Hamilton Claims Canada Hat-Trick After Out-Foxing Alonso and Vettel in Montreal


Hamilton celebrates his first victory of 2012 in Canada - Photo Credit: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
Hamilton celebrates his first victory of 2012 in Canada - Photo Credit: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

 

Lewis Hamilton became the seventh winner in seven races after claiming his third Canadian Grand Prix victory, and a two-point lead in the drivers' championship, today in Montreal.

The 2009 world champion went for a two-stop strategy whilst his main competitors tried to make it to the end of the race with just one stop.

This one-stop strategy backfired for Vettel and Alonso, but Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez managed to make it work and took second and third.

Vettel made a late stop for fresh tyres and recovered to fourth place, but Alonso, who spent most of the final six laps of the race going backwards, had to settle for fifth place.

Nico Rosberg finished a solid sixth for Mercedes, whilst Kimi Raikkonen, Kamui Kobayashi and Felipe Massa completed the top ten.

Things were looking good for Sebastian Vettel at the start of the race though, after he got another good start from pole position, just as in Bahrain. Hamilton and Alonso followed cleanly behind him, retaining their respective starting positions of second and third. Nico Rosberg, who started fifth, made a good attempt at getting past Mark Webber, but was ultimately forced to stay behind the Red Bull driver.

Rosberg instead came under pressure from Felipe Massa, who started the race from sixth. The Brazilian's Ferrari was all over the back of Rosberg's Mercedes during the opening lap, and passed the German towards the end of Lap 2. Paul di Resta made a similar move, making use of DRS, to pass Rosberg on the following lap.

Massa threw all that good work away at the start of Lap 6 though, after spinning at the exit of Turn 1. He dropped down to P12.

The Brazilian was the first to make a stop, doing so at the end of his twelfth lap. That earlier spin had given him a huge flat spot on one of his supersoft tyres, and would have been pleased to take on a new set of the Pirelli soft tyres.

Di Resta and Michael Schumacher pitted from fifth and eighth on the next lap but there was more action happening on track, with Kimi Raikkonen using DRS to overtake Jenson Button. The McLaren driver had been struggling on the used soft tyres on which he started the grand prix, and it was no surprise that he came into the pits at the end of Lap 15.

At the front, Lewis Hamilton was closing up to the back of leader Vettel. The lead had been sitting at about 1.5 seconds since the opening lap, but now Hamilton was all over the back of the word champion's Red Bull. Fernando Alonso was also skulking in the background, but Vettel avoided the fight by diving into the pits at the end of the sixteenth lap. He re-emerged from the pit lane behind Romain Grosjean in the Lotus.

Hamilton came in for his first pit stop on the lap, and Alonso inherited the grand prix lead. The 2008 champion was slow out of his pit box, but he still emerged from the pit lane ahead of Vettel.

Alonso did not make his stop until the end of Lap 19, but whilst despite Hamilton setting a fastest lap in the meantime, the Ferrari driver still managed to maintain the lead of the race. However, he could not keep Hamilton at bay through the DRS activation zone on his out lap, and Hamilton overtook his former team-mate.

When Grosjean made his pit stop at the end of that lap, Hamilton inherited the race lead, Alonso was second, and Vettel was third. Hamilton then put in a series of fastest laps to pull out a lead of a couple of seconds, and Alonso soon began to come under pressure from Vettel.

Raikkonen and Sergio Perez, who both started on soft Pirelli tyres, were running fourth and fifth at half distance, having not yet stopped. This one-stopping duo were holding up Mark Webber, who was clearly losing touch with the leading trio of Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel.

Jenson Button, by half race distance, was the only man who had made two stops. He was struggling to make any impression on the top ten before his second stop, and then dropped down to P17 as he emerged from pit lane with another set of supersoft tyres.

Team-mate Lewis Hamilton had a comfortable four-second lead from Alonso at the end of Lap 35, whilst the gap between the Spaniard and Sebastian Vettel was holding relatively steady at over one second.

Nico Rosberg made his second stop at the end of Lap 38, and re-joined the track with plenty of space in front of him. Kimi Raikkonen finally made his first stop of the afternoon at the end of Lap 40, and emerged from the pit lane ahead of Rosberg. Sergio Perez, the last of the one-stoppers, made his trip through the pits one lap later, just as Rosberg was finding his way past Raikkonen. Perez emerged behind the Mercedes driver, but in front of the Finn in the Lotus.

There was more bad luck for Michael Schumacher after his rear-wing DRS flap got stuck open on his second pit stop. He had to come back into the pits on the next lap but, try as they might, his pit crew could not force it closed. He was wheeled back into garage, and got out of the car.

On Lap 50, Lewis Hamilton pitted from the lead to make his second of the race. Alonso and Vettel continued as Hamilton took on a new set of the Pirelli soft tyres. It was another slow stop for McLaren, but Hamilton did at least emerge ahead of fourth-place man Mark Webber. His team came over the radio, telling Hamilton to 'give it everything' while he had the use of the fresh tyres.

Webber made his second stop one lap later and emerged behind Grosjean, Massa, Rosberg and Perez, who were not expected to make another stop.

Hamilton put in a series of fastest laps as Alonso and Vettel continued to circulate. Alonso and Vettel had missed the moment to respond to the stop by McLaren; were they going to try and complete the remaining fifteen laps on the same set of tyres?

With ten laps remaining, neither Alonso nor Vettel had made a second stop. They were on old tyres, and Hamilton was continuing to set fastest lap after fastest lap. The gap between Alonso and Hamilton was just 4.3 seconds at the end of Lap 60, and he was quickly closing up to the back of second-placed man Vettel.

By Lap 62 of 70, Hamilton was right on the back of Vettel's Red Bull. DRS allowed Hamilton to pick him off without any problems at the end of that lap, and he now had seven laps to chase down Alonso, who was only 2.1 seconds further down the road.

It was only a matter of time before Hamilton got past Alonso, and the move came in the DRS activation zone at the end of Lap 64. Hamilton was now in the lead, and just five straightforward laps away from his third Canadian Grand Prix victory.

Interestingly, Vettel did make a second stop for tyres, just after Hamilton overtook him. That dropped him down into fifth place, behind Grosjean and Perez.

Fernando Alonso was then passed by Grosjean, who only made his one stop of the afternoon two laps after the Spaniard, and so had tyres of a similar age. Alonso, who had dropped from first to third in just a few laps, was struggling on his old tyres, and he now had Sergio Perez in hot pursuit.

Indeed, just a couple of laps later, Alonso was down in fourth place, and Perez was now heading for his second podium finish of the season. Vettel, who had made that late second stop, then overtook the Spaniard to take fourth.