Jenson Button took a stunning victory in a dramatic, rain-affected Canadian Grand Prix by passing Sebastian Vettel on the last lap of an absorbing race. Vettel’s Red Bull ran wide under pressure to gift the win to Button, who recovered after an earlier collision with McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber was third to deprive Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher of a podium place. Vettel now leads the championship by 60 points from Button.
An incident-packed race saw the safety car used five times and included a two-hour stoppage for heavy rain. Button himself made five pit stops on his way to victory as well as an enforced visit to the pits for a drive-through penalty for speeding under the safety car.
Button described the win as possibly the best of his career. “I really don’t know what to say, it’s been a very emotional race,” he said. “The incident with Lewis – I couldn’t see anything and I’ve apologised to him”. “It was really a fight from then on but I kept on pushing and I managed to get past Seb at the end. Another great win for me and possibly my best.
BBC F1 commentator Martin Brundle spoke after the race about Button, “At one point, we were wondering if Button would catch the Hispanias before the race restarted under the safety car and now he’s won the race! “That is one of the races of his life and the best grand prix of a spectacular career.”
Co-commentator David Coulthard added: “What a fantastic drive from Jenson Button. It looked like it was all lost and he’s well aware you count the winners at the chequered flag.”
While Button celebrated, Hamilton left the track after an ignominious race that saw him drop from second to fourth in the championship. Persistent rain through the morning left the track drenched and the race was started under the safety car.
The drama in one of the most sensational races for years began almost as soon as the drivers were released on lap five, and Hamilton was at the centre of it.
First he collided with Webber, who gave him room at the first corner only for the McLaren to slip off the kerb and into the Australian. Webber spun and Hamilton had to go around the outside of the Red Bull, rejoining behind Button.
Determined to make up ground, Hamilton pressed his team-mate hard. Button made a mistake at the final chicane at the end of lap eight and Hamilton saw his chance. He dodged out from behind Button to his team-mate’s left but Button continued on the racing line, edging towards the pit wall, apparently looking in his mirror. Hamilton kept coming and became pincered between Button and the pit wall. The two cars collided, spraying debris over the track.
Hamilton initially believed the car was undamaged but it turned out the driveshaft had been damaged and the team had been correct to tell him to stop.
The decision to start the race under the safety car was made as the drivers had virtually no experience of the Pirelli wet tyres. When they were released on lap six, Vettel fended off a brief challenge from Alonso and then streaked away into the distance.
Button was the first leading driver to change to intermediate tyres, after he came into the pits following his collision with Hamilton on lap eight, which brought out the safety car while the debris from the McLarens was cleared from the track.
The race was restarted on lap 13, and the Englishman was soon lapping quicker than anyone else, prompting other drivers to follow his lead in changing tyres. About half the field came in, including Alonso on lap 17. But within two laps the rain returned, heavier than ever. The safety car came out again on lap 20 before the race was suspended on lap 25.
After a stoppage of two hours and five minutes, they resumed, again under the safety car, before being set loose on lap 34. Almost immediately the drivers started to stream into the pits for intermediate tyres, so much had the track dried while they were following the safety car.
But four laps after the re-start, the safety car was deployed yet again when Button and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso collided on lap 37, leading to the Spaniard’s retirement.
Button was last when the race was restarted on lap 40 but he fought his way through the field thanks to choosing the right time to change to intermediate tyres and then dry-weather slick tyres.
By the time a collision between Nick Heidfeld’s Renault and Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber brought out the safety car again with 12 laps to go, Button had climbed to fourth place behind Vettel, Schumacher and Webber. The race restarted two laps later and Vettel immediately built a lead while the three men behind him battled for position.
Webber, who had brought himself back into contention by becoming the first leading driver to stop for slick tyres, slipped back to fourth when he misjudged the final chicane on lap 64. Button passed Schumacher on the next lap and set about closing the three-second lead to Vettel with five laps remaining.
They entered the last lap less than a second apart and Vettel made his first serious mistake in a race this season, putting a wheel off line on to the wet part of the track at Turn Six and half-spinning, handing the lead and indeed the victory to Button.