2011 Canadian GP - Jenson Button beats Sebastian Vettel on the last lap

The 2011 edition of the Canadian Grand Prix was one of records, extremes, superlatives, daring moves and thrilling moments.

2011 Canadian GP - Jenson Button beats Sebastian Vettel on the last lap
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing behind the safety car
Red flag
Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP Petronas
Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber F1 Team
Felipe Massa, Scuderia Ferrari
Jenson Button, McLaren Mercedes
Felipe Massa, Scuderia Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing
Nick Heidfeld, Lotus Renault GP
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing RB7 leads Jenson Button, McLaren MP4-26

The rain soaked event will be remembered as a race of records of all sorts. The event holds the record for the longest Formula 1 race in history, at 4 hours, 4 minutes and 39 seconds, including a two-hour break when the downpour was too intense.

For that reason, the winner’s average race speed was only of 74.4 km/h, a snail pace of just 46.5 miles per hour, the slowest in history.

The 2011 Canadian race also holds the record for the highest number of Safety Car interventions with six. Finally, the race winner made a record five pit stops and also served a drive-through penalty for having driven too quickly behind the Safety Car!

Driving a Red Bull RB7-Renault, Sebastian Vettel claimed the pole position on the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso lined up second in front of Felipe Massa in the sister Ferrari, Mark Webber in the other Red Bull, Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren MP4-26, and Nico Rosberg in a Mercedes W02. The race’s eventual winner, Jenson Button, was seventh on the grid in his chrome McLaren.

A very wet race...

Rain showers had hit the Montréal area throughout that day of June 12. The 4.36km circuit was wet before the start of the race and a downpour was expected to arrive an hour into the race.

After having spent five laps behind the Satefy Car, the green started the race for real and Vettel immediately jumped into the lead. Competitors struggled to keep their mounts on the slippery tarmac and most of them ran wide into corners or slid off the race track.

At the beginning of Lap 8, Hamilton attempted to pass his teammate Button on the pit straight, but the two cars touched, causing Hamilton to retire. Then, Button was given a drive-through penalty for speeding behind the Safety Car. The race was restarted, but heavy rain caused it interruption on Lap 25. The rain was so intense that the suspension lasted over two hours.

Button down to last place

The race was finally restarted with Vettel still in the lead ahead of Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) and Massa. Meanwhile, Button attempted to pass Alonso and the two cars touched. The McLaren suffered a punctured tire, forcing Button to pit for a new set, dropping him down to 21st, and last place. However, the Briton was not going to sink without a fight.

The rest of the race was a succession of incidents, Safety Car deployments, spins, pit stops, daring passing moves and Button’s incredible march from last position. On Lap 40, Button was last. Ten laps later, he was up in eighth place. On Lap 55, the Briton showed up in fourth place. With just five laps to do, Button ran in second place, a few seconds down to the leading Vettel. Button was pushing extremely hard as he could feel that the win was possible.

Last lap excitement

On the final lap, Vettel was in the lead by 0.9 seconds over Button. We were set for the thrilling finale. Button pushed as hard as he could. And in Corner 6, the left-right chicane, Vettel ran wide on a patch of tarmac that was still humid!

Button passed him to take the lead, and held it for two thirds of a lap to win the race. The young German quickly recovered and crossed the line in second place ahead of Webber in third and Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) in fourth. Vitaly Petrov took fifth place for Renault, while Massa passed Kobayashi on the finish line for sixth place.

In the Parc fermé, Button was ecstatic as he couldn’t really believe that he had won the race from last place! Sebastian Vettel was obviously disappointed, but inside him he knew that Button simply had been the strongest of all that crazy day.

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