Lewis Hamilton has admitted that leaving Montreal with the lead of the F1 world championship is something of an added bonus after producing a fighting drive to claim victory in the Canadian Grand Prix.
The Briton had started second on the grid, but remained close enough to poleman Sebastian Vettel
to reverse their positions at the first round of pit-stops, when Ferrari's Fernando Alonso
also moved ahead of the German. Despite pulling a gap over his pursuers, it quickly became clear that the McLaren
would not be able to go the remainder of the 70-lap race distance without taking on another set of tyres. Although the pit-wall assured him that they expected both Alonso and Vettel to stop again, Hamilton was left to claw his way back from third on the road when neither did, but made the most of his fresher rubber to lap, at time, almost two seconds faster, retaking the lead on lap 64.
"It was one of the best stints that I've had for a long, long time," Hamilton noted, "At the end, I had a serious gap to catch up, but I was able to be 1.5-1.7secs faster than Fernando each lap, which was fantastic. And the greatest thing here is that at this circuit you can overtake. Even if it's not the back straight, you still have opportunities to overtake, which always gives us good races.
"Fernando and Sebastian looked like they were having oversteer moments and definitely struggling. I had so much traction with fresh tyres that there was almost a two second difference in pace between us. [They] must have been close to the limit already, the end of the tyres."
The risk of not stopping a second time quickly became apparent, with Vettel deciding he had nothing to lose by taking on fresh rubber as soon as he had been demoted from second, but only being able to fight back to fourth by the chequered flag. Alonso, meanwhile, decided to run to the end, but found the performance of his Pirellis dropping away so suddenly that he became cannon fodder for both Romain Grosjean
and Sergio Perez - who had also only stopped once - and the recovering Vettel, who demoted him to fifth on the penultimate tour.
"I think the team did a really great job with the pit-stops and the strategy," Hamilton admitted, "I was very, very surprised that I was able to look after my tyres and then push at the times that I needed to push. I was very, very surprised, in the first stint, that I was able to close up on Sebastian. I never thought they would have such degradation, so to catch them, and see them go in [first], and then still be able to push, was a real pleasure, because it's very, very rare.
"But I knew that Fernando was going to be the one to beat. When he was behind me, I thought he was going to be the one to beat, as he generally has great pace on long runs. But we did it. I wasn't able to do a one-stop - I think I would have fallen back as they did: perhaps even further - so I think a two-stop was just right."
Despite the mixed messages from the pit-wall, and more troubled stops - the first when the McLaren
briefly lapsed onto anti-stall and the second with a delay on the right rear corner - Hamilton insists that he had no doubt that the victory was there for the taking.
"I never had a doubt in my mind that there wasn't a possibility to win," he claimed, "I was thinking 'these guys are falling quite far behind, but I don't think I'm going to be able to do a one-stop so I'm going to keep on pushing, increase the gap...' Yeah, I had a couple of problems pulling away - it might have been my fault, I don't know - but, otherwise, the pit-stops were great.