By Alan Davies, Formula One correspondent
Sunday, June 10, 2012
FORMULA 1 star Lewis Hamilton won the 2012 Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal – becoming the record seventh different driver from the opening seven races to take the chequered flag this season.
The 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver from Hertfordshire crossed the finish line first after 70 laps of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for his third victory in Canada.
Hamilton took the top step of the podium ahead of the Lotus of Romain Grosjean.
Sergio Perez snatched third place for Sauber ahead of Sebastian Vettel, with Fernando Alonso fifth following a thrilling finish. Nico Rosberg was sixth overall for Mercedes.
The victory took Hamilton top of the FIA F1 World Drivers’ Championship by two points from Alonso.
He said over the radio: “I want to dedicate this one to all the fans out there who have always supported me, no matter what. Thank you.”
Lining up on the front row alongside pole-sitter Vettel, Herts-born Hamilton got a clean start and remained second at the end of the opening lap.
With the track temperature up to 45°C – the hottest it’s been all weekend – tyre management was crucial in the opening phase with a heavy fuel-load.
After 10 of the 70 laps, the order at the front was still Vettel, Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber, with Red Bull’s reigning F1 world champion a couple of seconds clear.
However, with the Pirelli super-soft tyres coming to Hamilton, he quickly closed the gap on Vettel.
Hamilton was told by the McLaren pitwall: “You’re quicker than him [Vettel] again. Current gap 1.4s so you’re getting close to the DRS.”
With Hamilton closing to within a second of the German, Vettel ducked into the pits on lap 17.
The McLaren man entered the pits a lap later and although it wasn’t the slickest of exits, Hamilton still came out ahead of Vettel on the track, with Alonso now leading the race.
1 Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
2 Romain Grosjean (Lotus)
3 Sergio Perez (Sauber)
4 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
5 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
6 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
7 Mark Webber (Red Bull)
8 Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus)
The Ferrari driver pulled out enough of a lead to exit the pits fractionally ahead of Hamilton.
Lewis was told: “You’re racing Alonso on the exit.”
With DRS enabled, Hamilton passed the Ferrari to reclaim second place behind new race leader Romain Grosjean, the Lotus driver still on his first set of tyres.
Watched by girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger, Hamilton took the lead when Grosjean finally came in for fresh rubber.
Top eight after the 2012 Canadian Grand Prix
1 Lewis Hamilon (McLaren) 88pts
2 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 86
3 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 85
4 Mark Webber (Red Bull) 79
5 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 67
6 Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 55
7 Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 53
8 Jenson Button (McLaren) 45
With clean air at the front, Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race with a 1m 18.940s.
Another fastest lap, a 1m 18.712s, helped Hamilton pull more than three seconds clear of Alonso in second place and he then recorded a 1m 18.698s.
Hamilton was told by the team: “You’re doing a great job and setting purple sectors. The gap is growing at a couple of tenths a lap.”
The message later came: “This pace is very good. The gap is 3.5s. Let’s keep it there.”
Top six after 2012 Grand Prix of Canada
1 Red Bull 164pts
2 McLaren 133
3 Lotus 108
4 Ferrari 97
5 Mercedes GP 69
6 Sauber 58
Approaching mid-distance, Hamilton asked: “How is Alonso’s pace?”
The reply came: “You are quicker this lap, gap is now back up to 3.5s.”
He stretched that to more than four seconds and was told over the radio: “Your last lap was purple. Gap now 4.2s.”
Hamilton asked: “Are you sure they’re not trying to one-stop?”
The team’s response was: “We’re in a very good position.”
Alonso closed the gap to under four seconds but Hamilton was told: “You’re doing a great job! Let’s see if we can hold this gap.”
Hamilton came in for a new set of Prime tyres on lap 50 and again it was another slow pitstop, costing him vital seconds – and potentially the race.
He was immediately told: “Give it everything you can!”
Running third behind Alonso and Vettel, both still on one-stop strategies, Hamilton did exactly that and responded to team orders with a blistering 24.7s in the second sector on the way to a fastest lap of the race of 1m 17.135s.
Laping a second quicker than Alonso, Hamilton closed the gap to under 12 seconds.
The McLaren pit told him: “OK Lewis, gap to Alonso was 12 seconds on the last lap and we have 15 laps to go.”
Hamilton continued to close the gap on the leading pair, setting another fastest lap on fresher rubber.
McLaren told him: “1.7s quicker than Alonso on the last lap.
“The cars ahead are really beginning to struggle on their tyres. Nine more laps to go.”
Lewis took Vettel for second place at the end lap 62 with DRS enabled.
It was then a tussle with Alonso for the race lead, as Vettel finally entered the pits for a second time, dropping down to fifth as a result.
With fresher tyres and DRS, Hamilton regained the lead on lap 65 down the back straight – and he comfortably took the chequered flag from there.
With his tyres going, Grosjean also took Alonso for second place and then Sergio Perez’s Sauber passed the Ferrari. Vettel moved into fourth as Alonso dropped to fifth.