|Hamilton is enjoying a renaissance after a disappointing last season [GALLO/GETTY]|
Lewis Hamilton drove a superb tactical race to hold off his McLaren team mate Jenson Button and win Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix – and jump to the top of the Formula One drivers’ championship.
In a repeat of the last race in Turkey, Hamilton crossed the line just 2.2 seconds ahead of his fellow Briton to leapfrog Australian Mark Webber and world champion Button at the top of the standings.
Spain’s Fernando Alonso finished third for Ferrari to join the two McLaren men on the Montreal podium while Germany’s Sebastian Vettel was fourth and his Red Bull team mate Webber fifth after a thrilling race.
Hamilton’s second win in a row took him from third to first place in the championship with a total of 109 points, having started on pole.
Button stayed second on 106 while Webber dropped to third on 103 ahead of Alonso and Vettel.
“It is one of the toughest races so far. It’s another one-two and Jenson did an incredible job. I am very happy and proud of the team,” said Hamilton, the 2008 world champion.
“This is a special day for me because I obviously won my first Grand Prix here so to come back and do that three years later is a real pleasure.”
While there were no major crashes during the 70-lap event, which was back on the calendar after being left off last year, there was no shortage of drama as Canada lived up to its repuation as one of the most enthralling races.
Five different drivers held the lead as teams were forced into a strategic battle to keep their tyres from falling apart on the demanding street circuit which features long straights and tight corners.
The different tyre strategies produced a riveting tactical race with the leading five all in contention at different stages but swapping places during extra pit stops, high-speed wheel-to-wheel racing and some breathtaking overtaking, which has been absent from Formula One in recent years.
“It was a very difficult race,” said Button, who won last year’s title with Brawn (now Mercedes) before switching to McLaren.
“The tyres are so important and you are never sure if you are looking after them enough. It was a great race, really enjoyable – you had to think about every situation.”
While Hamilton became the fifth different leader of the championship this season, Alonso was also buoyed by the improved performance of his Ferrari.
The double world champion has struggled to keep pace with Red Bull and McLaren since winning the season-opening race in Bahrain but believed he was back on the pace.
“I think it was good day for us, the car was very competitive,” Alonso said.
“We are moving in the right direction and I think we are back in the fight.”
It was poor result for Red Bull, who had dominated the early part of the season, claiming pole position in each of the first seven races before Hamilton broke the sequence in Montreal.
Webber’s chances of winning were diminished even before the race started when he had to change a faulty gearbox and was forced to drop back five places on the grid from second to seventh.
He still managed to weave his way through traffic to lead for a large part of the race but his advantage was eaten away as his tyres started to deteriorate and he began sliding all over the course before returning to the pits for fresh rubber.
“I wanted to get some champagne today but in the end it didn’t happen,” said the Australian.
Vettel also had his turn in front but, struggling with a gearbox problem, could not catch the cars in front of him once he had pitted for a second time – despite persistent urgings from his crew to go faster.
“Seriously, how do you expect me to pass, we are going slower and slower!” he told them.