Ferrari Formula One driver Fernando Alsono drives on his way to finishing second, after starting 6th on the grid at the Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal Sunday June 9, 2013. Alonso remains in second place in the championship standings behind defending champion and race winner, Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull.
Photograph by: Phil Carpenter, Montreal Gazette
MONTREAL — Leave it to the red cars to steal the show.
Sure, a Red Bull crossed the finish line first, but a couple of Prancing Horses rode to the rescue of an otherwise straightforward Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday.
“We love Canada!” winner Sebastian Vettel screamed over the car radio on a day that Quebec Premier Pauline Marois took in the festivities on Île Notre-Dame. And why not? His weekend here could not have gone any better.
The German cruised to victory virtually uncontested from pole position, winning for the first time in Canada and increasing his lead in the standings as he shoots for his fourth straight F1 drivers’ title.
Impressive stuff, but if you were looking for sparks, you had to turn to the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, who finished second and eighth, respectively.
With the rain clouds finally clearing out, the Ferrari boys were able to unlock the performance of their machinery and go on the attack to make up some of the ground they lost during Saturday’s soggy qualifying session.
Alonso, who started sixth on the grid, wasted no time beginning his climb toward the podium, blowing by the Williams of rookie Valtteri Bottas on Lap 2 of 70 to claim fifth place.
There were no more rookies to overtake after that, though, as Alonso went to work picking off, first, the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, on Lap 31, and then the Red Bull of Mark Webber, on Lap 42, to enter podium territory.
But the Spaniard was not done yet. He saved the best for last, making a heart-stopping move on Lap 62 to squeeze by the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton in the braking zone at Turn 1.
Vettel, alas, was too far up the road to catch — and, on this day, probably too fast, anyway.
“In the end, second place tastes like victory because we scored some good points after a very difficult weekend,” Alonso said during the post-race interviews.
The unanswered question is whether he might have been able to win the race had he qualified farther up the grid.
“We’ll never know,” Alonso said. “It’s true that at some races, if you start too far behind, it’s difficult to recover. We will try to improve next time.”
Next stop is the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on June 30. Alonso now sits second in the standings, having leapfrogged Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus, who placed ninth on Sunday.
With a dozen races to go, Vettel leads the drivers’ standings with 132 points. Alonso has 96 and Raikkonen 88. In the constructors’ table, Red Bull is on top with 201 points, followed by Ferrari with 145 and Mercedes with 134.
“We know that the temperature is not helping us at the moment,” Alonso said, referring to Ferrari’s struggles in cool weather, which didn’t help in Montreal on Saturday and is likely in Britain.
“But we cannot say anything because there are other people going very fast in those conditions, so it’s up to us to improve. We have some ideas and hopefully at Silverstone we can improve on that.”
He added: “In terms of points, this is a great result: Now we only have Vettel ahead of us, who was untouchable here and deserved the victory. Even if he has increased his lead, there’s still a long way to go in the championship and there’s plenty of time to catch up.
“I don’t know if I could have done better if I’d started further up. Qualifying, even in the wet, is our weak point and an aspect we absolutely must improve on: we are working very hard on that, both back home and at the track.”
Massa, too, had a strong outing on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Sunday, a day after his nightmare qualifying session had him sliding off the slippery track and into a tire wall, putting him 16th on the starting grid and at risk of leaving Montreal empty-handed in the points table.
With several bold passing moves of his own, the Brazilian worked his way up the pack, finally overtaking the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen in the final chicane of the last lap to claim four points for his eighth-place finish.
“I am very happy with my race today, which was a real battle from start to finish,” Massa said. “After going off the track yesterday, I knew it wouldn’t be easy starting from 16th place, but I also knew I had a good car and I tackled the race on the attack, managing to pull off several nice passing moves.
“Even if I can’t be satisfied with this result, it was still a positive day, in which we showed we had a good pace and that we were able to fight. Now I’m looking ahead to the next race with a lot of confidence.”
Ferrari’s performance in Montreal makes up for its disappointing showing at the last stop, in Monaco, where Alonso finished seventh and Massa crashed out.
And it proved that, in F1, sometimes you don’t have to finish first to leave your mark.
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