MONTREAL - Agence France-Presse
Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium after winning the Canada Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton took control of his destiny in an unpredictable season this weekend after ending his winless drought to leap to the top of the Formula One drivers’ title race.
Hamilton’s classy victory in the Canadian Grand Prix made him the seventh different winner in seven races, and the Briton insisted Sunday’s victory meant as much to him as his maiden F1 win on the same circuit five years ago.
“We’ve had incredible victories and it feels just as special as my first one here, if not a little bit more,” he said, having jumped two points clear of two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari in the title race.
It installed the 27-year-old as the leader in an amazing season in which nobody knows what will happen next - least of all his McLaren team-mate and fellow-Briton Jenson Button.
The 2009 champion started the season as the man in form, but after seeing 2008 champion Hamilton win, while he struggled home 14th after taking three pit stops, he is now lost and confused in his team-mate’s wake.
And on top of McLaren’s own duo of contrasting fortunes, Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes are also struggling to find consistency.
Hamilton’s 18th career win confirmed his prodigious talent as a gifted and super-fast driver, but also more importantly confirmed that his reformed and less capricious approach to his job this year is working well for him.
He won after mounting a late charge following his second pit stop in a race in which McLaren’s strategy was spot-on and rivals Red Bull and Ferrari both under-estimated tyre wear levels.
Hamilton’s two main rivals slipped behind Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Lotus and Sauber’s Mexican Sergio Perez at the finish after their gamble on one pit stop failed. Vettel finished fourth after a late second stop while Alonso was fifth.
Hamilton admitted his victory was a relief following disappointing races in Bahrain, Spain and Monaco.
“When I came across the line, I was like: ‘Finally, thank goodness, thank God,’” he said. “Great, incredible feeling. I don’t know what to say. I’m so excited and so happy. I knew it was going to be an incredibly tough race.
“What a great feeling to have a two-stop and still come through the field.” Hamilton warned, however, that there was still a long way to go yet with the next race the European Grand Prix in Valencia on June 24.
“The championship is proving to be very unpredictable, there could well be an eighth winner,” said Hamilton..
“So it’s so close, I’ve got to win some more. I’ve got to keep pushing the team so we can improve. I couldn’t believe it when I crossed the line - a feeling inside like an explosion. It was really just incredible.
“That’s what I love about racing, and if I continue to have this feeling for many, many years, then hopefully I’ll be here for a long, long time.” Button, who was a sensational winner of last year’s rain-hit and dramatic race, now trails Hamilton by 43 points in eighth position.
“It was a terrible race, I’ve never had one like it, and they seem to get worse and worse,” said Button.
“I’m pushing the car to its limits and yet I’m so far off the leaders. It’s a little bit confusing. Every time you jump in the car you’re confident and excited it’s going to go well, and every time you make changes you think you are going to improve.
“But it’s not happening. I’m confused and very lost. I don’t really understand what is going on at the moment,” added Button, who started the season with a win in Australia and second in China, but has now collected just two points in four races.
Seven-time champion German
Michael Schumacher of Mercedes was forced to retire again on Sunday as teammate and fellow-German Nico Rosberg came home sixth, one place ahead of Australian Mark Webber who followed his Monaco win with seventh.