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Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes at the 2017 Canadian Grand Prix

Hamilton mega in Montreal

Lewis Hamilton has claimed a lights-to-flag victory at the Canadian Grand Prix to slice to 12 points his championship deficit to Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel

Hamilton held the lead at the start of the race, but behind him a chaotic battle for podium places unfolded, with Max Verstappen steaming past Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel into second place.

Vettel lost most from the start, not only dropping from P2 to fourth but also losing part of his front wing as the Dutchman cut mercilessly around the outside of the Ferrari at turn one.

Räikkönen, too, suffered a poor start, losing one place to Daniel Ricciardo, but before the Finn could consider fighting back, the race was neutralised to clean up a nasty crash between Carlos Sainz and Felipe Massa.

Sainz’s Toro Rosso arrived at turn three backwards having made contact with Romain Grosjean at the approach to the braking zone. Massa was the incident party, his Williams slammed into by the errant car.

Vettel persisted with his damaged front wing the timing of the safety car offering minimal advantage for a pit stop, but Ferrari had to relent by lap five — far earlier than ideal in any strategy scenario — to change his nosecone, swapping him to the supersoft tyre in the process.

The German dropped to 30 seconds behind Hamilton in the lead, and on a weekend that the ultrasoft tyres again had great longevity the stop seemingly putting paid to a podium challenge.

Max Verstappen stopped on track on lap 12 with a battery issue, and six laps later Ferrari stopped Kimi Räikkönen for a new set of supersofts, triggering stops for Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo for softs and Force India’s Sergio Perez for supersofts.

Mercedes brought in Valtteri Bottas on lap 24 to cover off the remaining Red Bull Racing and Ferrari drivers in contention for his P2.

However, with Hamilton in the lead Force India left Esteban Ocon out on his ultrasofts, the Frenchman still able to extract good pace from the worn purple rubber.

It had the double effect of slowing Bottas behind him and ensuring that he would be equipped with fresh supersoft rubber to the end of the race once he took his sole sop on lap 33.

Ocon emerged from the pit lane in sixth, just ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who had been pushing hard on his supersofts.

Ferrari had been ambitiously hoping the red-coloured tyres would last the distance, but it was fast becoming obvious they weren’t up to the task.

Kimi Räikkönen made a second stop, this time for used ultrasofts, on lap 42, and Vettel followed suit eight laps later after briefly flirting with the idea of making it to the end.

With 20 laps remaining the German fell to 17 seconds behind fifth-placed Ocon, who was in a close battle with Sergio Perez for Daniel Ricciardo’s podium place.

Vettel caught and past Räikkönen in 11 laps, the Finn suffering brake problems that rapidly put him out of contention, and then caught the podium fight on lap 64.

While Force India saw the Ferraris close down on its drivers it had an opportunity to swap Ocon and Perez, with the Frenchman on fresher tyres and looking more likely to be able to pull a move on Ricciardo for third place.

It attempt to negotiate with Perez to move aside, but the Mexican refused. As a result Vettel caught and passed both drivers by the penultimate lap to finish 0.610 seconds behind Ricciardo.

It was a strong drive for the championship leader to minimise the damage done to his points advantage, but Hamilton’s flawless drive in the lead was strong competition for driver of the day.

“I had my first pole here I had my first win here 10 years ago so to repeat it here this weekend is very special,” Hamilton said on the podium.

The Briton paid particular praise to his team for fixing the problems that afflicted his car at the Monaco Grand Prix that left him out of contention for the podium there.

“The guys at the factory worked so hard to fix what we had at the last race and really give it to the Ferraris.”

Bottas, who finished quietly in second place, agreed.

“After a tough race in Monaco I’m really impressed with what the team has done,” said the Finn. “How much we’ve improved in two weeks is impressive. I’m just really proud to be part of this.”

Daniel Ricciardo finished third, and noted his almost exclusively defensive drive made for a stressful afternoon.

“Today I only had fun when I saw the chequered flag,” he said. “It was tough.

“I was defending the whole race, and we weren’t that quickest, to be honest. I couldn’t afford to do any mistakes.”

Kimi Räikkönen limped home in seventh, less than two seconds ahead of Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg.

Lance Stroll in ninth, however, was perhaps the most noteworthy top-10 finisher, the Canadian scoring his first career points, and at his first home race as a Formula One driver.

Fernando Alonso was on track for an unlikely point in tenth place, but his engine expired two laps from the finish, promoting Romain Grosjean to P10 and leaving the Spaniard with nothing to do but jump into the grandstand to a rapturous reception from the crowd.

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