Lewis Hamilton is over the moon with victory at the Canadian Grand Prix, as he joined the longest winners list in Formula One history at the start of a season and got some monkeys off his back as well.
The relief was visible and audible after the 2008 champion hunted down world champion Sebastian Vettel and then championship leader Fernando Alonso with fresh tyres in the closing stages — making the rivals look like going backwards.
Success was sweet for the Briton, who shook off an up-and-down 2011 campaign and finally came good in 2012 after failing to win earlier despite some pole positions.
Not even another hiccup of the McLaren mechanics at the second pit stop could stop Hamilton en route to success on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve where he won his first career race in 2007 and again in 2010.
Everything went right for Hamilton as Vettel and Alonso faded to fourth and fifth behind Lotus’ Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez, which also allowed Hamilton to take the championship lead two points ahead of Alonso and three above Vettel.
“The 2008 world champion’s strong early season form was finally rewarded with the win he craved as he kept his nerve admirably,” said Daily Telegraph on Monday.
The paper added that his post-race scream “winner” only highlighted that he was “exorcising the demons which haunted him throughout last year.” Hamilton’s remarks certainly supported his big feeling of relief.
“That feeling inside, it’s like an explosion. It’s really just incredible. And that’s what I love about racing,” he said.
“One of the most enjoyable races that I’ve had ‘til now. I was just thinking today to finish at the front, as I did in my first win here in 2007, would be very, very special for me — which it has been.
I couldn’t believe it when I was coming across the line.” It remains unclear when Ferrari and Red Bull, who failed yet again to win in Canada, decided to try and get Alonso and Vettel through with just one stop, even more risky as they pitted early.
But the idea was definitely there when they didn’t follow Hamilton into the pits a second time immediately after the Briton got fresh rubbers with 20 laps left.
The difference became blatant as Alonso and Vettel struggled badly with degradation and Hamilton wasn’t even in a hurry to pass them once he caught up with them 12 laps after pitting in what eventually was not even a fight for victory.
“Perhaps if circumstances were different and they were much quicker, then we would have had even more of a race,” he said.
“I saw that I was catching them. I knew how many laps that I would have to get past so I was not desperate to get past them in a real rush. I had a lot left in me, in the tyres so I was generally driving a little bit off the pace.” Vettel readily admitted that “we didn’t expect the tyres to crash so badly in the end.”
Hamilton was certainly not speaking only for himself when he said that “we’re still trying to fully understand these tyres” and “why sometimes a Lotus is quicker than us or a Mercedes is quicker than us and then we’re quicker than them another time.” The next shake-up could happen in a fortnight at the European Grand Prix, but whether it is welcome or not is a matter of perspective.
“I hope not! I hope we’re able to keep it at seven and no more!” said Hamilton.
But Perez said “I hope so” and Grosjean had not only his chances of a first career win in mind when he said “Who will complain about seeing different drivers and different cars fighting throughout the races?”