F1 2011 Race Diary: Season 1, HRT, Canada (7th, Q16)

Canada is probably my favourite circuit (along with Istanbul and Spa) and I always seem to go well there. However, the email from my engineer doesn’t have good news: it’s going to be a very wet weekend. High downforce is the name of the game here, not HRT’s strong point (it doesn’t have any), but practice yields a bit of hope that, unlike Australia, I may be in my rightful position and achieve the qualifying objective.

The qualifying session starts amazingly – halfway through I’m still in 3rd – but Codemasters exemplary wet weather features mean that there is a slightly grippier line becoming visible and the computer cars are starting to take advantage of it. I emerge with enough time for three laps but with traffic and an out-braking myself here and there I can’t improve on my earlier time and finish the session in 16th. That’s still good but I could taste the top ten.

The race itself will take place in heavy rain. The lights come on, and stay on for what seems like an eternity before the race explodes into life as the might of 20,000 horses rages into the first corner. Remarkably, I’m keeping it clean and making up places. I’m on the inside for 1 (Virage Senna), the outside for 2, the inside for 3 and a bit of manners for Mark Webber. Spectacular visibility issues cause me to just outbrake Massa into the next corner, Ponte de la Concorde, and myself. Webber nips back through but I know I’m great at the next chicane and a few more manners for Webber sees me back through. As I emerge from Épingle onto the back straight (Droit de Casino), I glance at my position and I’m in 8th behind Kobayashi who is already gapping me. I love Canada!

As I approach Épingle for lap 2, Kobayashi has tried to take 6th and failed putting him off-line and I disbelievingly slide into 7th. Kobayashi and I lock horns for the next 10 laps. With my downforce I’m better on the brakes and through corners; with his superior car he’s got the acceleration. But I’ve got track position and track position is king.

The last four laps really click into place as I put in four consecutive fastest laps of anybody in the race and nearly pinch 6th from an out-of-position Buemi. I cross the line in 7th, it’s my first points in F1 2011, HRT’s first points and I even finished ahead of Lewis Hamilton (11th). Thoroughly satisfying. I love Canada!