Sebastian Vettel reclaims championship lead with dominant Canada win
Canadian Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel reclaims championship lead with dominant Canada win

Sebastian Vettel retook the lead of the drivers' championship after winning the Canadian Grand Prix ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen.

Former championship leader Lewis Hamilton had a race to forget, losing a place from his starting position and finishing fifth behind Daniel Ricciardo. Hamilton, who was forced to make an earlier-than-scheduled pit stop due to an overheating engine, now trails Vettel by a single point with a third of the season complete.

Bottas, who shadowed Vettel throughout the race, closed to within 3.5s of the Ferrari with 15 laps remaining, but undid all his hard work with a mistake at Turn 1 while attempting to lap the Renault of Carlos Sainz. The mistake saw him take to the grass on the exit of the corner and one lap later Vettel put an end to any hope of a Mercedes resurgence with a new fastest lap of the race, stretching his advantage to 7.0s over Bottas.

Ricciardo moved from sixth on the grid to fourth at the finish, one place behind teammate Verstappen, with a solid drive in the Red Bull. Both Ricciardo and Verstappen opted for an alternate strategy after starting on the hyper-soft tyres, and Ricciardo made it work for him as he got ahead of Kimi Raikkonen at the start and passed Hamilton in the pits stops. Hamilton responded in the closing stages to close within a second of Ricciardo, but couldn't find a way past the Red Bull in any of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve's three DRS zones.

Despite Montreal's reputation for on-track drama, there was only one big accident on Sunday, resulting in four laps under the Safety Car at the start of the race. Brendon Hartley was attempting to pass Lance Stroll for 13th on the outside of Turn 5 on lap one, but was collected by the Williams driver when Stroll lost the rear of his car mid corner. That snap of oversteer barged Hartley into the wall at high speed and the Toro Rosso was flipped on to its side before both cars came to a halt in the run off area for Turn 6. The two drivers visited the circuit's medical centre for checks before Hartley was sent to hospital for a precautionary scan.

Outside the top six, Renault was the best of the rest with Nico Hulkenberg beating teammate Carlos Sainz to seventh place. Esteban Ocon took ninth for Force India ahead of another impressive drive from Sauber's Charles Leclerc in the final points paying position. McLaren's Fernando Alonso had been running in the top ten but was forced to retire from his 300th grand prix with an exhaust issue on lap 42.

The race ended in unusual circumstances when the chequered flag was waved a lap early by model Winnie Harlow. The error resulted in the final two laps being knocked off the race classification, although it didn't impact any of the positions in the final standings.

Starting from pole position, Vettel held the lead into the first corner as Bottas was forced to go on the defence against Verstappen. Ricciardo was the only driver in the top six to complete a successfully overtaking move on the opening lap, taking fifth place off Raikkonen in Turn 2.

However, before the leaders could complete the first lap, a Safety Car was deployed following the collision between Hartley and Stroll. At that point Hamilton started receiving warning messages about his engine overheating, which resulted in a cap on power when racing resumed on lap four.

Hamilton's engineer Peter Bonnington attempted to coach his driver through a series of switch changes to solve the problem, but the overheating warnings flashing up on his steering wheel display persisted. Mercedes brought Hamilton's mandatory pit stop forward to lap 16 to rip some of the bodywork off his car and open up the cooling, resulting in a compromised strategy compared to the other drivers completing the first stint on ultra-soft tyres. Red Bull responded to Hamilton's pit call by bringing in Verstappen on the same lap and the Red Bull driver duly held third position over Hamilton as they emerged back onto the track.

Meanwhile, Ricciardo still had enough performance in his aging hyper-soft tyres to set an impressive pace on the following lap and overcut Hamilton when he pitted at the end of lap 17. The position change left Hamilton bemused and he later questioned why he had been brought into the pits so early.

The flurry of pit stops promoted Raikkonen to third, but despite a series of quick laps on the ultra-soft tyres he was unable to pull a big enough margin over Hamilton to overcut the Mercedes when he made his mandatory stop on lap 32.

Bottas then made his single pit stop on lap 36 and Vettel responded a lap later with a stop on lap 37, holding a comfortable lead as he rejoined the track. It then looked as though Bottas might have the pace to worry Vettel in the closing stages, but his mistake while lapping Sainz and the pace of Vettel soon after put paid to any hopes on the Mercedes pit wall. Nevertheless, it was a strong result for the Finn on a weekend where he had the measure of teammate Hamilton throughout.

Although Vettel has taken the lead in the drivers' championship, Mercedes retains the lead in the constructors'. Bottas also moves two points ahead of Ricciardo and up to third overall.

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DERBY OF THE WEEK
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Derby of the week
20:45
31/12/2018
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