Jenson Button took a dramatic victory at an elongated Canadian Grand Prix after snatching victory on the last lap when Sebastian Vettel made an uncharacteristic mistake at turn five in damp conditions.
The race was postponed for over two hours due to a deluge at the circuit, but the finale was well worth the wait as McLaren’s Button came back from six pit stops to take the most hard-earned victory of his career. Vettel held on for second but was left kicking himself after leading the vast majority of the race only to lose control on the last lap as he came under relentless pressure from the McLaren.
Mark Webber took third in the second Red Bull after an enthralling battle with Michael Schumacher that saw the seven-time world champion miss out on the first podium of his comeback by 0.3 seconds.
But Button was by far and away the man of the race, fighting from last place on lap 40 to victory on lap 70. His race did not pass without incident however, as he came together with his team-mate Lewis Hamilton before the rain stoppage in an accident that put Hamilton out of the race. He went on to tangle with Fernando Alonso after the restart and puntured his left-front tyre, dropping him to last place while the Ferrari was forced to retire. Post-race investigations by the stewards ruled that both collisions were racing incidents.
But from that point onwards Button was on another level, changing to slick tyres early and making the most of the McLaren’s wet-weather setup to take risk after risk and bully his way through the field. Safety cars also played their part and helped Button reduce gaps to the cars in front at several points of the race.
The final caution period put him on the tail of the battle between Webber and Schumacher, and he made a brave and instinctive move on a wet part of the circuit to pass the Red Bull before breezing past the Mercedes with the help of his Drag Reduction System. He then took 1.5 seconds out of Vettel’s lead in one lap and went on to pressure the championship leader until he made his mistake. By the time the race finished – some four hours after the start – the tedium of the rain delay was soon forgotten as champagne flowed on the podium and Button moved into second place in the drivers’ championship, albeit 60 points off Vettel.
It was also a good race for the likes of Renault’s Vitaly Petrov and Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi, who both managed to steer clear of serious trouble to finish fifth and seventh, separated by Felipe Massa. Kobayashi was second when the rain put the race on hold after 25 laps – probably praying for the heavens to remain open – but despite a brave effort could not hold on to a podium position when the race restarted. To his credit he did manage to hold off Felipe Massa’s faster Ferrari for several laps only to pipped on the line as the chequered flag fell.
For Massa it was an opportunity missed as he grazed his nose cone against the barriers while trying to pass a backmarker. The resulting front wing change brought his pit stop count up to four and put him out of contention for a podium.
Jaime Alguersuari made the most of a wet-weather setup on his Toro Rosso to finish eighth after starting from the pit lane. Williams’ Rubens Barrichello finished ninth ahead of the second Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi in the final points-scoring position.
Among the big losers were Alonso, whose race ended after his collision with Button, Paul di Resta, who was in fifth when he tagged the back of Heidfeld’s Renault, and Heidfeld himself, who made a similar mistake behind Kobayashi.
The race will long be remembered for Button’s drive with the almost farcical rain delay, which threatened to bring an end to the race altogether, likely to feature as a mere footnote in the history books.
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