Hamilton wins Canadian GP

Mercedes F-1 driver Lewis Hamilton of England celebrates with champagne after his win of the...

Mercedes F-1 driver Lewis Hamilton of England celebrates with champagne after his win of the Montreal Formula 1 Grand Prix at Gilles Villeneuve Circuit ON Sunday. (BENOIT PELOSSE/QMI AGENCY)

Dean McNulty, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:05 AM ET

Lewis Hamilton made history again at the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday becoming the seventh different winner in seven races this Formula One season.

And Hamilton and the Grand Prix both dodged the potential bullet of student protesters that had promised to disrupt Canada’s largest single day sporting event over a proposed hike in tuition fees in Quebec.

While the event was not sold out for the first time in a decade, it was close to it, with more than 100,000 in attendance at the facility that holds 115,000.

There was no sign of demonstrators either, before or during the two-and-a-half-hour event.

Hamilton had first made it into the records books at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve by becoming the youngest driver in history to win both a pole position and a race at just 22 years of age back in his rookie 2007 season.

But on Sunday, under bright blue skies and hot sun he showed all the qualities of a veteran as he stalked early race leaders — first Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull Renault and then Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari — wa ting for them to make a mistake.

And both made the same mistake, thinking they could out last Hamilton on newer tires in the final 20 laps.

Vettel ended up being forced to pit for new rubber on lap 63 of 70 laps.

Alonso stayed out in a desperate attempt to keep Hamilton behind him but it was a short-lived exercise, as the British driver stormed passed the red Ferrari on lap 64, never to looked back.

In fact, the strategies of both Vettel and Alonso ended up being even more costly in the broader championship picture. Both lost valuable podium positions to the most unlikely of drivers, Romain Grosjean with Lotus Renault and Sergio Perez in the Sauber Ferrari, who claimed second and third place respectively by passing a limping Alonso and Vettel in the final laps.

Hamilton said after the race that his team never even considered following the lead of Ferrari and Red Bull trying to make it a one stop race.

“I was not able to do one stop, I think I would have fallen back, so I think a two-stop was just right,” he said. “We went into the race knowing we would be doing two stops and when the guys were behind me I had a feeling that Fernando would be doing one stop.

“I knew I had to make a gap while looking after the tires, even though Fernando was picking his pace up. It was one of the best stints I had.”

Hamilton praised his McLaren team for getting him in and out of the pit stops with lightening speed, enabling him to stay right behind Alonso and Vettel.

“The team did a great job with the pit stops and the strategy,” he said. “I was very, very surprised that I was able to look after the tires and push at the times I needed to push.

“I was surprised in the first stint. I knew Fernando was the one to beat. He has generally great pace on long runs.”

Hamilton, who is in the final season of his contract with McLaren, and has been rumoured to be bound — ironically — for either Red Bull or Ferrari next year, welcomed his first win of this season as a boost to both his confidence and his worth in the F-1 marketplace.

“It feels great to finally be here on the top step,” he said. “It feels like one of best races I’ve had for a very long time.”

His win in Canada puts Hamilton in some rare company as he is now tied with Brazil’s Nelson Piquet in the win column with three and trails only seven-time champion Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s win also vaults him into the lead in the F-1 world champion with 88 points, two ahead of Alonso and three ahead of Vettel.

FINISH LINES

In a game of “Guess who is coming to lunch?” there was NASCAR boss Brian France noshing with celebrities in the ultra exclusive patio suites at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Sunday as a guest of Canadian Grand Prix boss Francois Dumontier. I suspect the food was on a scale above what was being served on the same day at Long Pond, Pa., where NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series was running at Pocono International Raceway.

Andretti shows up

MONTREAL — Mario Andretti came to the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday to pay his respects to the man whose name adorns Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Andretti said he came to Montreal to mark the 30th anniversary of Villeneuve’s tragic death in 1982 during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder

He called the Quebec native “Canada’s greatest race car driver.”

Andretti himself is widely considered the best all round racer in history, being the only driver to have won all of the major events in auto racing: The Formula One world championship; the Indianapolis 500; the Daytona 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

He raced against Villeneuve in his 1978 championship season, the same year that Villeneuve won the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal at the track that was then called Circuit Ile Notre Dame.

The track’s name was changed after his death to honour his legacy.

“It is only appropriate that they named this track for him,” Andretti said. “He proudly represented Canada in Formula One.

“He became the darling of the world championship.”

He said that Villeneuve outwardly exuded a “beaming personality” but on the track was a fierce competitor.

“He was very focused in the race car but at the same time he was very much loved and respected,” Andretti said.

“His death was a huge loss for the sport.”

Since Villeneuve’s son Jacques and Andretti’s son Michael left F-1 the only North American to race in the series was American Scott Speed, who hardly rated a beep on the radar.

But Andretti thinks that with the addition of a second North American F-1 race this season in Texas, it will spur teams to look at talent on this side of the ocean.

“I hope that we see another North American in the series,” he said. “With the addition of the Circuit of the Americas in Austin this season that should help.

“Obviously the more presence you have in North America should create more opportunities. Maybe some Canadian and American sponsors will get behind some youngsters that have the talent to be there.”

­— Dean McNulty

Five keys to Lewis Hamilton’s win at the Canadian Grand Prix

1: The McLaren Mercedes team was able to make the right changes to Hamilton’s race car overnight to adjust for a big spike in temperature on Sunday.

This was something that Hamilton talked about after qualifying on Saturday

While the teams practised in mid-20C on Friday, and qualified Saturday when temperatures hoovered around 30C, it was hotter still — on the track it hit highs of above 40C — on Sunday.

The McLaren squad was able to find the near prefect set-ups for the blistering hot Circuit Gilles Villeneuve surface.

2: The team started Hamilton on the softer compound Pirelli tires allowing him to maintain his position in the early laps when it looked like pole sitter Sebastian Vettel was going to run away with the race.

The team waited for Vettel to pit before calling in Hamilton to change to the primary Pirelli tires as things on the track heated up.

This was a vital point as Vettel lost a huge amount of track position on the stop that he was never able to regain.

It then became a battle between Hamilton and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso, who had also pitted for the harder compound tires.

3: On his final pit stop at lap 50, Hamilton came in for a final set of new tires while Vettel and Alonso stayed out thinking they could make to the end of the 70-lap race while maintaining their front running positions

But Hamilton caught a break as he came out of the pits on the tire change in front of Vettel’s Red Bull teammate Mark Webber, preventing the possibility the Australian could block him to help Vettel.

4: Of all of the qualities Hamilton possesses that make him a great race car driver, patience has never been one of them.

In fact it is precisely the lack of patience that has plagued his career preventing him from winning more than the one world championship he earned in 2008.

But on Sunday at the Canadian Grand Prix, Hamilton bided his time like a cat waiting to pounce of a pair of mice, as Vettel and Alonso gambled that they could make their tires last to the end of the race.

Hamilton‘s patience would be rewarded as Vettel had to pit and Alonso lost so much grip he was an easy target for the hard charging McLaren.

5: Hamilton had experience on his side on this day as well.

In spite of his relatively tender years — he is still only 27 years old — Hamilton has always run well at Montreal’s tricky road course, posting both his first pole position and his first win on Ile Notre Dame in his five previous trips to Canada.

 


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