A controversial time penalty for Sebastian Vettel handed Lewis Hamilton victory in the Canadian Grand Prix, despite the championship leader finishing second on the road.
Vettel had led from pole position and was keeping Hamilton at bay in a close fight when he ran wide at Turn 3 on Lap 48, cutting across the grass. As Vettel fought to regain control when rejoining the track, Hamilton attempted to overtake around the outside but had to lift with no room between Vettel and the wall as the Ferrari came across toward the racing line.
The incident was investigated by the stewards for a number of laps, eventually leading to Vettel being handed a five-second time penalty for the unsafe manner in which he rejoined the circuit and forcing another driver off track. The race leader complained about the penalty and was told to focus, to which he replied: “I am focused, but they are stealing the race from us.”
The penalty was announced with 12 laps remaining and Vettel did not have the pace to pull out a sufficient gap. He eventually finished 1.4s clear of Hamilton to be demoted to second place after the checkered flag.
A clearly livid Vettel continued to complain over team radio after the race – “No, no, no guys. Not like that. No, no, no” – then did not bring his car into parc ferme and headed straight for the Ferrari hospitality. When he emerged some minutes later, he walked into parc ferme and removed the #1 board from in front of Hamilton’s car, replacing it with the #2.
The home crowd booed when Hamilton was interviewed — apparently in protest at the penalty rather than at Hamilton himself — with Vettel calling for the boos to be directed only at the decision and not at the race winner.
The incident overshadowed what had been a tense battle between the two champions, as Vettel held off a slightly quicker Hamilton courtesy of Ferrari’s straight line advantage. On numerous occasions Hamilton got within DRS range but couldn’t make a move, before Vettel’s error — which was ultimately the catalyst for the penalty regardless of your view of how deserving it was — removed the need to overtake on track.
Charles Leclerc finished third after keeping Hamilton honest in the opening stint, but then running long on medium tires and seeing a big gap open up between himself and the top two. Leclerc’s fresher tires in the second stint allowed him to close up late on, but he ended up a second adrift of Vettel once the penalty was applied.
Fourth was Valtteri Bottas after an underwhelming performance, with the Finn struggling to pass the Renault pair of Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg early on and dropping well back from the top three. A late pit stop for soft tires allowed Bottas to secure the fastest lap but he was over 50 seconds behind his team-mate at the flag.
Max Verstappen finished fifth after starting ninth, but was the last driver on the lead lap in a race without a safety car intervention. Verstappen started on hard tires after his Q2 elimination on Saturday and was able to run long in clean air, pitting with 22 laps remaining to fit mediums and ease ahead of Ricciardo and Hulkenberg, who came home sixth and seventh respectively.
It was a particularly impressive performance from Hulkenberg, who started in seventh and got ahead of Bottas early on before running long on soft tires to improve his strategy. Hulkenberg caught his Renault team-mate in the closing stages but held station to secure a haul of 14 points for the team.
Pierre Gasly faded to eighth after starting on soft tires in fifth, with an early stop proving costly. Red Bull pit Gasly on lap seven and he had to try 63 laps on the hard compound when Pirelli expected 50 to be the limit, and he did not have the pace in the latter part of the race to catch the Renaults ahead.
Although the majority appeared unhappy at Vettel’s penalty, the home crowd did have something to cheer as Lance Stroll rose from 17th on the grid to finish in ninth place and score two points. Stroll started on hard tires and ran long, showing good pace to emerge in tenth after his pit stop.
Carlos Sainz proved a sitting duck for Stroll late in the race after an unscheduled early stop ruined the Spaniard’s strategy. Sainz was running in 11th on soft tires as a result of a three-place grid penalty for blocking Alexander Albon in qualifying, but a blocked brake caliper duct meant McLaren had to pit on the third lap and Sainz ran out of tires.
Stroll used DRS to pass into the final chicane with four laps remaining, and Daniil Kvyat followed him through at Turn 1 immediately after to take the final point and leave Sainz 11th.
The strategy of starting on the hard tire appeared to work best, but Antonio Giovinazzi hurt his chances of a better result having opted for the same approach. After being involved in light contact with Albon and Sergio Perez at the start of the race — that caused Albon to need a new front wing — Giovinazzi spun at Turn 2 when running in tenth and eventually finished 13th.
Albon retired late on, joining Lando Norris as the only drivers not to finish the race. Norris ran eighth early on and looked competitive, but after losing a place to Verstappen he twice went off — once at Turn 8 and then again at the final chicane — before suffering a failure of some sort of the right-rear suspension and being forced to retire at the pit entry.