A MISTAKE two miles from home cost Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel a fourth straight Formula One victory on Sunday.
After leading the entire Canadian Grand Prix in torrential rain, the world champion ran wide into the second chicane on the final lap, allowing McLaren’s Jenson Button through into the lead to take the chequered flag, with Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber completing the podium in third place.
After another dominant performance in qualifying, Vettel secured pole position, smashing the circuit record in the process, with Webber fourth on the grid behind the two Ferraris.
But come Sunday, conditions changed dramatically and a torrential downpour meant the race had to be started under the safety car. When the race did eventually get underway, Vettel pulled out a strong lead, while chaos ensued behind.
Webber was spun in the first corner by Lewis Hamilton and the pair dropped down the field. But the Australian picked off the slower cars as he made his way back through the field and back into contention.
But the heavens opened once more, and with visibility nearly impossible, the race was stopped to allow the conditions to improve – which took nearly two hours.
At the eventual restart, Vettel reasserted his dominance at the front, with the drama continuing behind him. Webber continued to make his way through the field, and made the switch to intermediate tyres at the right time as the circuit dried.
Crashes for Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Nick Heidfeld allowed Webber up the order and into contention for a podium place as lap times continued to fall. But while the accidents helped one Red Bull car, it did nothing but claw back the lead Vettel kept building for himself, bringing him back into the clutches of his rivals behind.
Webber was the first to be bold enough to sample the slick tyres as a clear dry line began to form. Button, who made five pit stops and suffered a drive-through penalty, also elected for dry tyres and set a series of rapid lap times which saw him easily catch third placed Webber and veteran Michael Schumacher in second.
A mistake into the final chicane from Webber allowed Button through and he made light work of Schumacher who was struggling in the dry. Webber twice made moves on the German but finally made one stick in the dying stages.
Despite lifting himself from 21st position at one point, Button was not satisfied with second place and continued to eat away at Vettel’s lead. With the gap coming down lap after lap, the Brit was within a second of Vettel as the pair entered the final lap.
But at the second chicane, the world championship leader made a costly mistake, leaving his breaking too late as he skidded off line, allowing Button through and giving him enough of a gap to romp home unchallenged and take his first victory of the season. Vettel and Webber completed the podium for the Tilbrook team, but it should have been so much more.
“Of course I’m disappointed,” Vettel said after the race. “I think it was a very difficult race from start to finish and we led every single lap, apart from the last one, or part of the last one.
“I think I was probably too conservative when I was in the lead after the last safety car. I didn’t open the gap enough and was trying to hold the gap to the cars behind.
“Then I saw Jenson coming through, I was pushing and thought it would be enough to the end, but obviously it wasn’t, as I made a mistake.
“It’s down to me, I locked up the rear a little bit and what you have to do then is open up the car and go a bit straighter. There’s only one line and I ended up in the wet, so it was quite easy for him to pass.”
Webber said he was delighted that his gamble to go onto slicks worked. He said: “I decided to roll the dice. I was happy to see that not everyone followed immediately, so I had two laps which was enough to bring me back in the game for the podium.”
Despite losing out on the victory, Vettel actually extended his championship lead over rival Button to 60 points, with Webber moving up to third in place the standings above Lewis Hamilton. Red Bull’s lead in the Constructors’ Championship also grew to 69 points over McLaren-Mercedes, with Ferrari third.