Canada 2008 flashback: Kubica takes first ever win

As there was no Canadian Grand Prix in 2009, due to contract issues, I will instead focus on the 2008 race. It was a completely different situation back then, with Lewis Hamilton leading the championship by 3 points to Kimi Raikkonen, who was 2 points ahead of Felipe Massa, who was a further 2 ahead of Robert Kubica.

The track requires repairs overnight

The track requires repairs overnight

In qualifying, the entire grid was hampered by the track, which literally started to rip up and desintegrate in certain places. Hamilton managed to survive though, and put himself on pole position, ahead of Robert Kubica in the BMW Sauber. While Mark Webber got through to Q3, he was unable to set a time, as he had damaged his car on the broken track in Q2 on his in lap. Three corners (2, 10 and 11) had to be resurfaced overnight, albeit very cheaply, and the track had to be inspected by Charlie Whiting just before the race start.

Lewis Hamilton leads the field into Turn 2

Lewis Hamilton leads the field into Turn 2

The track survived the inspection, and Lewis Hamilton led the field into Turn 1. Robert Kubica tried his best to keep up with him at the first stint, but he simply couldn’t keep up, and Lewis opened up a 5-second lead by Lap 16. However, soon after this Adrian Sutil had a brake failure, and was forced to park his car in a dangerous position. The safety car had to be called out while the car was being removed, and this was just before the pit stops, meaning a headache in terms of strategy.

When the pit lane opened a few laps later, Hamilton, Kubica, Raikkonen, Massa, Rosberg and Alonso all opted to stop, while everyone else stayed behind the safety car. Though Hamilton was eager to retain his lead, his pit stop was longer than everyone elses. Kimi Raikkonen and Robert Kubica emerged from their pit boxes side by side, but as there was a red light at the end of the pit lane (the field was still passing the start-finish straight) they were forced to stop alongside each other. Lewis approached from behind, and disaster struck.

He failed to notice the red light and stationary cars, and braked far too late to avoid them. He swerved, but ended up harpooning into the back of Kimi Raikkonen’s car, ripping off the front of Hamilton’s front wing and suspension, and taking off Raikkonen’s rear wing. Both cars retired on the spot, and Nico Rosberg made situations even worse by hitting the back of Hamilton’s stationary car, breaking off his front wing, though he was able to continue.

Hamilton and Raikkonen retire on the spot, while Rosberg continues with a broken front wing

Hamilton and Raikkonen retire on the spot, while Rosberg continues with a broken front wing

Now the race was turned on its head. Two of the main contenders were out, and then it emerged that Felipe Massa’s fuel rig had failed, as a joint in the fuel line was broken. He was forced to pit again, and fell well down the pack. This left Robert Kubica leading the race. However, he had to pit soon enough, as he was on a 2-stop strategy.

Over this section of the race, there were 7 different leaders of the race, as each leader was forced to pit. Toyota were the biggest gainers, as both drivers had a stint leading the race despite starting in the midfield. Halfway through the race, and Nick Heidfeld was leading the race, though he hadn’t stopped yet. When he pitted, he still emerged in the lead, though just ahead of team-mate Kubica and Fernando Alonso. Robert had to stop one more time, and needed to get ahead of Heidfeld to take the win. So, he made his move.

Kubica overtakes Heidfeld, while Alonso keeps a close eye on the pair

Kubica overtakes Heidfeld, while Alonso keeps a close eye on the pair

Within a lap of Heidfeld emerging still in front, Kubica snatched the lead from him at Turn 1, and set about blazing a trail away from the German. He needed to be about 25 seconds ahead of Nick by his second stop, so he had to push. Though Alonso was 3rd and in contention for a podium, he soon spun out, handing 3rd place to David Coulthard.

Meanwhile, Felipe Massa was fighting his way back up the field after his botched first stop. One of his finest overtakes was at the final hairpin, where he managed to do a double overtake, on both Rubens Barrichello and Heikki Kovalainen. After he pitted for the third time, he flew past Barrichello again, and set about catching the Toyotas. With only a few laps to go, he managed to get past Jarno Trulli to take 5th place.

There were many other incidents across the race. Nelson Piquet Jr crashed on Lap 39 (surprise) because of excessive brake wear. Kazuki Nakajime broke his front wing after hitting Jenson Button, and subsequently retired when the front wing was lodged under his chassis when he entered the pit, lost steering control and crashed in the entry of the pit lane. Also, Giancarlo Fisichella spun out from last place with a few laps to go.

Kubica had built up such a huge lead that he was completely unchallenged after his second stop. He crossed the line first ahead of team-mate Heidfeld, who was 16 seconds behind. David Coulthard was first, in his last ever podium finish in his career. He ran out of fuel 50 metres before parc ferme, and had to run the final stretch to the podium, quite similarly to Jenson Button in Monaco 2009.

This was the first time that Robert Kubica (or a Polish driver) had ever won a race, and it was the only win and 1-2 finish for the BMW Sauber team. It was the first time since Malaysia 2006 that neither a Ferrari or McLaren was on the podium, and the first time since USA 2006 that a McLaren hadn’t scored a point. It was also the first win for a German constructor since the 1962 French Grand Prix (Porsche), and the last ever victory (to date) of a BMW engine winning a race.

Kubica and Heidfeld celebrate their 1-2 finish

Kubica and Heidfeld celebrate their 1-2 finish

After this shock result, Robert Kubica was now leading the drivers’ championship with 42 points. Both Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton had 38, and Kimi Raikkonen was still on 35 after his retirement. Ferrari was still leading the constructors’ championship, but only by 3 points to BMW Sauber.

From then on, Kubica was pressurising his team to continue development on the current car, rather than the 2009 spec version. However, soon enough the team resisted his plea, and it is the main reason why he couldn’t fully challenge for the title in the end. But, his first ever victory still signaled that he had major talent for the future.

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