Hamilton wins in Canada as controversial penalty robs Vettel

Lewis Hamilton took a third consecutive race win at the 50th running of the Canadian Grand Prix, inheriting victory at the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve through a controversial penalty for Sebastian Vettel to maintain Mercedes’ 100% winning record in 2019.

In qualifying for the seventh race of the season, it was Vettel who came out on top to secure Ferrari’s second pole position of Formula 1’s present campaign, with Hamilton acting as the filling in an Italian sandwich by qualifying in second, heading Charles Leclerc who was third.

Suffering a hydraulic issue in the run-up to the race, Hamilton failed to clear Vettel at the start of the 70-lap affair in Canada, with the German polesitter streaking into the lead when the five red lights went out, opening up a 1.6s advantage by the end of only the second lap.

Vettel remained at the front of the field until the end of lap 26 when the driver took to the pit lane, completing his sole stop of the grand prix by switching his race-starting Medium compound tyres for a set of more durable Hards. This handed Hamilton first place although the reigning champion quickly followed suit, pitting on lap 28 to hand Leclerc the provisional lead.

2019 Canadian Grand Prix, Sunday © LAT Images.

Remaining out in front, Leclerc didn’t pit until the 33rd tour of the circuit, extending his opening stint to ensure a greater lifespan on his Hard tyres for his final stint of the race. Filtering through, Vettel moved into first, however, quickly came under pressure from Hamilton who was longing to overtake his rival of recent seasons.

With pressure mounting, Vettel made a mistake on the run into the fast chicane of Turns 3 and 4 on lap 48, quickly coming under investigation from the stewards after it was deemed that the driver rejoined the race in a dangerous manner, very nearly collecting Hamilton.

Despite not having total control of his scarlet red SF90, Vettel was penalized for his mistake, being handed a five-second time penalty, meaning that it was imperative for him to extend his advantage over Hamilton. With Hamilton having blistering pace, however, extending his lead was something that Vettel was unable to do, only falling further into the clutches of Hamilton as confusion and frustration began to reign supreme.

While Vettel took the chequered flag first, victory fell into the hands of Hamilton, with the Briton taking his fifth victory in seven races this season to further advance his hopes of taking a sixth Drivers’ Championship, now holding a collection of 163 points which marks his best ever start to a Formula 1 season.

“Firstly I’d just like to say a big thank you to my team because I wouldn’t be standing here. An incredible effort from everyone,” said Hamilton post-race. “We had a problem this morning with my engine and there was my crash on Friday. If they hadn’t been so diligent I wouldn’t be able to race as I am so a big thank you to them. Naturally, this absolutely isn’t the way that I wanted to win. I was pushing to the end, trying to get past but obviously, I forced him into an error. He went a bit wide but then I had the run on that corner and we nearly collided so it was unfortunate but this is motor racing. For me, I took the corner normally but when you come back on the track you’re not supposed to come onto the racing line, you’re supposed to come on safely and I assume that’s why [Vettel was penalized].

Attempting to boycott the podium procedures post-race, a frustrated Vettel took a lonely second place while team-mate Leclerc was third, with Ferrari securing its largest points haul of the season to date, taking much-needed silverware back to Maranello.

“I really enjoyed the race and I enjoyed the crowd every lap, seeing them cheer me on,” said a deflated Vettel. “Lewis was quicker throughout the race but we were able to stay ahead and for the rest, I think I’ve said enough. You should ask the people what they think. I think we had a great show. We showed some good respect so ask the people.”

Outside of the podium, Valtteri Bottas took fourth in the second Mercedes, missing out on the podium for the first time this season while Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen completed the top five after starting from ninth, failing to progress into the top 10 shootout in qualifying following a late Q2 crash for Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen.

It was a strong showing of performance for Renault in Montreal with the French outfit taking its first double points finish of the season, with Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg taking sixth and seventh.

With Pierre Gasly taking eighth place in the second Red Bull, Acronis tech partner Racing Point impressed in Canada by delivering home hero Lance Stroll with an admirable ninth place finish, fighting through the field after starting from 17th while Daniil Kvyat completed the top 10 for Toro Rosso.

“[The performance] really brings back some good memories,” Stroll told Sky Sports, remembering his maiden Formula 1 points finish in Canada in 2017. “It was a very similar story today. We started 17th, just like in 2017 and picked them off one by one and finished P9. It was a well-fought race. We nailed the strategy – that was key. Starting on the Hard tyre and going long was really the key to our race and we managed it perfectly. I was able to take that tyre really long into the race and made some bold moves out there which was also key to our race; passing [Antonio] Giovinazzi, went down the inside of [Sergio] Perez into the hairpin in front of my home fans. I felt the energy out there and I said: ‘Right, I’m just going to send it down the inside!’ I did it, pulled it off and then made it stick on [Carlos] Sainz in the chicane with a couple of laps to go to grab that extra point so it makes it that much sweeter. We really had to work for it.”

Formula 1’s 2019 campaign will continue on June 23 where the racing circus will travel to the Paul Ricard Circuit in Le Castellet, France for the eighth race of the season.

Chris Soulsby

Formula E Editor at MotorsportWeek and MotorsportMonday.