You always have to admire an artist, be it Vladimir Horowitz playing the Warsaw Concerto on the piano, Willy Mosconi shootin' a little straight pool or Sebastian Vettel showing all the other Formula One drivers in the world who's boss.
And although he denied it ("I didn't wake up today thinking, 'I have to win, I have to win' "), the three-time world champion shook a giant monkey off his back at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve on Sunday by scoring a dominating win in the 44th Grand Prix of Canada.
Not only did Vettel, 26, of Germany, win the 34th renewal of the race in Montreal (the other 10 were held at either Mosport Park in Ontario or Quebec’s Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant), he completely dominated it by taking the lead in his Infiniti Red Bull Racing car at the start and then by not giving it up for the next 70 laps except for two when he made his one and only pit stop.
Spain’s Fernando Alonso, driving for Ferrari, finished second in the highly entertaining race held beneath sunny skies and temperatures in the 20s while Lewis Hamilton of Britain was third in his Silver Mercedes.
Mark Webber of Australia finished fourth for Red Bull while Nico Rosberg of Germany was fifth in his Mercedes and they were the last two drivers on the same lap as the leader.
In sixth place, a lap down, was Jean-Eric Vergne of France in a Scuderia Toro Rosso. He was followed across the line by Paul Di Resta of Scotland, seventh in a Force India-Mercedes; Felipe Massa of Brazil, eighth for Ferrari; Kimi Raikkonen of Finland, ninth in a Lotus-Renault, and Adrian Sutil of Germany, tenth in a Force India-Mercedes.
"We won Canada!" an excited Vettel called out to his crew over the team’s radio on the cool-down lap. "The car was perfect! Thank you, boys!"
"Well done, Seb. Fantastic job," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told him in return. "That makes up for two years ago," he said, a reference to when Vettel, who was winning the 2011 Grand Prix, went wide on a wet track on the last lap and Jenson Button, who finished 12th Sunday, slipped past him for the victory.
A crowd of more than 100,000 attended the race on Ilse Notre-Dame, despite persistent rumours that the future of the Grand Prix is in doubt after 2014 when the current contract runs out, and Vettel acknowledged this enthusiasm at a media conference afterward.
“This is a very nice race,” he said, in explaining why he was so happy to have won it. “Lewis has had the privilege of winning it three times and it’s a great atmosphere – Fernando touched on that – and the whole city enjoys the Formula One Grand Prix.
“Even with the bad weather we had yesterday (it rained most of Saturday) the grandstands were full and it was a fantastic atmosphere. The whole town is behind the Grand Prix and we are very happy for that.”
Vettel, who was won the pole for this race the last three times and has finished fourth twice as well as second in the last three years, said the only difficulty he had came on Lap 52 when he went wide into Turn One and was forced to cut the corner to avoid a spin.
And early in the race, he’d brushed the wall exiting Turn Four.
“I was pushing very hard in the beginning to open a gap,” he said, “and sometimes you go close to the walls. And then I went into (turn) one and I think I could have caught the car but I didn’t want to risk a spin so I decided to cut the corner.
“I slowed down (so as not to be seen as breaking the rules) and I let a backmarker pass me to really make sure (that he hadn’t illegally improved his position) and this cost a lot of time but I had a good gap so I wasn’t concerned.”
Alonso, who is running second in the world championship to Vettel (96 points to the leader’s 132), had a storming drive from his sixth place starting position to finish ahead of Hamilton on the podium.
Alonso brought the crowd to its feet with a daring and thrilling late-race pass of Hamilton going into the first turn. They were so close that many thought they touched.
The pass was the culmination of a race-long battle that saw Alonso have to pass Webber, Rosberg, Valterri Bottas of Finland (who qualified third in a Williams-Renault but then faded badly) and, finally, Hamilton. Alonso said later how much he'd enjoyed the competition.
"It was nice to have these battles, a big race with some talented drivers," he said. "Intelligent drivers that you fight wheel-to-wheel with at 320km/h and you feel safe. This is real racing so I am very happy to see this back after Monaco, which was a little bit different," a reference to the race in Monte Carlo two weekks ago in which he had several run-ins with other drivers.
"This second place has a victory taste because we scored some good points after a difficult weekend," he said.
Hamilton, who spent most of the race in second place – he led for the two laps early in the race when Vettel went to the pits and then gave the lead back to the race winner when he had to pit himself – was very subdued afterward and answered most questions with a sentence or two at most.
"The car felt fantastic today," he said, "and I had good grip for the low-speed corners but we just were not quite on the pace of Seb and Fernando. I was on the maximum that I could possibly drive and we got absolutely everything out of the car today.
"It would have been nice to have kept second place but Fernando was very quick and it was difficult to keep him behind."
Hamilton was more animated during the race than he was afterward, at one point telling his team to stop talking to him over the radio.
Told by his engineer that the temperatures in his car looked good (oil, water, etc.), Hamilton said: "Just let me drive, man."
