fortunately, the survival cell (only that, nothing else was left of the car) withstood the terrible impacts, so the Polish driver will be able to tell his friends and relatives about it. Rescue was immediate: the Pole was carefully extracted from the cockpit by the medics and then transported by air ambulance to the Sacre-Coeur hospital for checks. But his manager, Daniele Morelli, confirmed that the sensations were not negative:

 

"He was conscious, I could talk to him almost normally and this seemed like a good sign to me. Now we need to see what X-rays and possible MRIs will say. Let's say that we were more scared to see what happened than Robert himself".

 

Difficult at this point is his participation in the next Grand Prix, where - in 2004 - there was the last spectacular accident involving Ralf Schumacher: the German crashed head-on at the Parabolica curve and was then forced to miss half a season due to the consequences. As mentioned, the fact that Robert Kubica was uninjured is a true miracle. Since then, there has been no peace.

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Safety car in and out repeatedly, Fernando Alonso overtaking Kimi Räikkönen in the pits, the Spaniard making a mistake and suffering a counter-move from the Finn. Vitantonio Liuzzi and Jarno Trulli also crash, everyone cannot wait for it to be over. Above all, Lewis Hamilton is happy to see the chequered flag. It is his first triumph. The dream of winning the World Championship is no longer a utopia. Instead, Felipe Massa is furious.

 

"Never would I have imagined finding a red light at that point. I had a lot of cars behind me, if I stopped they would have all crashed into me. This regulation is absurd, it is poorly made, and it absolutely must be changed. I didn't see the red light, no one warned me, I passed. But I didn't really think about it at the time. I had returned to refuel and change tyres when it was allowed, I had been very careful, and I had done everything according to the regulations, how can you be disqualified for something like that?"

 

Felipe Massa is restless. The Brazilian was black-flagged by the stewards and disqualified together with Fisichella for leaving the pits after the pit stop when it was not allowed. His performance was cancelled and he does not stand for it.

 

"I am disappointed. I was having an intelligent race, considering all the commotion on the track, and the various safety cars, I could have finished on the podium, the disqualification ruined everything. Maybe the people at home had fun, they saw everything, one emotion after another, but these new rules on the track have only created confusion. We need to review them. It doesn't seem to me that they interpret the sporting spirit well and can also harm safety. If I have to stop after refueling, because there is a red light, with the risk of being hit directly by someone arriving behind me, what's the point?"

 

The fact remains that the Ferraris were much slower than the McLarens. Lewis Hamilton, between an accident and a stroke of fate, was uncatchable.

 

"We didn't have speed, especially in the straights, but pretty much everywhere. The tyres lacked grip, and the car slipped. We can't figure out why, but something didn't work according to plan. The World Championship is not over, it is not compromised, the fight is still open, last year Schumacher left Montreal with more of a disadvantage over Alonso than I have now over Hamilton, but we have to recover immediately, work even harder, to become competitive again. We need to do well in Indianapolis, but not only that: we need to be strong everywhere".

 

Massa is also angry with the organisers and the track staff.

 

"Kubica's accident was terrifying, he could have hurt himself a lot, it's a miracle that nothing serious happened to him. There was a car parked on the side of the track, it was Speed's, why wasn't it removed? Maybe the trouble that happened to BMW could have had less disruptive effects. There was time to get it out of the way and it wasn't done".

 

The Brazilian has a pained expression, struggling to forget this weekend in Canada. Kimi Räikkönen's expression is no longer relieved, despite the fifth-place finish and the two points gained over Fernando Alonso.

 

"It could have even been better because I lost six from Hamilton. The problem is that here my Ferrari had no speed. At the start I was blocked by Rosberg, I struggled throughout the race. It was a difficult Sunday, in line with a disappointing weekend".

 

However, he does not want to give up.

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"The World Championship is still long, it's too early for verdicts. We have many problems, but everything is still open. The only thing I hope is to never repeat a race like this again: I had trouble with the brakes, with the tyres, I must have picked up some debris from Kubica's car. In short, a disaster".

