Lewis Hamilton slashed the deficit to rival Sebastian Vettel in the Formula One championship after a flawless lights-to-flag victory in Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix.
On the 10th anniversary of his very first victory in the sport, also in Montreal, Hamilton romped to his sixth win at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve to move to within 12 points of Vettel in the title race.
Vettel’s afternoon was scuppered by a first-corner incident with Max Verstappen which forced him to stop for a new front wing, and with it, fall to the back of the field.
The Ferrari driver recovered to finish fourth, while Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas crossed the line in second to complete Mercedes’ first one-two finish of the season as Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo claimed the final spot on the podium.
An ecstatic Hamilton emerged on the podium with a Union Jack draped around his neck.
“I had my first pole here and my first win here 10 years ago so to repeat it this weekend is incredibly special,” Hamilton said.
“I have to thank my team who made this possible. All the guys back at the factory who have worked so hard to really fix what we had in the last race, to bring it here and really give it to the Ferraris. I am over the moon.”
Sir Patrick Stewart conducted the podium interviews before downing champagne from Ricciardo’s race boot.
“I am proud of you for doing that,” Hamilton said before Stewart, star of stage and screen, replied: “I don’t care. I made the podium for the first time so I will drink out of anybody’s shoes.”
This victory was the perfect retort from Hamilton after he toiled to only seventh at the Monaco Grand Prix a fortnight ago. Indeed fresh from sealing the 65th pole position of his career to draw level with the tally of his boyhood hero, Ayrton Senna, the 32-year-old Briton led every lap in a masterful display.
Hamilton’s afternoon stroll was made all that much easier when Vettel, who started alongside the Mercedes man on the front row, was left fighting for fourth on the short dash to turn one.
Vettel was not particularly slow out of the blocks but as Bottas dived underneath the German and Verstappen raced around the outside, the driver who had finished either first or second at every round of the season so far, was suddenly on the back foot.
Matters got worse at the end of lap five, when Vettel was hauled into the pits for repairs to his front wing. TV replays showed that the fast-starting Verstappen had nicked the nose of the Ferrari at Turn One but the stewards took no action.
The incident capped a manic first lap in which Romain Grosjean’s tangle with Carlos Sainz sent the Spaniard into an uncontrollable, and high-speed spin, which resulted in him swiping out Felipe Massa. Sainz thudded into the wall at Turn Three, while Massa was also out of the race. Grosjean limped on.
The safety car was deployed to deal with Sainz’s stricken Toro Rosso, with Hamilton leading from Verstappen and Bottas.
Verstappen, who had started from fifth, was at least doing his part to keep Hamilton honest when the pack was released on lap five. But the Dutchman was soon out of the race when his car ground to a halt at the exit of Turn Two.
The pain was evident, both in the Red Bull cockpit - as Verstappen angrily gesticulated with both hands - and the Red Bull pit wall with boss Christian Horner grimacing and Helmut Marko shaking his head.
Verstappen’s pain was Hamilton’s gain as it made his task all that much easier.
Hamilton crossed the line 20 seconds clear of Bottas on an utterly dominant afternoon. He will head to Baku for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time with his championship charge now firmly back on track.