Saturday 20 January 2018

Hamilton closes gap with classy Canadian display

Hamilton was racked by tyre problems in Monte Carlo, but had nothing but clear air this time, his pursuers all tangling in his rear-view mirrors. Photo: Reuters/Chris Wattie
Hamilton was racked by tyre problems in Monte Carlo, but had nothing but clear air this time, his pursuers all tangling in his rear-view mirrors. Photo: Reuters/Chris Wattie

Oliver Brown

Never mind four-leaf clovers, Lewis Hamilton should choose the maple leaf as his symbol of good fortune.

With a brilliantly unflustered lights-to-flag victory on Montreal's Île Notre Dame closing the deficit to championship rival Sebastian Vettel from 25 points to 12, Hamilton proved that Canada remains his happiest hunting ground in a dominant display.

A sixth win here at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve not only took him within one of Michael Schumacher's record, but reignited his quest for the fourth world title that would vault him beyond Ayrton Senna, his childhood idol.

While Ferrari might possess the more nimble car this season, the reigning champions underlined that they still had no match for raw pace on a track that always rewards speed over agility.

A first one-two since Abu Dhabi last year, after Valtteri Bottas managed second, was a reminder that their kingpin status would not be relinquished lightly.

Hamilton had his first pole in Montreal, his first win in 2007 - when father Anthony watched tearfully from beneath the podium - and this was a moment to cement the love affair.

"Over the moon," he said, during a bizarre post-race prize-giving ceremony in which Australia's Daniel Ricciardo, who took third, dared master of ceremonies Patrick Stewart to drink champagne from his shoe. Undaunted, the British actor sculled it in one.

For the first time this year, Vettel was nowhere to be seen among the top three, after front-wing damage dropped him to 18th and led to a torrid afternoon in which he climbed admirably back to finish fourth.

Fleetingly, perhaps, the Ferrari juggernaut has been halted and Hamilton, whose immaculate weekend was rounded off by his feat of matching Senna's 65 pole positions, was clearly in a mood to make hay while the sun shone.

"It's a long race when you're out there on your own," he said. "I was just hoping the car held together, and fortunately it did."

Hamilton was racked by tyre problems in Monte Carlo, but had nothing but clear air this time, his pursuers all tangling in his rear-view mirrors.

Even a brief spell under the safety car, necessitated by a collision between Carlos Sainz and Felipe Massa, could not distract him.

Max Verstappen made an electrifying start, sweeping past Vettel on the outside into Turn One, where the lightest of contacts conspired to wreck the German's wing. While Vettel soldiered on for five laps, the damage forced him into a pit stop and the unusual challenge, by his standards, of having to scythe his way through the back-markers to restore a competitive position.

The flying Dutchman's charge was even more rudely interrupted, his engine expiring on lap 11 and his stricken car left to be towed by the marshals from a perilous point on the straight.

For Fernando Alonso, the experience was a bit more stressful as he grappled with a machine fit for the breaker's yard and retired. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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