TORONTO - The two favourites going into Sunday’s Formula One Canadian Grand Prix were undone by a strategy gone wrong.
But neither Sebastian Vettel or Fernando Alonso showed any regrets whatsoever about their failed attempts to win at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve that allowed Lewis Hamilton to scoot to victory.
In fact, it was almost refreshing to hear these two world class athletes say that going for the win on a one-stop strategy was not only the right choice for them, it was the only choice.
Better for them to go down swinging trying for victory than playing it safe just to finish second or third.
Alonso, who looked at one point like his one-stop plan might work for his Ferrari team, said he wanted the win, nothing else.
“We tried to win the race, but the gamble of only making a single stop did not pay off,” he said. “When Hamilton came back into the pits for his second stop, we chose to try and play our hand.”
The Spanish driver said that he wasn’t at all bothered by all the second guessers in the paddock.
“Now it’s easy to say that we should have made that choice too, but it would have meant we had tried nothing and we could also have lost position to Vettel,” Alonso said.
When it became apparent that his Ferrari was slowing dramatically in the final seven or eight laps, it was too late to do anything about it.
Alonso said it was the sudden loss of grip from failing tires that ended up being the culprit.
“The tires dropped off suddenly and I was too slow to defend myself from those coming up behind,” he said. “My engineer was telling me to hold them off but there was no way I could do it.
“The real problem today was the tire degradation, definitely not the strategy, which at the very most cost us one place, but let’s not forget that it was that very same strategy that allowed to us to get ahead of Vettel at the first stop.”
Alonso said that even with his fifth-place finish, he came out of the race more positive than at time this season that Ferrari is on the right track with the new F2012.
“For the first time this year, we have not just been trying to limit the damage, in that we were actually aiming for the win,” he said. “It’s a positive sign and now we must confirm it at Valencia and Silverstone. We are definitely returning home with more confidence in our chances, because this was the most significant step forward we have made in terms of car development for a long time.”
As for Vettel, who dropped from second to third in the championship points battle as a result of his fourth place finish Sunday, he mirrored Alonso’s insistence that going for the win was the right choice for his Red Bull Renault squad.
“We could have done something differently but now it is easy to say that,” the two-time defending world champion said. “In the end Lewis decided to go for the second stop — I think we tried then to get the place back by going for one-stop, the same as Ferrari but it turned out to be the wrong call.”
In a last-ditch effort to keep pace with Hamilton, Red Bull did call Vettel in for a tire change with seven laps to go, but it was too little, too late.
Still, Vettel said that it did allow him at least to pass Alonso.
“I think it was a good call, and a great call at the time, given the position and what you can lose,” he said. “At the time we were three or four seconds behind Fernando and we finished ahead of him.”
Over in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, Joey Logano held off Mark Martin at Pocono International Raceway for his first win in more than three seasons. It just might have saved his job in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota as well. Tony Stewart finished third. ... Speaking of jobs, Michael Schumacher — a seven-time winner in Canada — might have lost his with another retirement when his suffered mechanical failure. Speculation has the German great retiring for good when his contract with Mercedes is up at the end of the current season.