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Sebastian Vettel celebrates at the 2018 Canadian Grand Prix.

Vettel wins Canada at a canter

Sebastian Vettel has regained the drivers championship lead after an easy win at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Vettel turned his cruisy pole position on Saturday into a lights-to-flag victory, acing his start, perfectly managing the lap-five safety car restart and nailing his first pit stop to claim Ferrari’s first since in Montreal since 2004.

“Perfect is probably a good way to describe it,” he enthused after the race. “To have a race like we had today in unbelievable.

“I said yesterday how much this place means for Ferrari … I think after a long stretch Ferrari didn’t win here — I saw people around and they were super happy. I’m sure they had a blast.

“To have a Ferrari winning today and me driving it make me very proud.

“Grazie alla squadra.”

With the full 25 points and with Lewis Hamilton finishing fifth, Vettel takes a one-point lead in the drivers standings, but the German wouldn’t be drawn on whether Ferrari’s strong weekend was a sign of a change in momentum.

“It’s still a long way, so I’m not too bothered to be honest,” he said. “For sure it’s a good side effect.”

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve often delivers an action-packed race, and the first lap of the race promised a grand prix of thrills and spills when Canadian Lance Stroll oversteered out of turn five into Brendon Hartley, sandwiching him against the wall.

Both the Williams and the Toro Rosso took heavy damage as they careered across turn six and into the barriers, ending the races of both drivers on the spot in what the stewards judged to be a racing incident.

But after the safety car restart on lap five the race slowed into a holding pattern, with all drivers keen to make just one stop for the 70-lap race.

Soon after the restart Lewis Hamilton complained of intermittent power unit problems, and with Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo bearing down on him after passing Kimi Raikkonen for fifth on lap one, Mercedes opted to make an early pit stop on lap 16 to change tyres and open some cooling on the afflicted car.

But without Hamilton in his way Ricciardo was able to power away, setting two purple sectors before making his own stop on the following lap and emerging ahead of Hamilton as he exited the pits, taking a net fourth place.

The race settled again for 15 laps until Raikkonen made his sole stop on lap 33, the Ferrari driver having built enough of a gap to try to jump Hamilton, but the Briton held the Finn at bay by fractions of a second at the pit exit to relegate Kimi to sixth.

With race leader Vettel and second-placed Valtteri Bottas making their stops on laps 37 and 36 respectively, and with Max Verstappen having stopped from third place on lap 16 and holding position, the top six was settled through to the chequered flag.

Bottas lamented that his Mercedes car was no challenge for the Ferrari — “They could kind of control the race,” he said — but Verstappen was happy to have executed his first clean weekend of the year.

Behind the top six Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg led home teammate Carlos Sainz, who had jumped Force India’s Esteban Ocon in the pit stops, leaving the Frenchman to finish ninth.

Impressive again was Sauber’s Charles Leclerc who took home the race’s final point.

The only other talking point was the race’s foreshortened distance of 68 laps from its scheduled 70 after celebrity model Winnie Harlow waved the chequered flag early.

The blunder robbed Daniel Ricciardo of the fastest lap, which he set on lap 70, handing it instead to teammate Max Verstappen.

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