This, of course, was reminiscent of Kimi Raikkonen's outburst last season when his team tried to tell him how his race was going and he retorted, "Leave me alone, I know what I'm doing."
In fact, the phrase is so famous among F1 fans that there were people at the race Sunday sporting T-shirts with that slogan.
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois attended the Grand Prix. She arrived at 11 a.m. EDT and was greeted at the gate to the paddock by F1 race promoter Francois Dumontier and escorted to the Paddock Club where she would watch.
They stopped en route for a few minutes at the FIA Suite, where Dumontier introduced the premier to F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone. It was all very relaxed and cordial but the "meeting" didn't last long.
Dumontier (and Ecclestone) would be wise to curry favour with Marois. If the Grand Prix is to continue past 2014, the Canadian and Quebec governments are going to have to kick in more money.
At present, they each contribute $5 million to the race and the Montreal hotel and restaurant association chips in the other $5 million to make up the $15 million it takes to bring F1 to Canada.
Although Dumontier would not confirm or deny a QMI Agency news report that a tentative deal was in place calling for a 10-year extension worth millions of dollars, he did say that he expects to be able to make an announcement in a few weeks.
He told the Star in an interview that he's confident a deal can be worked out for the race to stay in Montreal.
The day ended on a tragic note. After the podium ceremony and interviews were completed, a mobile crane was dispatched to collect the Sauber Ferrari of driver Esteban Guttierez from a tire wall where he'd slid late in the race.
A marshal helping to retrieve the car apparently tripped while trying to pick up a dropped radio and was run over by the crane, whose driver didn't see him.
The FIA announced that the man was taken to the circuit's medical centre and then moved by medical helicopter to the Sacre-Coeur Hospital where he died.
The Canadian Grand Prix
70 laps; 305.270 km;
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1h32m09.143
2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari + 14.408s
3. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes + 15.942s
4. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault + 25.731s
5. Nico Rosberg Mercedes + 1m09.725s
6. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
7. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap
8. Felipe Massa Ferrari + 1 lap
9. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 1 lap
10. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap
11. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes + 1 lap
12. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes + 1 lap
13. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault + 1 lap
14. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault + 1 lap
15. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 2 laps
16. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault + 2 laps
17. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth + 2 laps
18. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault + 2 laps
19. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth + 3 laps
20. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari + 7 laps
Fastest lap: Webber, 1:16.182
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At the finish, it's Vettel over Alonso and Hamilton. Webber fourth and Rosberg fifth. All other cars are a lap down.
Vergne, di Resta, Massa, Raikkonen and Sutil are in the top ten.
"We won Canada!" Vettel exclaimed on the cooldown lap. "The car was perfect! Thank you, boys!"
"Well done, Seb. Fantastic job," Infiniti Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told him over the radio. "That makes up for two years ago" when Vettel went wide on a wet track near the end of the race and Jenson Button slipped through to pass him for the win.
Hamilton might have hit Alonso twice, once when Alonso passed for second and another time when Lewis tried to pass him bkac. Meantime, Estaban Guttierez lost control and went into the tire wall at the first corner; local yellow.
Alonso brought the crowd to its feet with a daring and thrilling pass of Hamilton going into the first turn. Many thought they touched, but it didn't happen. If anything, there might have been a brush of contact.
It's Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton now on the podium.
With 10 laps to go, it's still Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso, Webber, Rosberg, Vergne, di Resta, Sutil, Raikkonen and Massa - in that order.
Lewis Hamilton just pulled a Kimi Raikkonen. Told by his engineer that the temperatures in his car looked good (oil, water, etc.), Hamilton said: "Just let me drive, man."
This, of courswe, is reminiscent of Kim last season when his team trid to tell him how his race was going and he retored, "Leave me alone, I know what I'm doing."
In fact, the phrase is so famous among F1 fans that there are people at the race tgoday wearing T-shirts with that slogan on it.
With 20 laps to go - we're at Lap 50 of the 70 scheduled - Sebastian Vettel is in complete control of this 44th Grand Prix du Canada. He has led from the start (except for a pit stop) and currently holds a 19.6 second lead over second-place Lewis Hamilton.
Fernando Alonso is third, Mark Webber fourth, Nico Rosberg fifth. Vergne is sixth, Di Resta seventh, Sutil eighth, Raikonen ninth and Grosjean tenth.
Alonso moves into third by passing Webber on Lap 41. Webber's front wing was damaged by Van der Garde who was given a `10-second stgop and go penalty for ignoring blue flags and causing a collision.
At the halfway mark of the Grand Prix - 35 of 70 laps - Vettel led by 15.6 seconds over Hamilton, wth Webber third, Alonso fourth and Rosberg fifth.
Jean-Eric Vergne is running sixth, Di Resta and Grosjean are seventh and eighth with Sutil ninth and Massa tenth.
