Lewis Hamilton gambled on a two-stop strategy to win the Canadian Grand Prix for a third time and move ahead of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel atop the Formula One drivers’ standings.
McLaren’s Hamilton secured his 18th career win and first of the season yesterday at the same 2.7-mile (4.36-kilometer) Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal where he gained his breakthrough victory in 2007, his rookie season.
“It’s been five years since I won the first time here, but it feels just as good,” Britain’s Hamilton said in a televised news conference. “I loved every single minute of it.”
The result means a different driver has won each of the first seven races of the season for the only time in the 62-year history of Formula One. Jenson Button, Alonso, Nico Rosberg, Vettel, Pastor Maldonado and Mark Webber won the first six races on the schedule.
The 27-year-old Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, has 88 points with 13 races remaining, two more than Alonso and three more than Red Bull’s Vettel, who has won the world championship the past two years. Webber, who was also above Hamilton before yesterday, is fourth on 79.
Red Bull leads the constructors’ championship with 164 points from McLaren (133) and Lotus (108). Ferrari is fourth with 97 points.
Romain Grosjean of France finished second in Montreal for Lotus, while Sauber’s Sergio Perez, a Mexican, was third.
Vettel, who won 11 of 19 races last year, was fourth after making his second pit stop late in the race, while Ferrari’s Alonso was fifth after trying to go 70 laps on two sets of tires.
Vettel and Hamilton, who were first and second on the grid, were placed one and two during the early portion of the race, with Spain’s Alonso in third.
Hamilton took the lead when Vettel stopped to change tires on lap 17. The British driver came into the pits a lap later and emerged in front of the German. Alonso went into first place ahead of Hamilton and Vettel after his tire change.
Hamilton regained the lead with a passing maneuver on the 21st lap and dropped to third place on lap 51, ceding the lead to Alonso when he made his second stop for tires.
Trailing Alonso by about nine seconds and Vettel by six with 16 laps remaining, Hamilton, in the fastest car on the track at that stage, was told by his crew that Alonso may go the rest of the race without a second tire change.
Hamilton continued to close on the leaders, trailing Alonso by 7.7 seconds with 12 laps to go. The McLaren driver was posting lap times about a second faster than the two front-runners and he moved past Vettel into second place on lap 62, leaving him 1.44 seconds behind Alonso.
Vettel pitted on lap 64 as Hamilton harried Alonso. A passing attempt down Alonso’s outside failed on lap 64, as did a move down the inside of the Ferrari before the next corner. Hamilton’s third attempt of the lap, down the back straight, succeeded, giving him the lead for good.
Having moved into third place following Vettel’s pit stop, Grosjean streaked past Alonso into second place on lap 66.
“I didn’t realize I was third and then I saw Fernando was slowing down and I was second,” Grosjean told reporters. “So it was like a crazy end to the race.”
Unable to keep pace on his worn tires, Alonso then gave up third place to Perez. Vettel also came through at the end to leave the 2005 and 2006 world champion in fifth place.
“When you start 15th, you don’t expect to get a podium finish,” Perez said. “The tire degradation wasn’t bad for me and I managed to keep moving up the field so this is a great boost for the team.”
The next race is the European Grand Prix, a street race in Valencia on June 24.