Hamilton takes stunning Canada win
Lewis Hamilton has become the seventh winner out of seven after brilliantly overcoming an additional pit stop to his rivals to race back and win the Canadian GP.
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 10/06/12 11:16pm
Lewis Hamilton finally added his name to the list of 2012 race winners after a brilliant late charge which saw him pass both Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel on track was enough to overcome an additional pit stop and win the Canadian Grand Prix.
In a race that bubbled with tension throughout, but really came alive in the closing stages as teams' varying tyre strategies played out, Hamilton, who had passed early race leader Vettel through the first stops and then Alonso with the aid of DRS soon afterwards to ease clear in the middle stint, was brought into the pits for the second time as McLaren stuck to their plan of a two-stop strategy amid fading rear tyres on the MP4-27.
But rather than playing the safe game and following Hamilton into the pits to all-but assure second and third places respectively, Ferrari and Red Bull threw the dice in spectacular fashion and gambled on getting both of their cars to the end of the race and thus force Hamilton to hunt them down.
The move backfired spectacularly - for pre-race championship leader Alonso in particular - as with Hamilton ripping up the race track on his new set of soft tyres the McLaren caught and passed first Vettel and then the Ferrari to secure his first win of 2012, his third win in five attempts in Montreal and the lead of the Drivers' Championship.
While Vettel accepted Hamilton's overtaking move on him as his cue to cut his losses and belatedly head for the pits, Ferrari bizarrely kept Alonso out to the bitter end. Unsurprisingly the Spaniard, with his soft tyres now firmly shot, became a sitting Spanish duck and ironically was shuffled off the podium by two drivers how were managing to make a bold one-stopper work.
The first of these was the Lotus of Romain Grosjean, the Frenchman's Pirelli tyres having amazingly been only two laps older than Alonso's, and then the second the famously easy-on-its-tyres Sauber of Sergio Perez, who had started the race all the way back in 15th place and run a mighty first stint to snare third.
To cap the nightmare late spiral, Vettel duly used his overdue new tyres to overtake Alonso for fourth place on the penultimate lap to leave the Spaniard fifth having led the race just six laps earlier.
Mercedes' Nico Rosberg and Red Bull's Mark Webber had earlier made second stops and finished sixth and seventh respectively, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, Kamui Kobayashi and Felipe Massa, who had suffered a similar fate to the sister Ferrari.
The race, however, ultimately belonged to Hamilton whose continuously composed performances so far this season despite a succession of McLaren pit-stop gaffes finally went rewarded, somewhat fittingly five years to the day after he claimed the first of his now 18 career wins at the same circuit.
The 2008 World Champion was forced to bide his time in the opening stint as pole-sitter Vettel easily geld his lead on the first lap and then steadily pulled away in characteristic fashion in the opening stages as Alonso kept a watching brief behind the McLaren.
But as they approached the first round of stops, Hamilton and Alonso moved back in on the Red Bull whose supersoft tyres appeared to go off quicker and Vettel duly initiated the first round of stops for the leaders on lap 16.
But while an extra swift lap from Hamilton proved enough for him to pit and rejoin ahead of the World Champion, Alonso managed to eek out a further two lap on the supersofts and duly jumped both of them - although his stay at the front was brief as Hamilton used DRS to breeze past on the backstraight.
From there the race, at the very front at least, appeared cut and dried as Hamilton opened up a four-second lead over his two rivals.
However, there was one unexpected intriguing twist.
While McLaren, who had started to suffer the first signs of tyre degradation, brought their car in for second time with 20 laps to go on lap 50 - a stop which again featured the now standard wheel gun problem, although this time on the rear right - Ferrari and Red Bull, perhaps seeing that runners behind were going for a one-stop, went for broke with the now known consequences for Alonso and Vettel.
Lapping over a second quicker than the two increasingly ailing front runners, Hamilton first passed Vettel in the DRS zone on lap 62 before, after several corners spent sizing up his increasingly grip-less former team-mate, taking Alonso in the same place two laps later.
After showing surprisingly low-key pace throughout practice and qualifying, Grosjean's showed how a one-stop should be done with his late charge to second place, which represented the best result of the Frenchman's two-part F1 career. His slightly longer first stint had earlier seen him briefly in the lead as the front trio pitted and from there he showed sensational pace late on despite his own tyres having had completed more than 40 laps.
Perez's surge to third was even more impressive given where he started the race and again underlines both his and Sauber's superb tyre-management skills.
However, a man renowned for those kind of skills in the past, Jenson Button, endured one of the most miserable afternoons of his entire career as he came home a lowly 16th - his worst result since the dark days of Honda in 2008.
At times lapping up to two seconds slower than Hamilton in the same car, and at one point only faster than the two Marussias, the 2009 World Champion conceded afterwards that he simply struggled for outright pace on both sets of tyres. Button needs to hope this marks the low-point of his season and he and McLaren can get to grips with the problems with his car in time for the next race in Valencia to ensure a campaign that started so promisingly remains recoverable.
Seven-time Montreal winner Michael Schumacher, meanwhile, suffered his now standard 2012 retirement when, running out of the points in any case mid-way through the race, his DRS wing suddenly became stuck open and Mercedes had to retire his car.