SEBASTIAN Vettel made it third time lucky in Canada by cruising to a deserved victory around Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Starting from pole for the third consecutive year, Vettel was never troubled in his Red Bull, finishing 14 seconds clear of title rival Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari.
The win made up for the fact Vettel had failed to take victory from pole the previous two years, notably in 2011, when he lost out on the final lap to McLaren’s Jenson Button.
Alonso is now Vettel’s nearest challenger after beating Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in a thrilling late battle for the runner-up spot, but with the Spaniard 36 points adrift.
The cool, damp conditions that pervaded over practice on Friday and in qualifying yesterday and had resulted in a few surprises, gave way to brighter, warmer conditions. Under those climes, it meant the prospect of anything other than a Vettel victory was always going to be a long shot.
The outcome was effectively decided on lap one as Vettel opened up a two-second lead on Hamilton from which there was no looking back.
There were only two notable moments of consternation for the reigning champion, the first of which arose on lap 11 when he brushed a wall, leaving black scorch marks on the white paint as he pushed to extend a rapidly-increasing advantage over Hamilton at the time.
The second was on lap 52 when he appeared to lose concentration as he ran off the track at turn one, prompting a call of “settle down” from his race engineer.
Behind Vettel, the battle was all about the minor places, which, for 63 laps, appeared to be Hamilton’s as he ran a comfortable second. But in switching to the medium Pirelli compound for the final stint, the rubber proved his undoing as he could not keep Alonso at bay.
The double world champion had, several laps earlier, passed Mark Webber to move up to third, aided in part by a damaged front wing to the Red Bull.
That was due to Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde, running last at the time, colliding with the Australian at the hairpin as he ignored the marshals’ waved blue flags.
The incident earned the Dutchman a ten-second stop-go penalty for not only ignoring those flags, but also causing a collision.
At that stage, Webber was closing in on Hamilton, but instead of racing for second, he eventually had to content himself with fourth. Being no threat to Alonso, the Spaniard promptly set off in pursuit of Hamilton, sparking a fascinating tussle for several laps.
Eventually, Alonso held sway, but not without a brush of the tyres in the process as they headed into turn one.
Hamilton was third for the third time this year in his debut campaign with Mercedes. As for Alonso, who had started sixth, in finishing second to Vettel, it was as much as he could to limit the damage in the title battle.
Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen has now dropped behind Alonso in the standings after a see-saw race resulted in him finishing ninth.
The Finn has now equalled the record of Michael Schumacher for number of consecutive races in the points at 24, but it will be of no consolation as he is 44 points down.
Behind Webber, Monaco GP winner Nico Rosberg finished a staggering 70 seconds adrift of Vettel, and was the only other driver on the lead lap come the chequered flag.
Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne was a career-high sixth, while Scotland’s Paul di Resta superbly made a one-stop strategy work to claim seventh after starting 17th.
As for McLaren, winners of this event for the last three years, the race was a bitter disappointment, with Sergio Perez and Jenson Button out of the points in 11th and 12th.
Following the 29th win of his career, Vettel hailed it as “perfect” given the circumstances.
“It was a great race, I made a good start which was important, and I was able to go with the car,” said Vettel.
“The supersoft tyres fell apart, but I created gap, managed to keep it throughout the race, and with perfect pit stops it was a great race for the team.”
Alonso always knew he faced an uphill fight to claim victory, so was at least content enough with second.
“Yesterday we didn’t have a good qualifying, but the with pace of the car on Friday [in practice] we had some hopes,” he said. “Overall, we have scored some good points after a difficult weekend.”
As for Hamilton, he knows he needs more from the car to challenge for a win.
“I just have to hope we can get better at the next race,” said Hamilton, looking ahead to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on 30 June.