It was massively windy in Montreal all day, and that played havoc with the cars’ aerodynamic stability in the race. Vettel picked up front wing damage almost instantly when Max Verstappen made a blinding start from fifth on the grid to go round the outside of him into second place by Turn 1, as Bottas went for the inside to grab third.
Further round the lap, exiting Turn 2, Romain Grosjean and Carlos Sainz tangled, the Haas spinning the Toro Rosso down the grass on the inside of the track until it collected the innocent Felipe Massa’s Williams in the chicane that follows. Exit two cars on the spot, as Grosjean limped back to the pits for a new nose. Out came the safety car.
On the restart on lap four Hamilton pulled clear and thereafter simply controlled the race all afternoon, pitting to switch his ultrasoft Pirelli tyres for supersofts on the 32nd of the 70 laps.
Bottas’ way to second was smoothed when the unfortunate Verstappen’s Red Bull simply stopped in Turn 2 on the 11th lap, but the Finn pitted for soft tyres on the 23rd lap, and struggled to hold pace with Hamilton thereafter as he steadily dropped away after keeping him honest for a while.
Meanwhile, Ricciardo maintained fourth place ahead of Perez, Raikkonen and Ocon. Raikkonen pitted first, for supersofts on lap 17. Ricciardo went for softs on 18, and Perez for supersofts on 19. Force India kept the ultrasoft-shod Ocon out until the 32nd lap, by which time he was running second to Hamilton. The stop dropped him back to sixth, but that became fifth when Raikkonen pitted again for ultrasofts on the 41st lap.
Now Perez began to hound Ricciardo, but Ocon had ideas of his own as Raikkonen was recovering on the softer tyres and Vettel was charging his way through the field. With 20 laps to go Force India were asking Perez to let Ocon by on his 13-lap fresher tyres, with the promise that positions would be reversed if his attack was unsuccessful, but the Mexican wasn’t having it and begged to be allowed to race. Meanwhile, the Ferraris were getting closer and closer.
The red cars switched places on the 60th lap, when Raikkonen – complaining of brake issues – ran wide down the inside of the kerbs in the final corner, and Vettel’s task was made easier when Perez resisted a side-by-side challenge from Ocon going into that corner on the 65th lap. As the Frenchman lost momentum, Vettel overtook him going into Turn 1 on the 66th lap, obliging Ocon to run wide into the run-off area to avoid contact, when he found Perez slamming the door as he tried to put the Ferrari inside it.
Perez actually made it easier for Vettel to pass him than he had his team mate, two laps later in the final corner, and the two pink cars went on to finish side-by-side, two tenths of a second apart in fifth and sixth, as Vettel just failed to dislodge the Red Bull that took the podium they had coveted. It was Ricciardo’s third successive visit to it.
Outside the top ten, Renault’s Jolyon Palmer held on to 11th by a fraction from Haas’s Kevin Magnussen, who was penalised for overtaking under the virtual safety car, as the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein sandwiched Stoffel Vandoorne’s McLaren for 13th and 15th places.
That came after Fernando Alonso’s McLaren quit on him with two laps to go when the team’s first point of the season was in his hand.
The other retirement was Daniil Kvyat, who was handed a drive-through penalty after the team incorrectly told him he could regain his starting place after he initially failed to get away from the grid on the formation lap. Later the stewards decided they’d given him the wrong penalty and gave him a 10-second time one instead
The Montreal result reverses Hamilton’s misfortunes from Monaco, and indicates that Mercedes – who reclaim their lead in the constructors’ standings over Ferrari – have a handle on their tyre problems at last, keeping the mighty title fight right on the boil.