After hiccup in Monaco, Mercedes F1 success resumes

MONTREAL (AP) — Even as his team’s strategic blunder cost him a chance at victory in Monaco, Lewis Hamilton knew that he had the fastest car.

Given the chance, he showed it.

Hamilton won the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday, leading from the pole to the checkered flag with no threat from anyone except his Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg. Hamilton’s problems in the previous race were also internal: A late strategic blunder by his team cost him a chance at a fourth victory of the year.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a relief,” Hamilton said after picking up his fourth victory of the year. “I was quickest all of the previous race weekend as well. Obviously we had the problem which enabled Nico to win the race. But, otherwise, generally I had good pace for the last two races.”

A four-time winner on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and the current leader in the Formula One standings, Hamilton finished the 70 laps on Montreal’s Isle Notre-Dame in 1 hour, 31 minutes, 53.145 seconds — 2.285 seconds faster than Nico Rosberg in the other Silver Arrow Mercedes.

“Did I need this?” the reigning Formula One champion asked the cheering crowd after returning to the top of the podium for the first time since winning three of the first four races of the season.

“I think so,” he said with a smile. “I think so.”

Hamilton expanded his lead over Rosberg in the championship standings to 151-134. His only stumble was when he locked his brakes a few laps from the end, and other than that the main excitement was a groundhog wandering onto the track and then quickly scurrying back to safety.

Rosberg briefly took the lead when his teammate pitted during lap 29, but Hamilton took it right back when the German stopped to change his tires a lap later.

“I was pushing like mad to try to put the pressure on, but he didn’t make any mistakes,” said Rosberg, who had won the previous two races. “It was a good race. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it happen. But second place — still OK.”

Valtteri Bottas was third, giving Williams its first appearance on the podium all season, thanks to a spinout by Kimi Raikkonen in the 27th lap. Despite posting the fastest lap of the day — with an average speed of 126.7 mph (203.9 kph) — the Finn finished fourth, right ahead of Ferrari teammate Sebastien Vettel.

The 2013 Canadian GP champion and No. 3 in the points race, Vettel started near the back of the pack after failing to make it out of the first qualifying session. He was pushed to 18th on the starting grid because of a five-position penalty for passing another car with the red flag out in practice.

But the four-time F1 champion steadily moved up and solidified his hold on third in the standings, with 108 points.

Hamilton won three of the first five races this season and finished second two other times heading into the Monaco Grand Prix on May 24. He was leading there when a late crash brought out the safety car, and Mercedes called him in to change tires.

Rosberg and Vettel passed him, and it was too late for Hamilton to retake the lead; he finished third, gritting his teeth all the way to the podium. Mercedes technical director Paddy Lowe apologized, but Hamilton insisted he was looking forward, not back.

On Sunday, he proved it on the track.

“Great to get back on the top step,” Hamilton said.

The day was not as good for McLaren, with both cars failing to finish.

Jenson Button had a disastrous weekend, unable to get onto the track in qualifying and retiring 16 laps early on Sunday. Fernando Alonso was the first one out of the race, complaining that he lost power in the 44th lap.

After the race, Alonso tweeted to Button a picture of the order of finish upside down.

“Is this a bit better?” he asked his teammate. “Well, probably depends upon how you look at it.”

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