Hamilton back on top after victory in Canada

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton is back on top of the Formula One standings for the first time in 18 months after a stunning Canadian Grand Prix win.

Back-to-back victories for the McLaren star means he now holds a three-point cushion over team-mate Jenson Button as the Woking marque finished one-two for the second consecutive race.

Hamilton held the lead on three separate occasions around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve before finally taking it for good on lap 50, going onto to clinch his second triumph here in three attempts.

It became of case of tyre management and who could make their sets of Bridgestone softs and hards last the longest as degradation proved to be far higher than anybody anticipated.

It was enthralling stuff, providing one of the most dramatic races of the year as the lead constantly changed hands, and with no clear idea as to who would emerge the winner until the closing stages.

Hamilton at least did his job at the start, making a clean getaway ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who had started on the front row due to Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber taking a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change earlier today.

McLaren had seemingly gambled, though, with both their drivers on the softer tyre at the start, in contrast to the Red Bull duo who were on the harder compound.

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh had expressed hope of an "earlyish" safety car, with 20 deployed in the previous 11 races on the Ile Notre Dame in the middle of the St Lawrence Seaway.

As expected, there were incidents at the start, with Sauber's Pedro de la Rosa skidding across the first-corner grass and the Force India of Vitantonio Liuzzi and Ferrari's Felipe Massa colliding after starting fifth and sixth.

Then there was the second Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi attempting a pass, losing his front wing and clipping a wall, but there was no safety car.

So it became a question of how long Hamilton and Button could stay out on the soft tyres Red Bull team principal Christian Horner had described earlier this week as "crumbling like cheese."

The answer was only a handful of laps as Button pitted first, then Hamilton, with old foe Fernando Alonso directly behind him, culminating in the duo sparking their rivalry again as they exited the pit lane.

The double world champion just had the edge on the Briton, the duo going wheel to wheel as they made their way back onto the circuit, with the latter ultimately having to yield.

To everyone's astonishment, the harder tyres failed to last as long as had been hoped as Webber was in on lap 13, Vettel a lap later - the Australian staying on hard, the German switching to soft.

It was all proving a cat-and-mouse game, even amongst team-mates as clearly the teams were struggling to call it under the conditions.

Momentarily, the Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi held the lead for the first time in his career, but a failed attempt at a pass from Alonso at the hairpin soon allowed Hamilton to reclaim the lead.

The drama continued unabated as Mercedes' Michael Schumacher and Renault's Robert Kubica duelled across the grass at a chicane, at one stage forcing the seven-times champion into a second pit stop a lap after his first.

The stewards were not quiet either as they handed out drivethrough penalties to Vitaly Petrov - twice, for a jump start and causing a collision - and to Williams' Nico Hulkenberg for speeding in the pit lane.

Back on track and Webber slowly started to edge away from Hamilton, opening up a gap of 12 seconds at one point, but as his second set of hard tyres dropped off, so the Briton reeled him back in.

On lap 50 Hamilton made his move, reclaiming the lead again - and for good - before Webber finally made his second stop to switch to the softs at the end of it.

Six laps later Alonso made his second mistake as he found himself held up by Hispania's Karun Chandhok, allowing Button to dive up the inside and so seal the team one-two.

Alonso claimed third, with Vettel fourth and Webber fifth, the trio now 15, 19 and six points behind Hamilton respectively.

Mercedes' Nico Rosberg was sixth, followed by Kubica, Buemi and the Force India duo of Vitantonio Liuzzi and Adrian Sutil, who dropped the woeful Schumacher to 11th on the final lap.

The seven-times champion is also under investigation for a late clash with Ferrari's Felipe Massa that forced the Brazilian into a fourth stop for a new front wing.

After his 14th career win, and taking the applause and cheers of the crowd, Hamilton said: "It's been a tremendous weekend.

"Things have just gone so well. I've had incredible support, so many Brits in the crowd, which is great to see.

"The race was one of the tightest so far, but the team did an incredible job and I'm so happy and proud of the team."

Button was content enough with second spot as he said: "It was a very different race this type of race.

"The tyres are so important and you're not sure if you're pushing hard enough.

"But it was a great race, really enjoyable. It wasn't about being flat out, you had to think about every situation.

"It's another one-two for the team. I'd rather it was the other way around, but Lewis put in a phenomenal lap yesterday in qualifying that I couldn't touch."

Alonso felt it was a race he could have won, stating: "I think it was a good day for us, the car was competitive, and we had the opportunity to win.

"We lost 25 points to 15, but we're still in the championship and we are moving in the right direction. We are back in the fight."