Lewis Hamilton has won the Canadian Grand Prix for a fourth time after producing a peerless display in Montreal on Sunday afternoon.
The defending Formula 1 world champion lost the lead for less than one lap when pitting, controlling the race from pole position to lead Mercedes teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg home by 2.2 seconds at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
After seeing his lead at the top of the drivers’ standings fall from 27 to just ten points in the last month, Hamilton managed to hit back in style at his favorite circuit with a dominant display in what was an otherwise torpid race.
Rosberg managed to make a cleaner getaway than Hamilton off the line, but was cut off by the Briton into the first corner and forced to settle into second place. Nico Hulkenberg managed to squeeze past Pastor Maldonado for P6 at the start, whilst Sebastian Vettel began his fight from the back of the grid by passing the Manor drivers, Felipe Nasr, Carlos Sainz Jr and even Fernando Alonso in the opening few laps.
However, Vettel’s charge was halted when he began to toil behind Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Massa, with the latter running on soft tires and struggling to get past. Instead of wasting time stuck behind this battle, Ferrari opted to pit Vettel on lap eight for a fresh set of tires, but a slow stop saw the German drop to the back of the field.
After squeezing past Ericsson, Massa began to lay down a relentless pace on the prime tire, passing both Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez to sit ninth after 17 laps. He soon began to catch Daniil Kvyat as many of the front-runners began to struggle for grip on the super-soft tire, with Pastor Maldonado the first to pit for primes on from seventh place.
The leading drivers were able to go deep into the race before pitting, putting them all onto a one stop strategy. Kimi Raikkonen was the first driver to pit from third place, switching to the prime tire and emerging from the pits in fourth place. Mercedes told Rosberg to push for fear of Ferrari exploiting the undercut, only for Raikkonen to spin and relieve the pressure on the German driver. His mistake also allowed Valtteri Bottas to assume third position after making his pit stop.
Hamilton was the first of the Mercedes drivers to pit, coming in on lap 29 for a fresh set of prime tires. The defending world champion was soon on his way and reclaimed the lead when Rosberg pitted just one lap later. However, the gap had been halved through the stops, now standing at just 2.2 seconds.
Despite halving the deficit once again, Rosberg was quickly informed that his brake wear problem was “critical”, and that he needed to back off for ten laps and manage it before he could contemplate attacking Hamilton again. The German driver kept his teammate honest, though, remaining within two seconds as the race passed half distance.
Vettel’s decision to pit early began to pay dividends in the middle part of the race as he made up a number of positions when the front-runners pitted, leaving him seventh before he made his final stop on lap 36. The Ferrari driver emerged back out in ninth, and began to push his way further up the order, passing Massa when the Brazilian stopped and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg when he spun at the final corner.
Despite being given the call to ease off, Rosberg began to reel in Hamilton at the front of the field once again, getting close to the DRS range of the Briton. However, he could not quite latch onto the back of his teammate, becoming reliant on a mistake as the race entered its final stages.
Romain Grosjean’s hopes of a top-five finish were dashed when he made contact with Will Stevens, moving across the front of the Manor driver’s car and sustaining a puncture. The stewards looked dimly on the incident in spite of Grosjean’s complaints, handing the Frenchman a five second time penalty.
His teammate, Pastor Maldonado, kept the Lotus flag flying high though by running as high as fifth in the race, only for Sebastian Vettel to demote the Venezuelan down a place. Entering the final ten laps of the race, Maldonado had to keep an eye on Massa behind as both drivers struggled with worn tires.
Rosberg may have given Hamilton some food for thought in the closing stages, but he was unable to get close enough to make a move in the dying stages. For the fourth time in Montreal, Hamilton crossed the line to win the Canadian Grand Prix and extend his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship to 17 points ahead of Rosberg, who was forced to settle for second place.
Valtteri Bottas put in a quietly impressive display for Williams to finish third and become the first driver outside of Mercedes and Ferrari to finish on the podium in 2015. Ferrari’s day was far below the expectations heading into the weekend as Kimi Raikkonen finished as the lead car in fourth, although Sebastian Vettel’s charge to fifth did give some excitement to proceedings in Montreal.
Felipe Massa’s reverse strategy saw him rise from 15th on the grid to sixth by the end of the race after passing Pastor Maldonado in the final stages of the race. Despite falling back as his tires lost grip, Maldonado managed to keep hold of seventh place and score his first points of the 2015 season for Lotus.
Nico Hulkenberg bounced back from his spin to finish eighth for Force India ahead of Daniil Kvyat and Romain Grosjean, with the latter keeping tenth place in spite of his five second time penalty. Sergio Perez’s good form in Canada did not continue in 2015, leaving him 11th at the flag ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr and 2014 winner Daniel Ricciardo, who was anonymous for much of the race.
Marcus Ericsson’s early pace faded through the race before he eventually finished 14th ahead of Max Verstappen and teammate Felipe Nasr, whilst Will Stevens was the last classified finisher as Roberto Merhi and the McLaren duo of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso retired from the race.