He referenced Muhammad Ali in his post-race radio, and certainly stung Nico Rosberg’s Championship hopes today; Lewis Hamilton was the top man at a very chilly and overcast Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.
Although he surrendered the lead he earned on Saturday to Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari at the first corner, Hamilton held his nerve and his tyres as Vettel struggled to hold it together in his last stint. It means that the Brit has further slashed Nico Rosberg’s championship lead to just nine points – two races back it was forty-three, with many writing the Stevenage man off. At their peril, with Rosberg enduring a tough time, finishing in fifth.
Vettel comfortably held second place, with Valtteri Bottas earning Williams’ first podium since the Mexican Grand Prix of 2015.
With morning rain clearing and the track drying up in time for the fifty-third instalment of the Canadian Grand Prix along the St.Lawrence river, a repeat of the maligned Monaco Grand Prix start a fortnight ago was spared, with a battle between the three front-runners proving to be a salivating thought. Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel broke into the 1.12 barrier in yesterday’s Qualifying – but it was Vettel who assumed the lead going into the testing Turn 1.
Utilising the Ferrari’s prowess off the start, the German jumped both of the Mercedes cars – who have struggled with their launches in 2016 – and slithered up the inside of Hamilton and easily claimed the lead into the braking zone. Rosberg and Hamilton banged wheels, no damage sustained, but the championship leader had to take an excursion through the grass and rejoined in ninth as the chasing pack weaved either side of him in evasive action.
Further down the field, the two Red Bull cars were fighting over the same piece of tarmac, with Max Verstappen – who’d asked for calm in the build up to this weekend – leading the ever-frustrated Daniel Ricciardo. Verstappen was asked to usher Ricciardo through, but the young Dutchman took little notice and swiftly pulled out a gap to the Australian, who was struggling with his Ultra-Soft tyres, having being confined to chasing turbulent air.
Meanwhile, McLaren Honda were having troubles of their own. Due to their unfortunately obvious lack of power, Fernando Alonso was a sitting duck along the long back straight, losing 9th to Nico Hulkenburg and 10th to the recovering Rosberg. Soon after, Jenson Button dropped out of the race with his car on fire, and their afternoon came to a close with Alonso pleading to retire the car, but not being granted permission. He took the flag 1 lap down in 11th.
Vettel blinked first, pitting for a set of Super-Soft tyres on lap 11. Hamilton stayed out for another 13 laps, and Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene admitted an error in their degradation prediction. The Italians thought that the Ultra-Soft compound would not have lasted any longer, yet Hamilton proved that it could in the unusually cool climate.
Vettel, with the bit between his teeth fought back, eroding Hamilton’s 11 second lead at a rate of knots, the World Champion making a big mistake at the hairpin after locking up. Thankfully though, a second was the only lasting damage. As expected, Vettel regained the lead when Hamilton stopped, but failed to pull away from the clutches of the Mercedes, crucially, he had another stop to make. Hamilton didn’t.
Felipe Massa was running well in his Williams until his power unit overheated ending his afternoon, after the veteran Brazilian was on course for a welcome haul of points.
As Vettel stopped for his final set of fresh rubber in the race, Hamilton scampered away. Growing in frustration, Vettel turned prone to making mistakes – losing a second and a half to Hamilton, courtesy of a lock up at the hairpin. It proved critical, as he had been catching Hamilton. The German wasn’t alone though, his Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen was also struggling with his brakes, both Scuderia cars straight-lining the final chicane late on. Thankfully for Arrivabene and co, the problem wasn’t terminal.
Rosberg ended his dire afternoon with a mistake. After losing more time due to a slow puncture to his right rear tyre, he locked his rear axle and spun the car around at the chicane whilst attacking Verstappen for fourth. The Dutchman placed his car to perfection to fend off and frustrate Rosberg, who had no answer.
Hamilton had no problems however on his way to victory, stretching his tyres to 46 laps, helped by the cool conditions no doubt.
As mentioned earlier, the events of the past two weeks has blown the Championship race wide open, with Rosberg looking shaky as Hamilton grows in confidence. His early season gremlins look to have deserted him.
Driver of the Day: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
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