Rosberg's tires suddenly go away on him and he's passed by Webber and Alonso on Lap 30. He's fifth now but more than 20 seconds ahead of sixth-place Vergne
Vettel is romping away with this race. At lap 25, he is 13.1 seconds ahead of Hamilton and 20.2 seconds ahead of fifth-place Alonso. The only real action at the moment is the fight for third between Rosberg, Webber and Alonso in that order.
Bad pit stop for Kimi probably just ruined his race. Problem witgh the left rear on the tire change.
After 20 of 70 laps, it's Vettel, Hamilton, Rosberg, Webber and Alonso, with Raikkonen up to sixth, followed by Verge, di Resta, Grosjean and Button.
Grosjean is having a storming race after being forced to start 22nd and last.
Lewis Hamilton pits, Vettel back in the lead.
Maldonado just got a drive-through penalty for causing the collision that saw Sutil hit Bottas and then spin.
Hamilton is leading but Vettel just had a pit stop. Lewis will have to stop soon.
Alonso has moved into third ahead Webber and Rosberg. Pit stops are starting though and that always shakes things up.
Vettel turned lap 13 in 1:20:201; he's opened up a gap of more than seven seconds over Hamilton.
Vettel is turning laps six seconds faster than he qualified. That's the difference between a damp track and one that's dry,
Vettel brushed the wall exiting turn four. Rear wing damage, apparently. But will it hurt?
And Massa is on the move, big time. He started 16th and is up to tenth, challenging Raikkonen for ninth.
Sutil just spun after hitting Bottas while trying to pass him. He did a 360 and kept going, losing a bunchof spots in the process.
It didn't take long for Raikkonen and Ricciardo to dispatch Hulkenburg, who had been put ahead of them because of their penalties (for racing each other out of the pits during Friday's qualifying session - although they both said they were not racing . . .)
Ricciardo is ninth and Kimi is tenth; Hulkenberg is 11th
Sebastian Vettel led the first lap of the Grand Prix, with Hamilton second, Rosberg third, Webber fourth and Alonso fifth.
It was a good clean start; no incidents in the first few laps.
The cars are off on the formation lap - all 22 of them led by pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel, followed by Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Nico Rosberg and the rest.
Two drivers, Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo, were each assessed penalties and moved back a sport on the grid, Kimi to go off 10th and Ricciardo 11th. Nico Hulkenburg moved up to start in the top ten for Force India.
Two Canadian Forces CF-18 fighter jets just buzzed the circuit, which means the race is only moments away.
One thing that will be very interesting is how the drivers adapt to the dry conditions. All practices and qualifying were conducted in inclement weather and the forecast was for a continuation of rainy weather Sunday.
Although there are a few clouds around, it is sunny and warm (at least 20 degrees Celsius) and rain is a long ways off.
The setups will have to be changed as the race progresses and the drivers will have to get used quickly to ripping around Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve at much higher speeds that they've been doing the last few days.
I just had a big thrill. Paul Cooke, vice-president of competition for ASN-FIA Canada and clerk of the course for the Grand Prix, invited me along as he drove around the circuit for the last track inspection lap before the race.
Our car followed one with Charlie Whiting and Herbie Blash, who are FIA Formula One Race Director (and permanent starter) and Deputy Race Director, respectively. The purpose of the tour was to make sure, one last time,that everything was in place and that the marshal stands were staffed and in action (they all waved their flags at us).
It's amazing the number of people here who are in general admission viewing areas of which there are many. A tonne of people are here and it's shaping up to be a glorious day.
It is a beautiful day in Montreal.
After two days of chilly winds and rain, the sky is blue (there are a few clouds, but nothing to be concerned about) and thousands of people are making their way to the Circuit Gille-Villeneuve for the 2 p.m. EDT start of the 44th Grand Prix du Canada.
By the time they are all in their seats or through the turnstiles, more than 110,000 will be on Ilse Notre-Dame making the GP the most-attended sporting event in the country.
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois is on site. She arrived at 1 a.m. and was greeted at the gate to the paddock by F1 race promoter Francois Dumontier and escorted to the Paddock Club where she will enjoy the race.
No sign of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, however. In my experience, Jean Chretien is the only prime minister to attend the Grand Prix and that was once, in 1996.
Dumontier would be wise to curry favour with Marois. If the Grand Prix is to continue past 2014, the Canadian and Quebec governments are going to have to kick in more money.
Although Dumontier would not confirm or deny a QMI Agency news report that a tentative deal was in place calling for a 10-year extension worth millions of dollars, he did say that he expects to be able to make an announcement in a few weeks. He says he's confident that a deal can be worked out.
On the other hand, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone told CBC Radio that, "Well, you know Montreal's not the only place that can hold this race."
But what did he mean by that? Does he mean the new U.S. race in New Jersey, expected to start in 2014? Another race somewhere else in Canada, like Calgary? Or that simply the Canadian race is one of 19 on the world calendar and it can be held anywhere. Who knows?
Until someone says something official, and nobody's doing that, the rumour mill will continue to run in overtime.