Once again his car gave him trouble at the start, but Lewis Hamilton’s ability to push hard while keeping his tyres in one piece - especially Pirelli’s softs on which he had to eke out 46 of the 70 laps - enabled him to claw back the advantage from Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari, and then to preserve it. In doing so, he scored his 45th Grand Prix success and cleaved Nico Rosberg’s points advantage down to only nine points.
Afterwards he paid tribute to his hero, the late Muhammad Ali. Had the sports icon been watching he would have been proud of the kid he inspired, because on this day, when it mattered, it was he who was ‘The Greatest’.
They came here believing that the FW38 would be more competitive than it had been at Monaco, and so it proved as Williams scored their first podium of the season. Like Mercedes, they made a single-stop strategy work for Valtteri Bottas, who looked like his old self as he headed to a much-needed third place.
He messed up big time in qualifying, when he seemed set for a 15th place start instead of a top 10 position after crashing into the notorious ‘Wall of Champions’, then he got a further five grid place drop because damage to his Toro Rosso’s gearbox required a replacement unit. But Carlos Sainz made amends by driving with star quality to make all the right moves as he took the eighth place that was reasonably the best the team could have hoped for anyway had he actually qualified in that position.
His was an afternoon that reminded you that it isn’t only Max Verstappen who’s been impressive in Red Bull’s junior team.
When both cars bogged down at the start and Sebastian Vettel took off like a rocket, hearts sank in the Mercedes garage. Not again! It seemed that once more they had potentially thrown a race away before it had really begun, and then when their two cars collided - albeit gently - in the first corner, their doom seemed sealed.
But Ferrari’s insistence on sticking with a tyre strategy better suited to warm temperatures, allied to Hamilton’s driving on the ultrasoft and then the soft tyres, pulled the fat from the fire.
The city thrives on the Grand Prix, which attracts vast numbers of visitors each year who also, naturally, venture downtown to spend their money.
Yes, some newer venues may have superior pit and paddock facilities than the Ile Notre Dame’s Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, but when it comes to showing the world how to make a city race work, Montreal wins hands down.
New F1 sponsors Heineken made their debut in Canada, and got a great race. But it isn’t their obvious advertising coverage that makes them a winner. It’s having the moxie to tackle a tricky and sensitive subject - drink and driving - head on, and being brave enough to use a vibrant and exciting environment and its skilled proponents as its means of conveying the message that the two should never be mixed, that wins the plaudits.
And the losers...
Not so long ago it seemed that Nico Rosberg could do no wrong. He’d won seven Grands Prix on the bounce, four of them this season.
Then came the collision with Hamilton in Spain, the poor showing in Monaco, and more trouble in Canada.
His start was only marginally better than Hamilton’s and worse than Vettel’s, then he got elbowed aside in Turn 1 by his team mate and dropped to ninth as he lost momentum on recovery. That condemned him to playing catch-up, and then debris from his off-road moment at the start began to clog various ducts and intakes so he started getting distracted by all the negative warning signals about engine and brake temperatures in the cockpit. As if that wasn’t bad enough he later had to pit again, on the 51st lap, because the right-rear tyre had developed a slow puncture. When he rejoined, he then had to start saving fuel and things became so critical that when he spun on the penultimate lap having just wrested fourth place from Max Verstappen, he had to creep round so gingerly that he nearly lost fifth place to Kimi Raikkonen.
He looked nothing like the confident racer who had dominated the opening four rounds and built what was once a 43-point title lead. He came away nursing just nine.
Ferrari know they should have won the Canadian Grand Prix, especially after the start Sebastian Vettel made to leapfrog the Mercedes off the start line.
All season the team have complained that poor qualifying performance was compromising their race chances. Now they were in the perfect position; they’d been close enough in qualifying to be able to challenge the Mercedes and here was their lead driver running ahead of the better of them, as the other one was way down in ninth place. Vettel even got away with a mistake going into the final corner, Turn 14, on the opening lap and pulled away again from Hamilton. But then, for the second time this year, they got their tyre strategy wrong.
According to Pirelli, an early stop to switch from ultrasofts to supersofts then a later one to go to the softs, which were the mandatory compound this weekend, was the fastest way to the chequered flag. But that was predicted on track temperatures around 40 degrees Celsius, and in the race they never went above 23. At the same time, they missed how strong the ultrasofts were. Vettel swapped his on the 11th lap - apparently cleverly under the Virtual Safety Car as Jenson Button’s broken McLaren was moved away - but Hamilton went until the 24th. Later, Ferrari were surprised again by how well and for how long Hamilton made the soft tyres operate at their peak, and in all that misjudgement was Ferrari’s victory chance lost.
Prior to the race Daniel Ricciardo expressed the opinion that Red Bull would be stronger in race trim than in qualifying. But that was far from the case. He ran fourth initially, and team mate Max Verstappen, in third place, was actually warned not to hold him up as he closed in on the Dutchman on the 10th lap. But it transpired Verstappen was merely conserving his rubber and their situation was never again an issue. But even at that stage it was clear that the RB12 did not have the pace to run with either Ferrari or Mercedes this day.
Later both drivers pitted again, following the same strategy as Ferrari, with the same disappointing conclusion. Williams, meanwhile, took third place on a single-stop strategy similar to Mercedes’.
The Australian got back in front of upstart new team mate Max Verstappen in qualifying, but lost out to him in the Rosberg melee in Turn 1 after the start. Thereafter, but for a fleeting moment on the 10th lap, he never looked like challenging him for what would become fourth place, and on a weekend when he went looking for payback after Spain and Monaco, he found himself playing second fiddle even before a delay in one of his pit stops, and finishing a distant seventh.