Lewis Hamilton became the seventh different winner in seven Grands Prix this season with a cool headed drive on a day of strategy gambles.
It was his third Canadian Grand Prix win and the 18th of his career. It gave him the lead in the drivers’ championship by two points over Alonso and three points over Vettel. It was McLaren’s 13th win in Canada.
The victory was built on a two stop strategy which proved the right one, although it gave some nervous moments after his second stop, when it became clear that main rivals Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel were only stopping once. Getting the tyres switched on in the first lap was also crucial to Hamilton’s success. He and the team admitted after the race that they would not have been able to one stop with the energy they were putting into the tyres.
The pair however threw away podium finishes by risking a one-stop strategy. Instead, Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez drove brilliantly and took second and third places. They too had one stopped, but with better tyre wear they had better pace at the end of the race. Perez started 15th and finished third.
Vettel finished fourth, ahead of Alonso, Rosberg and Webber.
Seven seconds covered the top four at the end. It was a thrilling finish to a race which had a lively first third and then a long period of inactivity.
“I want to dedicate this one to all the fans who send messages and are constantly sending messages and being supportive,” said Hamilton. “I loved every single minute of it. I never had a doubt that there wasn’t a possibility (of winning). I assumed the guys (Alonso and Vettel) were one stopping as they were falling behind.
“It’s been five years since I won for the first time here. But it feels just as good. This feels like one of the best races I’ve had for a long time.”
The temperature rose steadily in the moments running up to the start of the race and was 40 degrees when the race started, the highest it had been all weekend. This got team strategists thinking about the various ways the race might unfold depending on tyre degradation. Button, Raikkonen, Perez, Hulkenberg, Maldonado and De La Rosa all went for the soft tyre at the start.
At the start the top five got away in grid order with Vettel leading from pole, while Rosberg attacking Webber, who held him off into the first chicane.
Massa passed Rosberg at the end of lap two for fifth place and Di Resta took Rosberg for sixth a lap later. Massa undid all the good work by spinning and dropping down to 13th place.
Vettel had a 1.4 second lead over Hamilton in the first couple of laps, keeping him clear of the DRS zone.
The ease of making DRS passes might have influenced decision making on the pit wall, as a driver on worn tyres would clearly be vulnerable in the closing stages.
On lap 16 Hamilton and Alonso both got within the DRS zone of Vettel, Vettel pitted for new softs and Hamilton and Alonso put the hammer down.
Hamilton reacted and pitted the next lap, while Ferrari left Alonso out once again. Hamilton came out ahead of Vettel, despite a slow get away from the pit box.
Meanwhile Alonso went around again, as Vettel attacked Hamilton on lap 19. Alonso had done enough in his two laps to pass both Hamilton and Vettel and he emerged from his lap 19 pit stop ahead.
But Hamilton was in the DRS zone at the end of the lap and he passed him into the final corner at the end of lap 21. The softs took a little longer to come in than Alonso needed and Hamilton was able to make the decisive pass for the lead.
Hamilton looked stronger on the soft tyres in the second stint, relative to his pursuers. He pulled out 2.4 seconds in 3 laps and by lap 26 the gap was up to 2.6 seconds. He was now where he wanted to be, out front with a clear track ahead, which as we have seen all year, is extremely important to keeping the tyres in good shape.
Raikkonen and Perez were going well on the soft tyres in 4th and 5th, only five seconds behind the leader.
Hamilton drove away from Alonso and Vettel through the middle part of the race, the gap climbing to 3.7 seconds by lap 33.
Pirelli’s Paul Hembery tweeted on lap 34 that the tyre wear was greater than in free practice, the right rear was the limitation and hence two stops were on the cards for the leaders.
Raikkonen and Perez, the two cars who were one stopping, made it to lap 40 before coming in, but Rosberg was able to resist both of them and despite Raikkonen getting ahead initially, he repassed him for P7.
Schumacher’s DRS rear wing got stuck open and he was forced to retire for the fifth time in seven races, yet more reliability issues for him and Mercedes. After missing his hot qualifying lap by hundredths of a second at the end of Q3, it was another highly frustrating weekend.
Hamilton’s gap to Alonso started to come down as the Ferrari again performed better at the end of the stint. Hamilton stopped on lap 50 and it was another slow stop for McLaren, he lost at least a second.
Hamilton responded by setting the fastest lap of the race to that point, keeping the gap down to below the crucial 15 second margin which Alonso would need to stop and rejoin ahead.
On lap 53 Alonso had a poor lap, 1.1 secs slower than Hamilton, which swung the balance back towards Hamilton. Vettel stayed out with Alonso.
With 15 laps to go, the thought occured that Alonso and Vettel might be one stopping. Hamilton had asked his team earlier in the second stint whether they were sure his rivals would be stopping again and they answered in the affirmative.
Hamilton was a second a lap faster than Alonso and Vettel as they missed the moment to make a stop.
There was some good racing between Rosberg, Massa, Perez, Webber and Raikkonen as the different levels of tyre degradation kicked in.
Hamilton reeled in Vettel and Alonso as it became clear that they were not going to stop again.
Hamilton caught Vettel and passed him easily on lap 63, then set off after Alonso.
Vettel pitted on lap 64, dropping behind Grosjean and Perez.
Hamilton passed Alonso for the race lead on lap 65 on much fresher tyres and with the DRS wing making overtaking very easy.
But Grosjean was now a threat to Alonso, lapping almost two seconds a lap faster than the Ferrari.
His tyres were only 2 laps younger than Alonso’s but he passed him easily, as Ferrari’s strategy gamble looked increasingly problematic.
On fresh tyres Vettel was pushing like mad and touched the wall on lap 68 but got away with it.
Perez passed Alonso on lap 68, despite also being on a one stop strategy. He had pitted on lap 41 for a set of supersofts and had pace at the end.
Vettel passed Alonso, demoting the leader at half distance to a 5th place finish.
The gentle action of the Lotus and the Sauber on the tyres had a significant effect as Grosjean and Perez also drove smoothly and fast to take the podiums at the end.
It was another disappointing race for Jenson Button, who finished 16th, a lap down on his team mate, having made three stops. He started the race in tenth place with the same tyres as Perez. With 45 points, he is now well adrift of Hamilton on 88 points.
CANADIAN GRAND PRIX, Montreal, 70 laps
1. Hamilton McLaren 1h32:29.586
2. Grosjean Lotus + 2.513
3. Perez Sauber + 5.260
4. Vettel Red Bull + 7.295
5. Alonso Ferrari + 13.411
6. Rosberg Mercedes + 13.842
7. Webber Red Bull + 15.085
8. Raikkonen Lotus + 15.567
9. Kobayashi Sauber + 24.432
10. Massa Ferrari + 25.272
11. Di Resta Force India + 37.693
12. Hulkenberg Force India + 46.236
13. Maldonado Williams + 47.052
14. Ricciardo Toro Rosso + 1:04.475
15. Vergne Toro Rosso + 1 lap
16. Button McLaren + 1 lap
17. Senna Williams + 1 lap
18. Kovalainen Caterham + 1 lap
19. Petrov Caterham + 1 lap
20. Pic Marussia + 2 laps