Lewis Hamilton won the Canadian Grand Prix at Montréal with a staggering performance over the last 10 laps, reeling in Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull and Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari — both suffering from tire degradation due to one-stop race strategies — to become the 7th different GP winner in seven races this season. Lotus’ Roman Grosjean was 2nd, with Sauber F1’s Sergio Pérez 3rd.
Another exciting and unpredictable race. Remarkable!
The win comes exactly five years after Hamilton’s first GP victory, also at the Circuit Gilles Villenueve, and puts the British driver at the top of the World Championship standings. With just over one third of the races complete, the mysteries of optimizing tyre and car performance at different tracks in different condition continues to confound the teams, to the elation of the fans who are enjoying a season like no other but on Sunday McLaren and Hamilton brought it all together to absolute perfection.
Seven races and, incredibly, now seven winners, as Lewis Hamilton took victory at the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday and Formula One 2012 continued its extraordinary journey into new territory.
The win comes exactly five years after Hamilton’s first grand prix victory, also here at the Circuit Gilles Villenueve, and puts the British driver at the top of the drivers’ world championship standings. With just over one third of the races complete, the mysteries of optimising tyre and car performance at different tracks in different condition continues to confound the teams, to the elation of the fans who are enjoying a season like no other but on Sunday McLaren and Hamilton brought it all together to absolute perfection.
Despite student protests against tuition fees which resulted in clashes with police on both Friday and Saturday night in the centre of the city, plans to disrupt fans’ travel to the circuit by targeting underground stations failed as completely packed grandstands thrilled to Hamilton’s third win here in Canada. And what a win. Impossible to call until the final laps, he had taken the lead after the first set of pit stops after starting from second on the grid behind the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel. Then, while maintaining that lead and still expecting his two main rivals Vettel and Fernando Alonso to pit again he made a second stop only for Red Bull and Ferrari to miss their windows to match him and gamble on keeping their cars out, one?stopping, and staying ahead.
Which meant Hamilton had to do it all again. Chase down the leaders and overtake them on track to take the win. By the time this task became clear, he was 12sec back with 15 laps to make it up. Fastest lap followed fasted lap and first Vettel then Alonso succumbed to the pace Hamilton’s fresher rubber was imparting to a car that for the first time this season seemed to be performing largely to Hamilton’s will. Vettel and Alonso’s gamble not only failed to stop the British drivers’ win but also compromised their final placings, beaten into fourth and fifth respectively by the Lotus of Romain Grosjean and the Sauber of Sergio Perez, who also one-stopped but had managed their rubber better and took second and third in the dying laps.
Hamilton, who has suffered considerable frustration this season, and even post qualifying had not been optimistic on how his tyres might handle on race day, was hugely satisfied by the win his team described as “beautifully controlled”. It was “One of the most enjoyable races I’ve had until now,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it when I was coming across the line. The feeling inside, it was like an explosion. It was incredible, that’s what I love about racing. The team did a great job with the pit stops and the strategy. I was surprised I could look after my tyres and push when I needed to push.”
He was fortunate both that he was able to do so and that he could do it at the front of the field. His team-mate Jenson Button, who had qualified in 10th, starting on the soft tyres could not find his way out of the midfield, with his switch to the super soft not resulting in any extra pace, he complained of a lack of grip throughout even on fresh rubber, and came home in a disappointing 16th place.
These grip levels were always going to be key. Under clear blue skies and with track temperatures rising to the highest they had been all weekend and then dropping again over the first 15 laps, there was an element of doubt as to how the Pirelli tyres would perform under race conditions and for long runs and as it transpired whether anyone could make a set last to the end. The answers unfolded, as they have throughout this season, during the race, with Hamilton proving that at the front of the field pushing for the lead, the pace was with fresher rubber.
Vettel had pulled off a perfect start, reaching the first corner ahead of Hamilton who got away cleanly, after his problems in Monaco but could do nothing to catch the German, and briefly, ominously there were signs that the Red Bull might run away with it. But Hamilton and Alonso stayed with him and it was Vettel who felt his super soft rubber go first. Hamilton stayed out and after some quick sectors, pitted and rejoined ahead only to see Alonso pit two laps later and take over at the front himself, but with his soft tyres taking longer to come up to speed, Hamilton sailed past him on the back straight using DRS.
The three champions had exchanged the lead three times in as many laps but having regained his spot at the front Hamilton was in better position to dictate the race and manage his tyres. He did so with aplomb and having put a four second lead on his rivals looked comfortable, even through the final set of stops.
He duly came in, stayed on the soft compound that had been working so well and began nailing very fast times. Times that left Alonso and Vettel having to commit to try and stay out and ahead. They could do neither. Hamilton was putting a second a lap on the leaders and had passed them both, again on the back straight under DRS with ease and six laps to go.
It had been a consummate run in both pace and tyre management from a driver often criticised for his tendency to overuse his rubber and another example of why despite the criticism, this year’s racing is thrilling, right to he chequered flag. Evidenced perfectly by the fact that while Hamilton’s grin was broad at the end in Canada his lead over Alonso in the championship is the narrowest of two points.
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