Happy Hamilton has time to enjoy stroll in the park

Lewis Hamilton admitted he enjoyed a ‘stroll in the park’ and had time to reflect on memories of earlier successes as he raced to victory for Mercedes in Sunday’s action-packed Canadian Grand Prix.

The three-time champion Briton cruised home around 20 seconds ahead of his team-mate Finn Valtteri Bottas as the Mercedes team bounced back from their desultory showing at last month’s Monaco Grand Prix with their first one-two this year.

It was a convincing performance on a day when Ferrari struggled and Hamilton’s victory cut championship leader Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari’s lead to 12 points.

Vettel, who had to make an early pit stop for repairs following a first lap incident, came home fourth behind Australian Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull.

“I feel so relaxed now,” said a beaming Hamilton, who on Saturday had been presented with one of his hero Ayrton Senna’s 1987 season race helmets after drawing level with him on 65 career poles.

“It’s been an amazing weekend for me and I feel very grateful now that the day is done. I actually feel like jumping in the lake!

“You always need weekends like this and for me there was a lot of time to think, when I was up front, reliving memories from 2007 and several other years here.

“I was really able to enjoy the moment and the car and the crowd, the weather was fantastic, even if it was a bit gusty and you still had to concentrate – it was a challenge and it was well-managed.

“Montreal has been so good to me all these years. It is like a go-kart track and so it takes me back to my roots.”

Hamilton’s third win of the season, his sixth in Montreal and the 56th of his career helped him reduce championship leader four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel’s lead to 12 points.

Vettel of Ferrari finished fourth after suffering a damaged front wing in a collision on the opening lap when he was passed by the aggressive Dutch teenage Max Verstappen of Red Bull.

Vettel now has 141 points, Hamilton has 129 and Bottas 93.

Verstappen who rose from fifth to second at the start had to retire after 11 laps with electrical problems. His Red Bull team-mate Australian Daniel Ricciardo finished third.

Hamilton took full advantage of his 65th pole position and led from lights to flag to finish 20 seconds clear of Finn Bottas who, in turn, was 15 seconds ahead of third-placed Australian Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull.

It was the Mercedes team’s first one-two finish of the year and clear proof of their recovery after a disappointing weekend at last month’s Monaco Grand Prix.

Hamilton’s win cut championship leader and four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel’s advantage to 12 points after the Ferrari man lost out at the start and, after an early pit stop for repairs, fought back to finish fourth.

Vettel’s front wing was damaged when he was passed by Max Verstappen of Red Bull at the start. The Dutchman ran in a strong second place until he retired with electrical problems after 11 laps.  

Mexican Sergio Perez finished fifth after a bruising battle with his Force India team-mate Frenchman Esteban Ocon, who was sixth, at the end of a frantic race.

Finn Kimi Raikkonen finished seventh ahead in the second Ferrari ahead of German Nico Hulkenberg of Renault, local hero teenage rookie Lance Stroll of Canada taking ninth for Williams and Frenchman Romain Grosjean 10th for Haas.

“A big thank you to this crowd,” said Hamilton from the podium where the actor Patrick Stewart served as interviewer. “Every year the energy grows! I had my first pole here and my first win here and to repeat it is incredibly special.

“It was a great team performance and a Valtteri did a great job. I am just over the moon.”

Bottas said: “As a team we really needed this one-two to get the points and I am very proud of this team and what they have done since Monaco… I knew what I had to do today.”

Ricciardo, beaming with his familiar broad smile, once again whipped off his race shoes to use them for champagne drinking – and offered one to Stewart who accepted with a smile.

The race delivered immediate drama from the start.  

Hamilton led cleanly off the grid from his 65th pole position as, behind him, Verstappen attacked and swept around the outside into Turn One to take second place from Vettel, apparently clipping the front wing of the Ferrari in the process.

Behind them, Sainz collided with Frenchman Romain Grosjean’s Haas and then spun and crashed into the barriers, collecting Brazilian Felipe Massa’s Williams along the way.

Both drivers were unhurt, but they were forced to retire as a Safety Car was deployed for three laps as the debris was cleared, Hamilton leading Verstappen and Bottas at the head of the field.

Hamilton made the most of the re-start and resisted another Verstappen attack before Vettel, his front wing clearly damaged, pitted for repairs.

The German rejoined at the back of the field – exactly where Hamilton may have hoped – and began his recovery drive by swiftly climbing to 17th.

On lap 11, the action was paused again when Verstappen pulled over and retired between Turns Two and Three, his engine having cut out. This saw a Virtual Safety Car (VSC) signalled until lap 14 when the racing resumed with the two Mercedes in control, Hamilton ahead of Bottas.

By lap 16, the leader’s advantage was 6.1 seconds and Bottas was a further five seconds beyond third-placed Ricciardo while the Ferraris of Raikkonen and Vettel were fifth and 13th.

By lap 18, Ferrari had decided to call in Raikkonen for an early stop – he was struggling with the pace of Ricciardo and Perez – and Red Bull immediately called in the Australian to match strategies.

All this left Hamilton with a luxurious 25 seconds lead before he pitted for super-softs after 32 laps, followed immediately by Ocon. Hamilton retained the lead, but Ocon rejoined in sixth.

After further Ferrari pit-stops, Hamilton retained serene control ahead of Bottas with Ricciardo third -- and then the two Force Indias, with Perez ahead of Ocon and resisting team suggestions to let the Frenchman pass him, and the two charging Ferraris.

A mistake by Raikkonen, at the final chicane, let Vettel through to sixth and a chance to attack, which produced a thrilling battle as the Force India men, engaged in their own scrap, resisted.

Vettel finally claimed fifth when Ocon ran off at Turn One, after being blocked by Perez, and the German then ran off again himself and recovered.

With two laps to go, the luckless Alonso parked and retired his McLaren Honda with an engine failure as Vettel, a man inspired, passed Perez at the final chicane to snatch fourth. 

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