Sebastian Vettel was so far ahead of the pack in the Canadian Grand Prix that only the walls and the curbs were in his way.
The three-time defending Formula One champion improved his chances at a fourth straight season title Sunday, surviving an early brush with a wall and late trouble in Turn 1 to earn his first victory at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Vettel’s Red Bull left from pole position and led almost the entire way to finish 14.4 seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari.
It was the third win of the year for Vettel, who picked up 25 points in the championship standings to extend what had been a 21-point lead over Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen. Alonso picked up 18 points to move into second, 36 points behind Vettel; Raikkonen finished ninth for two points and now trails the leader by 44 points.
”You don’t have to be a genius to know that you get more points than anybody else with that result,” Vettel said about the win. ”We’re trying to maximize every race. If we have the chance, we have to use it.”
Vettel has earned the pole three years in a row at the 2.71-mile circuit on Ile Notre Dame across the St. Lawrence from downtown Montreal, but he had never won the race. He has finished fourth twice, and two years ago he came in second after a slight skid in the rain allowed Jenson Button to pass him and take the checkered flag.
”We’ve had good races here before, but it didn’t come together to win,” Vettel said on the victory podium. ”It made up for that today. Great feeling. Great car by the team and we were really able to pull away from the rest of the field.”
Alonso passed Lewis Hamilton, the 2012 winner, at the start-finish line in the 62th lap and held on for second place. Vettel’s teammate, Mark Webber, was fourth after running the fastest lap of the day, 1:16.182 on the penultimate lap. Monaco winner Nico Rosberg was fifth.
”We just weren’t quite on the pace of Seb and Fernando,” Hamilton said. ”It would have been nice to have kept second place, of course, but Fernando was very quick today and it was difficult to keep him behind. I got close to taking the place back but he was just that little bit too fast.”
After practice and qualifying were slowed by rain, the sun came out Sunday for a warm and dry race on the Ile Notre Dame. That gave Vettel what should have been a clear path to the checkered flag in 1 hour, 32 minutes, 9.143 seconds.
A brush with the wall in Lap 11 kicked up some debris but did not keep him from extending his lead. He pitted in Lap 16, switching from supersoft to the medium tires that he continued with for the rest of the race.
Hamilton’s Mercedes moved into the lead with Vettel in the pits, but the Red Bull went back to the front in the 19th lap and stayed there for the remainder of the 70-lap race.
He lapped Raikkonen in the 34th lap, halfway through the race. Vettel ran wide and cut the corner of a chicane in Lap 52, but it did not threaten his lead.
”Turn 1, I wasn’t proud of, especially because there are a lot of people watching there. I think they were as surprised as I was,” Vettel said. ”I did not want to risk a spin so I decided to cut. It was fine; it just seemed to be the safe option to avoid the spin. Fortunately, there was no wall.”
By the end, the Red Bull car had lapped every other in the field except for the top five finishers. He posted an average speed of 123.503 mph.
The dry track was a break for Vettel but not for rookie Valtteri Bottas, who made the second row for the first time in his career. He said after qualifying that his car would not be able to compete on a dry track, and he was right. Bottas quickly fell out of the top 10 before stabilizing his position and eventually finishing 14th.
With his ninth-place finish, Raikkonen tied Michael Schumacher’s record of recording a point in 24 consecutive finishes.