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Heavy rain halts Canadian Grand Prix

By Steve Keating

MONTREAL (Reuters) - The Canadian Formula One Grand Prix was halted after completing 24 of the scheduled 70 laps on Sunday with drivers complaining torrential rain made it impossible to race.

Red Bull's world champion and pole sitter Sebastian Vettel was leading when the race was red flagged and cars ordered to park on the starting grid as rain lashed the across the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

The race was the first run in wet weather this season, making the twisting and challenging layout all the more treacherous.

"It's just way too dangerous, (FIA race director) Charlie (Whiting) has done the right thing to stop the race," said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner. "In conditions like these, drivers are just absolute passengers.

"The water picks the car up, they've got no drive and an accident is so easy to have, especially with the walls so close."

The wet conditions resulted in the first safety car start of the season, with the car staying out for the first four laps.

The conditions, with heavy spray and standing water, made for a tough afternoon for drivers with cars skidding and spinning out around the circuit.

"It's undriveable, undriveable," Vettel said over the team radio.

RIGHT DECISION

Lewis Hamilton's bid for a Canadian hat-trick, after winning twice before in Montreal, had already ended after just eight laps when he collided with McLaren team mate Jenson Button.

All agreed that it was the right decision to halt the race and wait for conditions to improve.

"It's the first time I have driven the car in the wet so it's all new," Force India's British rookie Paul Di Resta told BBC television. "It's all been a new experience but I must say the right decision was taken there.

"I don't see us going anywhere for a long time because even if it does stop there are plenty of rivers on the track that were catching us out even under the safety car conditions there."

Drivers and officials remained hopeful that the race could still be completed as the raiin eased off.

"We can wait a while, let's try and get the race done," said Red Bull's Mark Webber.

The last previous rain-hit race was the inaugural South Korean race last October which was halted and re-started 48 minutes later due to heavy rain. That race finished almost in darkness.

The 2009 Malaysia Grand Prix was halted with 31 of 56 laps due to rain and before that the 1991 Australian Grand Prix was stopped with just 14 of 81 laps in the books. Half points were awarded in both races.

"It's lucky we started the race at 1 o'clock Canadian time," said Williams technical director Sam Michael. "There's plenty of light left, we just sit here and wait.

"You're are basically going to have a restart from scratch with the grid position as it is and everyone will try and race to the end on full wets," added the Australian.

"They've stopped the clock so there's no two hour time limit, we'll just stay here until it finishes."

(Editing by Alan Baldwin)