 

And another finish (fifth, after an eighth place in Monte-Carlo) hard won. Disappointing performance. Not up to its reputation. And his salary. Jean Todt anticipated it at the end of the disastrous Canadian Sunday.

 

"I tried to explain to the president what happened, but I couldn't. It was a long phone call, he struggled to understand. For the second time in a row, we were beaten by opponents who were significantly stronger than us".

 

In reality, the president of Ferrari, Luca Montezemolo, understood very well. He understood that at the moment Ferrari is behind, that McLaren is much faster, that in Canada the same film seen in Monte-Carlo was repeated, with Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso flying, Felipe Massa and Kimi Räikkönen struggling. He realised this and for this reason, he is very disappointed. The president is categorical.

 

"I don't talk about Ferrari, I'm too angry. I am depressed about this new defeat".

 

Adding an uncomfortable comparison between Italy and Ferrari.

 

"We can't have a car so heavy that no driver is capable of driving it".

 

His anathema does not lack, knowing his traditional optimism, a well-wishing prediction:

 

"I'm sure we will win on Sunday in Indianapolis".

 

But it seems more like a hope than a real belief. Jean Todt also struggled to defend his two drivers this time. Felipe Massa was disqualified for leaving the pit lane with a red light:

 

"A carelessness that cost us six very heavy points. These are the rules, we didn't respect them, it's our fault. Massa would have ended up on the podium, he should have been more careful".

 

But Kimi Räikkönen is also in the dock.

 

"His start was slow, perhaps because the track on his side was dirty and the tyres lacked grip. At the pit stop he was annoyed by the confusion, but he reacted a few moments late and was passed by Alonso".

 

An elegant way of saying that he needs to wake up. Now the circus is moving to Indianapolis, where among other things, having been discharged from hospital practically unharmed on Monday, June 11, 2007, Robert Kubica would also like to race, after the frightening accident in Montreal with his BMW, and gives the idea of being the last chance. Ferrari can no longer afford to make mistakes.

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"I find myself in an English team that is making a genius out of its English driver. All the support and help from the team is for him. But I've always known it and I'm not complaining".

 

While Ferrari is wondering whether to find a solution to get out of a very negative moment, once again Fernando Alonso lets himself go and accuses McLaren of favouring rookie Lewis Hamilton, who won his first Formula 1 race in Montreal.

 

"I know there is some dissatisfaction with my result in Montreal. Everyone expected me to dominate, but I am where I expected to be and my chances of winning the title are unchanged".

 

Then, the Spaniard lashes out at the English media:

 

"We know what they are like and thank God the Spanish press has much more respect for people than the English press".

 

A sentence that is not accidental: that Fernando Alonso made it a question of nationality also emerged on Saturday evening, after qualifying. After second place, behind Lewis Hamilton, a Spanish journalist asked him: why should we believe that you can win?

 

"Because we are Spanish, right?"

 

The McLaren team categorically denies that there are any problems between the two drivers. Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, continues to smile and reserve compliments for his teammate:

 

"Fernando is exceptional, we get along very well and I have many things to learn from him".

 

First in the overall standings, Lewis Hamilton extends his lead over the highly decorated Fernando Alonso to eight points. The young British driver would have arguments to counter his colleague. But he prefers to remain humble:

 

"Better to be realistic, and think about when the difficult moments will come".

 

Despite the low profile the rookie tries to maintain, his English compatriots are starting to believe it. Richard Phillips, head of the Silverstone circuit, says:

 

"We haven't seen this level of interest in Grand Prix racing since the Mansell mania in the late 80s and early 90s. Ticket sales have skyrocketed in recent weeks".

 

Marketing experts are also focusing on Lewis Hamilton, according to whom the McLaren driver is destined to become the first British sportsman to earn over 70.000.000 euros per season. Assuming he wins the world title within three years. The prediction of experts is that growing success - in terms of results and popularity - will lead the Englishman to quickly equal Tiger Woods' extraordinary earnings, to the point of earning around 1.000.000 pounds for each day on the track.

 

"But I already have the PlayStation 3 and a bicycle for training, that's all I need".


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