Lewis Hamilton swept to victory in the Canadian Grand Prix yesterday after a titanic three way battle between the Englishman, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel.
Taking advantage of a different pitstop strategy the 2008 World Champion hunted down his rivals and despatched them to take the lead of the world championship.
Starting from 2nd on the grid, Hamilton tucked in behind early leader Sebastian Vettel until the first round of pitstops. Fernando Alonso followed them closely as the three men matched one another for pace lap-for-lap. When Vettel began to struggle with his Pirelli tyres losing grip, he darted into the pitlane for a fresh set of rubber while Hamilton and Alonso continued, coping better than the Red Bull with the high track temperatures that degraded the super-soft Pirellis to build a sufficient gap before their own visit to the pits. Hamilton rejoined just ahead of Vettel while Alonso brilliantly elected to stay out, and the Spaniard was duly rewarded when he returned to the circuit ahead of both Hamilton and Vettel.
Meanwhile Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa and Romain Grosjean engaged in a close tussle over the positions behind the leaders, all being held up by the impressive Paul Di Resta in his Force India. This allowed Kimi Raikkonen, Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez to come into play, the Sauber team electing to perform just a single pitstop on a day when tyre-wear was significantly higher than expected. Behind the Di Resta train Jenson Button was falling backwards in a Mclaren that appeared just plain slow. Lapping almost two seconds off the pace of the leaders, the disconsolate Button finished the race in 16th place with only the very slowest teams behind him whilst his team-mate took on the Red Bull and Ferrari drivers. Team principal Martin Whitmarsh attempted to shed some light on the baffling lack of speed shown by the 2009 World Champion. ‘For Jenson, today was another day on which we, his team, failed to provide him with the tools with which to do the brilliant job we all know he’s capable of, and which he did so superbly here last year. He lost track time on Friday through no fault of his own, was unable to qualify as well as he would have done had he not lost that track time, and may have been further troubled today by a suspension set-up different from Lewis’s.’
At the front Hamilton overcame the error in Mclaren pit strategy by passing Alonso on the track to lead, but was unable
to build a significant gap until he appeared to fail to slow through a section of the track under yellow flags. While Alonso and Vettel fell back to avoid incurring the wrath of the stewards for passing the stricken HRT of Karthikeyan at speed, Hamilton continued at full pelt and was lucky to avoid being given a drive through penalty. The three remained closely matched until Hamilton pitted for the final time on lap 50 and escaped a scary moment in his pitstop when his anti-stall kicked in and almost stalled the Mclaren; such is the anomaly of modern F1 technology. As it was he took to the track to find that Vettel and Alonso were planning to run right to the end of the race without making another pitstop. Getting the hammer down, Hamilton started cutting into Alonso’s lead at over a second a lap.
Red Bull duly realised they could not hold the Englishman back and Vettel made no effort to defend himself before pitting for fresh rubber close to the end of the race. Alonso persisted and was punished when Hamilton swept by, closely followed by the hard charging Grosjean and Perez who both appeared to come out of nowhere. Vettel himself eventually caught and overtook the Spaniard; this indicative of the lack of grip Alonso was getting from his tyres.
Hamilton crossed the finish line four seconds ahead of Grosjean to become the seventh different winner in seven races of a Formula One season that will surely remain in the record books for decades to come. The Englishman was ecstatic afterwards with his 18th career victory, and his 3rd at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. ‘It’s a phenomenal sensation to come back to Canada and put on a performance like we did today.’ Hamilton beamed. ‘This win feels as good as my first Formula 1 victory back in 2007. In fact I’d say it’s one of the best races I’ve had for a very long time. I feel fantastic, to be honest. Just brilliant. I could hardly believe it when I was driving across the line. That emotion inside, it’s like an explosion. It’s really just incredible. It’s what I love best about motor racing’.
The podium made for a happy place that afternoon as Grosjean and Perez also both reflected on a job well done. ‘It’s fantastic to finish in second position on my first visit to Montreal.’ said the ever-grinning Frenchman. ‘Hopefully I will finish in first on my second time! I would like to thank the entire team for the amazing job we’ve done this weekend.’
‘The last time I scored points I was also on the podium!’ Perez smiled. ‘I think this is quite a nice way to do it. Also it is particularly sweet to have been at the podium ceremony here in Montreal because we are not too far from my home country and there are many Mexicans here. It is a great boost for the team and I am very pleased for everybody.’
Behind the top three, Vettel took a solid 4th ahead of Alonso, Rosberg, Webber, Raikkonen, Kobayashi and Massa. Michael Schumacher endured another disastrous result when he retired from the points-paying positions after the DRS system on his Mercedes rear-wing refused to close. The German has now retired from 5 of the 7 races so far this season and collected just 2 points for his championship campaign.
Formula One will take a two week break as the teams fly to Valencia in Spain for the European Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time. Eight winners from eight races? Well, maybe. It is certainly not impossible, but the European Grand Prix will be make-or-break for drivers such as Button, Schumacher and Raikkonen as they bid to emulate the stunning race performance of Lewis Hamilton in Canada this weekend.
1.Lewis Hamilton GBR Mclaren Mercedes
2.Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus Renault
3.Sergio Perez MEX Sauber
4.Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Renault
5.Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari
6.Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG GP
7.Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Renault
8.Kimi Raikkonen FIN Lotus Renault
9.Kamui Kobayashi JAP Sauber
10.Felipe Massa BRA Ferrari