A typically fascinating race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve held little excitement beyond inspired drives from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Williams’ Felipe Massa as Mercedes ended their Canadian Grand Prix victory drought with an emphatic lights to flag Lewis Hamilton victory.
The race was not without its drama for Toto Wolff’s men though, as a Hamilton flat spot and brake issues for Nico Rosberg threatened to sink the Silver Arrows, but the Mercs held on to secure a front row lockout, with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas coming in third.
Hamilton made a strong start to the race, defending Rosberg’s outside charge well as the German was preoccupied with edging out Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. Vettel made up two spaces in short succession in the opening laps, almost claiming Fernando Alonso on lap 4 before running deep at the hairpin and eventually battling for position on the Casino straight. Felipe Massa looked unsettled in his Williams in the opening laps, struggling to pass Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson before managing to find his balance and orchestrate a masterful wheel-to-wheel Turn 1/2/3 pass sequence reminiscent of Hamilton and Rosberg’s 2014 battle in Bahrain.
The front of the pack remained largely unchanged in the meantime, with the positions remaining the same and Hamilton banging in fast laps in short order to open up a 3 second lead over Rosberg. However, Renault could not seem to exact any power from their engine on the day, with Kvyat and Ricciardo dispatched in quick succession by a sublime Nico Hulkenburg. Vettel ducked into the pits after being informed that switching to a longer stint on the prime tyres would provide a race advantage, and surprisingly began hammering out lap times nearly identical to the supersoft compounds with times in the 1:18.6’s.
McLaren-Honda’s woes began to manifest themselves around lap 22, when Hamilton lapped fellow Briton and World Champion Jenson Button, while the hairpin exit nearly claimed Kimi Raikkonen on the same spot it had last year, sending the Finn into a violent spin after losing all rear grip. Hamilton pitted from the lead on lap 30 for a pair of prime tyres, but Rosberg lost what would later turn out to be a fateful chance to challenge for the victory later after losing time with a touch of oversteer at the hairpin.
While a flat spot suffered mid-race by Lewis Hamilton allowed Rosberg to enter DRS range, the German never really threatened. A factor contributing to that revolved around another 2014 constant: his brakes. With Rosberg tailing Hamilton so closely, he struggled to find air to cool his brakes, which were at constant risk of overheating mid-race. Much of the action remained in midfield for the rest of the race, with a scrap between Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hulkenburg somehow escaping the wrath of the stewards: though Vettel arguably left his countryman enough of a space at the final chicane, the move was aggressive bordering on reckless, leaving Hulkenburg no choice but to violently evade, resulting in a spinning Force India nearly brushing the Wall of Champions.
Fernando Alonso retired with no power on Lap 47, and though Eric Boullier radioed Jenson Button that the issue should be of little concern, McLaren retired their second car 12 laps from the end as well. However, the mood was far more upbeat in the Ferrari garage, as Vettel continued to scythe through the field, aided by Lotus’ Romain Grosjean inexcusably coming across a blue-flagged Will Stevens in the Manor driver’s braking zone at the final chicane, resulting in a left rear puncture and a time penalty. Vettel soon dispatched with Pastor Maldonado on Lap 56, slotting into a P5 he would remain in for the rest of the race.
Aside from Felipe Massa’s late charge to finish P7, the race’s final 10 laps were uneventful, with Hamilton holding off Nico Rosberg with a champion’s ease to achieve his fourth victory at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.