Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton did their best to enliven one of the dullest Canadian Grands Prix in recent memory, as they battled for second place in the closing stages, but neither had the remotest answer to Sebastian Vettel who fired a red bullet into the Spaniard’s World Championship aspirations.
Alonso led Hamilton home by 1.5 seconds after a heroic performance by the Englishman, in which he vanquished his Mercedes team-mate and recent nemesis Nico Rosberg by an embarrassing 54 seconds. Meanwhile, Vettel was 14.4 seconds up the road after one of the easiest victories of his career and his third of a season that looks like being yet another Red Bull benefit run.
One suspects that even Vettel and his team had little criticism for Pirelli’s tyres on this occasion. “We won Canada!” the German hollered on his victory lap. “The car was absolutely amazing. Thank you, boys!” And indeed it was.
Historically, Red Bull have come away disappointed from this race, which so often throws up unusual results. But not this time. Vettel took pole by a fraction from Hamilton but, such was his pace as he built a large lead early on, that there were even suspicions that he might be on a three-stop tyre strategy. As soon as it became clear that he was not, the writing was on the wall. Nobody was going to touch the combination on this occasion, and Vettel even had time to clip a wall at the back of the circuit on the 10th lap and then make an uncharacteristic mistake in the first corner on the 52nd lap without becoming even remotely threatened.
Hamilton drove his heart out throughout the race, pulling clear initially of Rosberg, who was unable to hold back Red Bull’s Mark Webber or the Ferrari of Alonso. Webber was the first of the front-runners to switch from Pirelli’s supersoft compound tyres to the mediums, on the 13th lap, followed by Rosberg on the 14th. When Vettel, and then Alonso, stopped on the 16th lap, Hamilton inherited the lead until stopping on the 19th, and that was the closest the Englishman would get to maintaining his record of winning every time he has finished here. Thereafter, it was Vettel’s race to lose and even with his two minor errors, that was never going to happen.
“It was a great race,” the 25-year-old said. “And a very important one for us to win. We finally got it off the list, and it was great to do that. I’ve had good races here before but it didn’t come together to win. Two years ago I got very close and lost it in the last lap, which was my mistake, so it was good to be able to make up with it today.
“I had a very good start, which was important, then I was able go with the car. On the supersofts we saw the tyres falling apart but that was as good as anyone else, and after that I was able to build a gap and to keep it and control the race. It was a great job by the team.”
Hamilton seemed to have second place sewn up, until the final stint. Webber was ruled out of contention for the podium after a collision with Caterham runner Giedo van der Garde at the hairpin on the 36th lap, for which the Dutchman was penalised. That gave Alonso the chance to sweep ahead, and thereafter he got the pedal to the metal and began to reel Hamilton in. The latter was not helped when Alonso’s team-mate Felipe Massa lost him a second, and then when his former friend Adrian Sutil ignored blue flags, for which he too was penalised. The gripping fight was fraught but fair, and neither was troubled by minor contact as Alonso overtook the Mercedes on the 63rd lap, or when they touched as Hamilton counter-attacked on the 64th.
“We had a very good fight with Mark and Nico and later with Lewis at the end, and it was not easy,” the exhausted Spaniard said. “They are all super-talented. This has a victory taste as we scored some good points after a very good weekend.”
Hamilton was a lot happier than he had seemed after qualifying, having shown the pace that has always been expected of him. And yesterday the Mercedes did not suffer the tyre problems that struck him down so notably in Bahrain.
“Some small part of my front wing came off in the touch with Fernando,” he said, “but it was a good battle. He was massively quick so it was very difficult to keep him behind. The feel in the brakes was better but we still need to improve. It was still a good result.”