Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton won his fifth Canadian GP at Montreal in a tense battle with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. The two drivers adopted different tyre-change strategies and many critics felt that the extra pit-stop that Vettel took cost him the race. It was also the second straight victory for Hamilton at Montreal and after also winning at Monaco a fortnight ago, the British driver has come within 9 points of championship leader and his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg. Before Monaco, the difference between Hamilton and Rosberg had reached 43 points but two back-to-back race wins have changed all that. Third podium spot at Montreal was taken by Williams’ Valtteri Bottas.
The start of the race was spectacular as Sebastian Vettel instantly shot into the lead but championship leader Rosberg dropped to the 10th place after a sideways collision with teammate Hamilton. When the two of them had reached Turn One in trying to chase the fast-starting Vettel, their wheels made contact and Rosberg was pushed off the turf. In another incident, Felipe Nasr of Sauber was hit by Renault’s Kevin Magnussen immediately as they started. Nasr went into a spin, but he could recover later to finish his race. In the qualifying on Saturday, Vettel had taken the third spot on the grid behind pole-winner Hamilton and second placed Rosberg. That didn’t deter the 4-time world champion from making a great start and shocking the reigning world champion. Hamilton had barely gone ahead, when Vettel’s Ferrari blasted past him. Vettel was so fast that he only took a normal line through turn one. After the wheel-to-wheel contact with one another, Rosberg lost many seconds before regaining control. Behind the two Mercedes drivers, Red Bull’s Ricciardo had also veered off and that allowed Max Verstappen a leeway for passing him. With Rosberg stumbling back, Verstappen went behind Hamilton in third place. At Turn six, Rosberg was at 10th place with Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg also overtaking him.
Despite the lead, Vettel suffered because his cold brakes threw him wide for a while and Hamilton went into the lead. But Vettel reclaimed the advantage a little while later. Vettel went to pits on Lap 12 and when he came out, he fell behind Ricciardo at the fourth spot with Hamilton in front and Max Verstappen at second. By lap 19, Vettel had regained the top spot once again. By lap 27, Vettel had enhanced his lead on Hamilton to more than 13 seconds.
Midway through the race, Vettel pitted again and it was here that he lost the hard-earned advantage over Hamilton. Since the Mercedes driver wasn’t going for the second tyre change, he held the upper hand over the Ferrari man. Though Vettel cut the lead to less than 6 seconds by lap 48, Hamilton looked on his way in the 70-lap battle. With 15 laps remaining, Hamilton still led Vettel by 4.4 seconds but the German was still hot on his tail. On lap 60, Vettel made an error on a bend and lost many precious seconds. Now Hamilton was cozily in front and didn’t look like yielding the advantage to Vettel. The British driver crossed the finish line 5 seconds ahead of Vettel. Williams’ Valtteri Bottas was third; Red Bull’s Max Verstappen fourth; Rosberg fifth; Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen sixth; Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo seventh; Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg eighth; Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz ninth and the other Force India driver Sergio Perez finished tenth.
Though Vettel defended Ferrari’s two-stop strategy, it is widely believed that he would have won if the second pit-stop was avoided. However, Ferrari probably chose the two-stop option because the conditions at Montreal make pit-stop periods quite short. Moreover, Vettel was losing his lead with the first-change tyres. Regardless, the second pit-stop amounted to surrendering the hard-won advantage that Vettel had gained and that allowed Hamilton to take the top position a little after the halfway mark. Championship leader Rosberg criticized Hamilton for the tyre bang early in the race but he also suffered a rear puncture that required him to do an extra pit-stop. To his credit, he tried hard to make up for the lost time but only finished fifth at the end.
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