Montreal: Daniel Ricciardo ended Mercedes early-season domination when he drove his Red Bull car to a memorable maiden victory in a crash and incident-packed Canadian Grand Prix.
The 24-year-old Australian took full advantage of power problems that hit both championship leader Nico Rosberg and his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages to claim a stirring triumph yesterday.
Briton Hamilton was forced to retire, but German Rosberg managed to nurse his car home in second place ahead of Ricciardo’s Red Bull team-mate defending four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Germany.
Rosberg opens up a 22-point lead on Hamilton in the championship standings.
The final lap was run behind a Safety Car after a horrifying high-speed collision between Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India and Brazilian Felipe Massa of Williams saw them fly off into the barriers.
Both appeared not to be seriously injured after the incident as they braked from speeds of more than 240 kph at the end of the 70-laps contest.
Ricciardo’s win meant he has now beaten Vettel in the last five races, a feat that saw him receive well-deserved congratulations from his team-mate.
“I am shocked – this is ridiculous,” said the winner, the fourth Australian to win a Formula One race.
Briton Jenson Button came home fourth for McLaren ahead of fifth-placed German Nico Hulkenberg in the second Force India with two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso sixth for Ferrari.
Finn Valtteri Bottas finished seventh in the second Williams ahead of Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso, Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen in the second McLaren and 10th placed Finn Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari.
Perez and Massa were placed 11th and 12th respectively at the finish.
In the drivers title race, Rosberg now leads with 140 points ahead of Hamilton on 118.
At the start, on a hot and sunlit day at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, there was a palpable air of expectation as the two Mercedes men lined up on the grid.
In the build-up, during a promotional television interview, Hamilton had leaned an elbow on Rosberg’s right shoulder. It was swiftly withdrawn.
As that show of intention was still being analysed, Hamilton made a wonderful start to draw level at Turn One where, in a cloud of dust and determination, Rosberg ‘closed the door’ to force his team-mate on to the grass, thus giving Vettel second place.
Within seconds the two Marussia cars collided at Turn Four, Briton Max Chilton sending Frenchman Jules Bianchi’s car into the barriers in a blur of debris that included his right rear wheel.
There was extensive damage to both vehicles and, just a fortnight after celebrating scoring their first points in F1, both Marussias retired on the opening lap.
That accident prompted the introduction of a Safety Car for the first time, in Canada, for three years. On its retreat, Rosberg hammered forward to grab the momentum while Hamilton continued to trail Vettel.
Two laps later, in a show of power, Hamilton passed Vettel for second and began to hunt down Rosberg.
He closed a gap of two seconds quickly but, after they pitted, on laps 18 and 20 respectively, the order was unchanged.
Rosberg then survived a lurid moment at Turn Four on lap 19 that showed he was feeling Hamilton’s pressure. On lap 26, he almost cracked when he locked up at Turn 14 and had to abort the chicane, instead cutting across an asphalt run-off area to stay in the race.
This prompted a stewards’ inquiry as Rosberg had clearly gained an advantage, but he was given only a final warning. He was also warned by his team that he had to conserve fuel as he had used more than anyone else.
By lap 34, while the focus was on the duelling front-runners, the field was settling after the first round of pit-stops with Vettel struggling to keep pace with third-placed Perez, who had not stopped, and Hulkenberg also showing consistent speed to run fourth, rising to third when Perez pitted.
Both Mercedes cars, with a gap of more than 25 seconds on the pack, were then hit by power problems on lap 37, and began lapping two seconds slower than their chasing rivals.
By lap 41, third-placed Hulkenberg was only 20 seconds behind the Mercedes men who were told to re-set their cars’ systems while
continuing to race.
Rosberg pitted again after 44 laps and Hamilton followed him in. A faster stop sent Hamilton out ahead of the German, but just behind Massa who led the race for Williams – the first time this year any car than a Mercedes led a Grand Prix.
Despite the power problems, Rosberg charged after Hamilton and, in a flurry of action, both sliced off the circuit and on again as they diced for position before, on lap 46, they touched at the hairpin. Hamilton cut the corner, but immediately conceded the position before smoke plumed from the rear of his car.
Hamilton pitted and then retired on lap 48, leaving a struggling Rosberg second behind Massa, who then also pitted leaving the Mercedes man to lead again, but with Perez closing the gap by a second per lap.