• Karun Chandhok's ESPNF1 column

The best of Button

Karun Chandhok June 16, 2011
Jenson Button's win in Canada was the best of his career © Getty Images

Jenson Button's victory at the Canadian Grand Prix was one of the finest and most dramatic races in Formula One. It was one of those races that, on paper, he shouldn't have won. He had two accidents with high-profile championship rivals; a drive-through penalty; he was last on lap 40, which was over half distance … and still he took victory at the end. It was a tremendous win and one that he should rightly feel was the best of his career.

It was up there with Alain Prost's victories at Adelaide 1986 or Mexico 1990, Mansell at Silverstone 1987 or Budapest 1989, Senna at Donington 1993, Schumacher at Spa 1995 or Spain 1996, Kimi at Suzuka 2005 - put simply, one that should have been lost but wasn't. By the way, in case you haven't seen or can't recall these races, they are absolute must-watch classics so try to find a copy!

There were a few key moments that worked out perfectly for Jenson in Canada. One was the final safety car period that eroded Sebastian Vettel's lead over the three-way battle between Michael Schumacher, Mark Webber and Jenson, just at the moment when the McLaren seemed to be the fastest car on the track.

The next key moment was at the restart after the final safety car period. On lap 65 Jenson passed Mark as they crossed the line, then passed Michael in the DRS zone and still clocked a 1:18.8. His next two laps were a 1:17.9 and 1:17.5, while Seb did a 1:20.3, a 1:19.4, and a 1:17.8 over the same period. In the space of three laps Seb lost about 3.4 seconds. What's interesting is that over the following two laps they both lapped within a tenth of each other, knocking in 1:17.2s and 1:17.3s, showing that there were no underlying problems with the Red Bull.

As Seb admitted himself, he was perhaps not pushing as much as he should have after that final restart and the numbers back that up. In free air at the front of the pack he should have had a clear run, and even if he dropped half a second a lap to be safe, he would have still had a decent gap going into the final lap.

Jenson Button closes on Sebastian Vettel on the last lap © Sutton Images
As it turned out, Jenson's use of the Drag Reduction System on the penultimate lap saw him close the gap quickly, and eventually Seb, under pressure, got his right wheels on the damp part of the track and ran wide at turn six. Jenson can be very proud of the work he did to win in Canada and I'm glad the stewards didn't impose any penalties on him. I believe the collisions with both Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso were racing incidents and they were right not to take any action.

Seb will have been gutted to miss out on the win, but looking at the bigger picture it was another 18 points in his championship campaign. He drove a great lap in quali and 65 great laps in the race that were under pressure with rain delays and multiple safety cars. That would have broken his rhythm on a circuit where you need to be in a bit of a flow. His moment at trun six was his first real mistake of the season, but I'm sure McLaren (and the rest of the pit lane) will be glad to know that there are still some chinks in his armour of supreme confidence.

Mark probably had as crazy a race as Jenson. The early collision with Lewis sent him down the order and he didn't really have the same pace as Jenson when everyone swapped to slicks. That meant that he spent a long time bottled up behind Michael and by the time he eventually got past, the McLaren was running away.

Mark was again very unlucky to miss the crucial final practice session on Saturday. That hour of track time is massively important at a place like Montreal where the circuit evolves more than most and it's really important to get an idea of the grip levels before qualifying. The team, I'm sure, is doing some serious research into why the car is having these ongoing KERS issues as it really doesn't want a repeat of 2009 and 2010 when they had the pace but not quite the reliability of their title rivals.

It was fantastic to see Michael racing up at the sharp end again! He pulled off some great moves that really showed shades of the glory days at Ferrari and Benetton, when he used to revel in the mixed conditions. For whatever reason he's still lacking 0.2-0.3 seconds to Nico Rosberg in the dry, but it was reassuring to see in Canada that it's not because he's forgotten how to drive!

Michael Schumacher had a welcome return to form © Sutton Images
I thought the Mercedes would be a bit of a dark horse ahead of the weekend, but ultimately it didn't have the speed to take the fight to the Red Bulls, McLarens or Ferraris on pure pace. The rate of development in F1 is massive at the front of the grid, and while the Brackley squad is chucking new parts at it to make small improvements all the time, the guys from Milton Keynes, Woking and Maranello are also churning out boxes of excess luggage for the guys to take to races!

Ferrari will be gutted to come away from Montreal with just eight points for Felipe Massa's sixth place. The car showed an impressive turn of pace in qualifying, with both cars in the top three and it was the closest they've been to Seb all season. Fernando's clash with Jenson was 50/50, but even before that he didn't quite have the pace to go with Seb in the early stages of the race. I was a bit surprised when Fernando swapped to intermediates on lap 17 as we could see a big rain cloud coming. The swap back to the full wets lost him track position and he was eighth at the restart.

After a very long time it was really nice to see Felipe in the fight for pole on Saturday. He looked like the 2008-spec Felipe again and in the early part of the race it looked like he certainly had the speed advantage over Fernando. In the end, the accident after the swap to slicks ruined a podium opportunity, but hopefully he can carry that form on to Valencia.

Valencia is an unsual street circuit © Sutton Images
Valencia may classify as a street circuit, but it's pretty far removed from the rest of the breed. It has wide open corners, long straights, run-off areas, lots of kerbs and pretty much everything that a normal circuit has. The only difference is that the walls are a bit closer - especially in sector one - but overall it's not a bad layout considering it's on reclaimed land and in the middle of a port.

The place also has a great atmosphere when the fantastic Spanish fans are out in force. It's normally pretty hot and a great place for the fans to visit as the city and beach are very close. I remember going there with Bruno Senna in 2008, when we were GP2 team-mates, and he did a Spanish Formula 3 race to learn the track. We decided to take a ten minute stroll to the beach for lunch only to realise that the organisers had suddenly closed the roads and decided to have an extra practice session. Poor Bruno spent over an hour running back to where he was meant to be … I stayed at the beach!

Ferrari look to be recovering some form and McLaren showed that it can take the fight to Red Bull. Admittedly, the requirement for "dirty downforce" in Montreal is less than most circuits, but Valencia isn't a super-high downforce circuit either. The slow corners in sectors one and two put emphasis on mechanical grip and the ability to jump the kerbs, but sector three has some tricky high-speed direction changes. The high temperatures will make the tyre wear factor interesting, so another fascinating race should be awaiting us.