Lewis Hamilton’s title challenge strengthened with victory in the Canadian Grand Prix, which came courtesy of a one-stop strategy that caught Ferrari on the back foot.

Hamilton qualified on pole alongside Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, but Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel made a lightning start and vaulted into the lead almost before the end of the pit wall. He has already well clear as the field poured into the first corner where, once again, there was contact between the two Mercs.

On this occasion at least, it was simply a result of the two cars aiming for the same piece of road. Rosberg tried to hang on around the outside but Hamilton had the line. The two touched tyres and Rosberg was forced to bail out across the grass. He rejoined unscathed but tumbled down to ninth place.

At the front, Vettel stretched his advantage until he was called into the pits on lap 10 when the virtual safety car was put in place to allow recovery of Jenson Button’s stricken McLaren.

That allowed Hamilton to grab the lead and he held a comfortable advantage until he came in for his one and only stop of the race on lap 24. Vettel retook the lead but he knew he would have to stop again as Ferrari had committed to a conservative two-stop strategy, rather than the preferred one-stop.

Once back in the lead Hamilton controlled the gap to take his second victory of the season, fifth in Canada and the 45th of his career – only Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost have more. His points deficit to Rosberg drops to nine and it’s looking increasingly like the championship momentum is swinging back his way.

Speaking of Rosberg, he recovered to fifth place despite making three stops, the last the result of a slow puncture. In the closing stages he had a terrific dogfight with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who was once again driving with uncommon maturity. Though hamstrung by low fuel levels, Rosberg tried to find a way past for lap after lap, eventually finding it around the outside into the final chicane on the penultimate lap, but he went far too deep under braking and lost the back end. He recovered to finish ahead of the fast-closing Kimi Raikkonen.

Valtteri Bottas took advantage of the struggles of others to take a fine third place, Williams’ best result of the year so far. And Carlos Sainz Jr. put in a fine performance, cutting through from 20th on the grid to finish ninth.

The next race is the renewed European Grand Prix on the streets of Baku in Azebaijan, on 19 June.

Canadian GP results after 70 laps

  1. Lewis Hamilton — Mercedes — 1:31:05.296
  2. Sebastian Vettel — Ferrari — +5.011
  3. Valtteri Bottas — Williams-Mercedes — +46.422
  4. Max Verstappen — Red Bull-TAG Heuer — +53.020
  5. Nico Rosberg — Mercedes — +1:02.093s
  6. Kimi Raikkonen — Ferrari — +1:03.017s
  7. Daniel Ricciardo — Red Bull-TAG Heuer — +1:03.634s
  8. Nico Hulkenberg — Force India-Mercerdes — +1 lap
  9. Carlos Sainz Jr. — Toro Rosso-Ferrari — +1 lap
  10. Sergio Perez — Force India-Mercedes — +1 lap
  11. Fernando Alonso — McLaren-Honda — +1 lap
  12. Daniil Kvyat — Toro Rosso-Ferrari — +1 lap
  13. Esteban Gutierrez — Haas-Ferrari — +2 laps
  14. Romain Grosjean — Haas-Ferrari — +2 laps
  15. Marcus Ericsson — Sauber-Ferrari — +2 laps
  16. Kevin Magnussen — Renault — +2 laps
  17. Pascal Wehrlein — MRT-Mercedes — +2 laps
  18. Felipe Nasr — Sauber-Ferrari — +2 laps
  19. Rio Haryanto — MRT-Mercedes — +2 laps
  20. Felipe Massa — Williams-Mercedes — DNF (overheating)
  21. Jolyon Palmer — Renault — DNF (water leak)
  22. Jenson Button — McLaren-Honda — DNF (power unit)

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By Only Motors