Canadian Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton holds off Sebastian Vettel to close gap on Nico Rosberg with victory
Lewis Hamilton took another giant stride towards a fourth world championship by winning the Canadian Grand Prix for the fifth time in his career, enabling the defending champion to capitalise fully on Nico Rosberg’s struggles that came from a first-corner collision between the Mercedes team-mates.
After recording his first victory of the season in Monaco, Hamilton arrived at one of his favourite tracks with momentum firmly behind him. Rosberg could only manage seventh in Monte Carlo, and a fifth-place finish in Montreal on Sunday saw his one 43-point lead eradicated to just nine points.
Rosberg had a late chance to salvage fourth, but an error saw him pitted in to a spin when attempting to pass Max Verstappen and he had to make do with conceding 15 points to Hamilton.
Hamilton leaps off his Mercedes in celebration after winning in Canada (Getty)
Despite Hamilton enjoying a relatively drama-free cruise to victory, Ferrari had the chance to win their race since Singapore last season, yet a strategic call to two-stop Sebastian Vettel cost them a shot at victory as he had to make do with second.
Vettel got a lightning start of the line as Hamilton bogged down, with the Ferrari past and into the lead long before reaching the first corner. Having seen Vettel already past him, there was no way that Hamilton was going to concede another position to Rosberg, and he ran into turn one deep which – intentional or not – forced Rosberg off the track.
Vettel leads the field into turn one as Rosberg cuts the first corner (Getty)
Hamilton slid into his Mercedes team-mate with tyre-to-tyre contact being made, and though neither car was damaged in the minor collision, Rosberg suffered heavily as he was forced to cut the second turn and plummeted down to tenth.
Rosberg made no complaint of the contact despite the disastrous effect it had on his race, but for Hamilton it represents yet another poor getaway after similar issues in Australia, Bahrain and Spain.
Vettel gets past Daniel Ricciardo on his fresher tyres (Getty)
Rosberg was clearly unhappy with how his race unfolded afterwards, though while he did blame the contact with Hamilton for sending him off the track, his demeanour gave the impression that he would have done exactly the same had he been in Hamilton’s shoes.
“Well Sebastian had a great start and I had a decent one, and Lewis had a bad start,” Rosberg said after the race. “In Barcelona I went for the outside and it worked, so I did the same today and Lewis did a very aggressive racing move, and we touched and I went off.
“I’m very p***ed off at the moment but that’s racing and it’s my job to make sure I’m in front next time.”
Vettel led Hamilton until his second stop (Getty)
Hamilton was able to stick with Vettel, and the retirement of Jenson Button triggered what would prove to be a decisive decision from Ferrari. Button’s McLaren-Honda ground to a fiery halt as his four-race old engine gave up on him, causing a virtual safety car period to retrieve the stricken former world champion.
Vettel dived into the pits, signalling his intention to run a two-stop strategy, but the VSC period ended immediately and Hamilton continued on his way on what soon transpired to be a one-stop plan.
The pair exchanged the lead through the stops, and once Vettel had completed his strategy, he faced the task of chasing down a three-time world champion that was seven seconds up the road, albeit with 32 laps to do it in and much fresher tyres.
Hamilton on his way to victory in the Canadian Grand Prix (Getty)
Slowly but surely, Vettel began to eradicate the gap, but a costly mistake 13 laps from the finish saw him miss the final chicane and lose the best part of a second-and-a-half, meaning all of his hard work over the past 20 laps had gone to waste. Hamilton meanwhile was managing the gap, doing his best to keep the German at bay while taking as little out of his tyres as possible.
Behind the pair, Rosberg had overcome his early struggles to move back through the field and challenge for a podium finish. The Williams of Valtteri Bottas was all that stood in his way, but when he looked ready to take the fight to the Finn, he was forced to pit with a slow puncture that wrecked his chances of taking third. That meant a welcome podium appearance for Bottas, much to the delight of the Williams crew as they celebrated their first rostrum finish of the season.
Hamilton celebrates on the podium alongside Vettel (left) and Bottas (right) (Getty)
The fresh tyres he pitted for did allow him to make swift progress to pass Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen, but once he caught the Red Bull of Max Verstappen he found a determined 18-year-old adamant on not letting the championship leader past. Rosberg had two runs at Verstappen, one into the final chicane and the next immediately into turn one, but both times Verstappen succeeded where Raikkonen and Ricciardo failed and he positioned his car beautifully to force the German onto the outside.
Final Positions after Race (70 Laps):
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1hr 31mins 05.296secs
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:31:10.307
3 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams 1:31:51.718
4 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:31:58.316
5 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:32:07.389
6 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:32:08.313
7 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 1:32:08.930
8 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Force India at 1 Lap
9 Carlos Sainz (Spa) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap
10 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India at 1 Lap
11 Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren at 1 Lap
12 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap
13 Esteban Gutierrez (Mex) Haas F1 at 2 Laps
14 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 at 2 Laps
15 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber-Ferrari at 2 Laps
16 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Renault at 2 Laps
17 Pascal Wehrlein (Ger) Manor Racing at 2 Laps
18 Felipe Nasr (Bra) Sauber-Ferrari at 2 Laps
19 Rio Haryanto (Ina) Manor Racing at 2 Laps
20 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams 35 Laps completed
21 Jolyon Palmer (Gbr) Renault 16 Laps completed
22 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 9 Laps completed
Rosberg made one last attempt to pass Verstappen, and it nearly ended his race one lap prematurely. As he pulled alongside the young Dutchman on the penultimate lap, he left his braking as late as he dared, but the rear pinched round and sent him into a spin, handing fourth on a plate to Verstappen. Rosberg did manage to recover to take fifth, with Raikkonen less than a second behind.
Vettel meanwhile had cracked, the four-time world champion pushing too hard to try and catch Hamilton, and he straight-lined the chicane once again in what proved to be the final straw in his hopes of winning the Grand Prix.
Hamilton endured a smooth drive to the chequered flag, and he celebrated by paying tribute on the team radio to the late Muhammad Ali, one of his sporting heroes alongside Ayrton Senna.
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” Hamilton said from his cockpit. “That was for Muhammad that was, that was for Ali.”
Speaking on the podium to actor Michael Douglas, who once again graced the streets of Montreal, Hamilton said: “We’re just going to take it one race at a time and there’s still work to do. We’re going to improve the car and there’s still a lot of races.
“These guys are getting faster. I remember when I was here nine, ten years ago, and it feels just as good.”