Lewis Hamilton seemed to drive like a man possessed en route to winning a very bizarre Canadian Grand Prix. In the process, the McLaren Mercedes driver became the seventh winner in the first seven races so far this season.
Things started normal enough. Sebastian Vettel, who claimed pole for Red Bull Racing, started strong and maintained a steady lead through lap 16, at which point he pitted and emerged in sixth. But then Hamilton pitted, followed by Fernando Alonso, of Ferrari. That's when the race heated up.
Somehow Hamilton and Alonso managed to leap in front of Vettel, and then Hamilton began setting a blistering pace. He had a lead of three to four seconds when he came in for his second stop -- before Alonso or Vettel. And then came a shock: neither of the two was stopping. Hamilton set about furiously making up a deficit of around 15 seconds in the 20 laps remaining. His pace was remorseless. He caught and passed Vettel on lap 62 and Alonso on 64 and then cruised to victory.
Behind Hamilton, the dreaded cliff appeared -- as tires wore down -- and both Alonso and Vettel fell off it.
Vettel pitted on lap 63 for fresh super soft tires. Alonso elected to stay out but lost huge chunks of time. Vettel managed to make up his 20-second deficit to Alonso in the remaining six laps and passed the Ferrari, but Alonso himself had already been passed by Romain Grosjean and Sergio Pérez, both of whom ran more balanced one-stop races.
Hamilton crossed the line 2.5 seconds ahead of Grosjean’s Lotus, with the Sauber of Pérez following in third. Vettel was fourth and Alonso fifth. Nico Rosberg had an eventful race to sixth, ahead of Mark Webber, who struggled with his tires. Kimi Räikkönen was eighth for Lotus, ahead of Kamui Kobayashi in the second Sauber, and Felipe Massa scored the final point for Ferrari.
“It was a difficult race today," said Vettel. "We found ourselves in third place, quite far away from Lewis. He decided to box again, but Fernando and I took the decision to stay out. I felt pretty comfortable on the tires and obviously we were hoping to get the place back, but as it turned out it was the right thing to go for the second stop."
The team went for two stops, which wound up being the right call to enable Vettel to salvage fourth place.
"Having been in the lead at the start, it was obvious early on that we were a little bit harder on the tires, which necessitated Sebastian to pit earlier than we wanted," said Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing's team boss.
"That permitted Hamilton and Alonso to get the jump on us. Then there was a dilemma as to whether we do a one or two-stop race. We were going well on the tires and at that stage, it seemed our best option was to do a one stop. But then the tires really started to go away from us, so we made a late call to go on to the super-soft tires, which enabled us to get back up to fourth position, behind the one-stopping Grosjean and Perez."
The result bounces Hamilton to the top of the drivers’ championship at 88 points, two ahead of Alonso and three in front of Vettel. With Jenson Button enduring a torrid afternoon and finishing down in 16th, Red Bull Racing limited the damage in the constructors’ championship and retains its lead over McLaren 164-133.
“It’s still sinking in,” said Hamilton afterwards. “It’s been five years since I won the first time here but this feels just as good. It feels great to be back here on the top step, it’s been a long time.”
- Red Bull Racing Spy App: F1 in Your Pocket
- Red Bull Racing Launches Faces for Charity
- Red Bull Racing official site