Sebastian Vettel had never won in Canada before. On 9 June 2013, he crossed that one from a diminishing list. And, as ever, he did it in style, crushing the opposition from the moment he took off from pole position.
After just five laps, the Red Bull was 4.6 seconds clear of fellow front row starter, Lewis Hamilton. Given Mercedes’ tyre problems in recent races (except, of course, Monaco), that might have been expected. But, in truth, the absence of really quick corners on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve helped Mercedes out of their current dilemma – added to which, Vettel was simply in a league of his own.
The only thing likely to impede the German’s progress would be a wrong call on tyres and strategy. This was a concern for every team after two days of practice and qualifying run in dank and dispiriting conditions. It meant the 22 drivers went to the grid with very little information on how the Supersoft and the harder Medium tyre would last. The only thing certain was that both tyres would run quite a distance on this comparatively smooth but bumpy surface.
Pre-race intelligence said a three-stop strategy would be six seconds faster but no one wanted to entertain that because of the risk of becoming involved in traffic. Two stops were favoured; one would be even better – but would anyone take that chance?
Paul di Resta would. It was worth the gamble because a tactical error by Force India had seen the engineers working on a gearbox glitch at the only moment during first qualifying when the track was actually at its quickest. A furious di Resta started from 17th but an excellent drive would carry him into the points and all the way to lap 56 (of 70) before making his stop without losing seventh place.
Meanwhile, at the front, Vettel and Red Bull had the luxury of stopping twice, their only worry being when the World Champion ran wide at Turn 1 and, later, brushed a wall at Turn 4. Otherwise, he was flawless and fast.
Hamilton did well to hang on to second place until lap 63 when relentless pressure from Fernando Alonso finally paid off after a tense fight between these two. By then, of course, Vettel was 19 seconds up the road and had lapped everyone bar the top five.
Among those suffering the ignominy of standing aside for the blue car was Kimi Raikkonen, who would finish ninth after losing the place to Felipe Massa’s Ferrari coming through from 16th on the grid (he crashed out in Qualifying). Lotus claimed this track did not suit Räikkönen’s car but at least the result gave Kimi his 24th consecutive points finish to equal Michael Schumacher’s record.
If Jean-Eric Vergne scored a welcome and well-earned sixth place for Toro Rosso, the most disappointed teams were McLaren and Williams, neither scoring points. The story of qualifying had been a stunning third place for Valtteri Bottas as the Finn, on his first visit to Montreal, made the most of the tricky conditions with an inspired lap. Come the race, the dry track exposed the weakness of the Williams as Bottas quickly went backwards in such competitive company.
That, perhaps, was expected. The McLaren garage, on the other hand, was a subdued place as the team’s all-time record points streak of 64 Grands Prix came to an end. The McLaren-Mercedes is simply not quick enough. And just to rub salt in the wound, the record run ended on the 45th anniversary of Bruce McLaren taking the team’s first win at Spa on 9 June 1968.
For Vettel and Red Bull, on the other hand, 9 June 2013 is a date they will want to remember.