Lewis Hamilton eases to win at chaotic Canadian GP

Octane/Action Plus via Getty Images

MONTREAL, Canada -- Lewis Hamilton led from start to finish to claim an easy Canadian Grand Prix victory ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, as chaos unfolded behind the world champions.

A race which seemed poised to be a tense Mercedes-Ferrari battle never materialised, with Hamilton leading cleanly into Turn 1. Behind Max Verstappen lept from fifth to second in the short run down to the first corner, swiping a chunk of Vettel's wing in the process and forcing the championship leader into an early pit stop. Verstappen's punchy start would end with an early reliability problem, propelling Mercedes into a comfortable one-two it never relinquished.

The real drama occurred behind the lead pair, with Daniel Ricciardo claiming third with a faultless drive for Red Bull. Behind him, Force India had looked well-placed to challenge for a podium position, but the refusal to order Sergio Perez to release teammate Esteban Ocon -- on much fresher tyres -- to attack Ricciardo allowed Ferrari back into play and Vettel passed both late on to cap a remarkable comeback from last to fourth.

Kimi Raikkonen hit late trouble but held on to seventh position ahead of Renault's Nico Hulkenberg. Lance Stroll recorded the first points of his young Formula One career in front of his home crowd with a spirited drive to ninth, while Romain Grosjean took the final point for Haas.

Fernando Alonso had been running 10th before retiring two laps from the end with what he said was an engine failure. The Spaniard, back in Formula One after his exploits at the Indy 500, made a trip to the grandstand to retire, throwing his gloves into the crowd before departing to the garage. For McLaren, it was a golden opportunity for the team's first points of the season wasted.

Hamilton's win and Vettel's recovery means the German's gap at the top of the championship is now down to 12 points. Mercedes has moved back in front of the constructors' championship by eight points, with both championship fights looking poised to rage on all season.

How the race unfolded

Max Verstappen's stunning start seemed to turn the race on its head, with the Dutch teenager going around the outside of Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel. Bottas locked up on entry to the corner to avoid hitting teammate Hamilton, allowing Verstappen to pass. As he did, his car clipped Vettel's front wing and by lap seven the German had pitted for a change, relegating him to the back of the order.

The drama continued at the next sequence of corners, with Romain Grosjean and Carlos Sainz tangling on the run down towards Turn 3. Contact pitched Sainz into the wall and he spun into the corner, collecting Felipe Massa's Williams and sending both men out of the race. That brought out the Safety Car, which lasted for six laps.

At the restart, Verstappen's punchy mood continued, moving alongside Hamilton as he entered the final chicane at the restart, but that put him out of position for the main straight and instead he held off Bottas at Turn 1. Verstappen looked well placed for a strong afternoon but his race ended on lap 11 when he pulled up on the side of the road, easing what had been developing into a tense situation for Mercedes with Bottas in third and the other Red Bull of Ricciardo in third.

A brief Virtual Safety Car period followed, with Daniil Kvyat serving a drive-through penalty for not retaking his position before the Safety Car line. With Mercedes pulling away, it soon became clear there was a real fight developing for the third and final spot on the podium. Raikkonen pitted for fresh tyres on lap 15 after a close encounter with the grass at Turn 7, allowing Force India and Perez to extend their stint and emerge ahead of the Finnish driver.

Attention soon switched to the other Force India, with Ocon's ultra-soft stint being stretched and propelling him to as high as second. The young Frenchman turned in an impressive series of laps and was matching the times of Ricciardo, Perez, Raikkonen (who had all stopped earlier for new tyres) and the charging Vettel further back, meaning he emerged from his own stop on lap 31 behind Raikkonen in sixth but with tyres which were 12 laps younger.

Ocon's pace soon prompted Ferrari to switch both its drivers onto "Plan B", bringing Raikkonen and then Vettel in for the sofest tyres in a bid to charge through the order. That moved Ocon up into fifth behind teammate Perez, who was having trouble closing the gap to Ricciardo -- despite being on different compounds, Perez's super-softs were just one lap younger than Ricciardo' softs.

At this point, Ocon looked the most likely of the trio to score a podium but, despite several hints from the pit wall that Ocon was quicker and the Ferrari's were closing in, the Mexican driver held position, and soon it became clear Force India had squandered a podium opportunity as the red Ferraris loomed closer and closer in the mirror. Vettel, who had fought back well to seventh, passed Raikkonen when his teammate ran wide at the final chicane on lap 60. It soon became clear Raikkonen's car had problems, but Vettel continued his charge.

Even when the team's attention should have been on attacking Ricciardo, Perez continued to hold on to fourth ahead of Ocon, slamming the door on his teammate at the final chiacane at the end of lap 65. That left Ocon out of position and Vettel soon got alongside the Frenchman, with the pair nearly colliding as they approached Turn 1. Ocon went across the corner and yielded the position to Vettel, who had soon caught and passed Perez for fourth.

By the time he had done so, there were just four laps left and Ricciardo was too far down the road. Perez and Ocon were not done there, having a drag race to the line which the Mexican driver won, though Ocon criticised his teammate in the closing laps.

While all the late drama was unfolding, Alonso pulled up, complaining simply "engine, engine". Alonso's late issue promoted Grosjean to the final points-paying position of the day. Jolyon Palmer finished 11th ahead of Kevin Magnussen. Sauber pair Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein finished either side of McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne in 14th.

Daniil Kvyat was the other retirement, which compounded a difficult weekend for the Toro Rosso team. Having suffered damage to his car, the team was unable to fit his right front tyre, prompting a full shut-down of the car and an expletive-laden set of radio messages from the Russian driver.