Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton won the Canadian Grand Prix after a tense strategic battle with Sebastian Vettel’s revived Ferrari.
Vettel looked in control of the race after vaulting into the lead from third on the grid with a blistering start.
But Ferrari surrendered the lead by pitting during a caution period, and Hamilton – doing one pit stop to Vettel’s two – controlled the race.
He cut his title deficit to Nico Rosberg, who was fifth, to nine points.
There is language in this story which some readers may find offensive
Muhammed Ali and Lewis Hamilton
“The greatest?” Hamilton dedicated the win – his fifth in Canada – to the late Muhammad Ali
What an amazing start from Vettel
Vettel took the lead with one of the best getaways for years – the Ferrari catapulted past both Mercedes within the space of about 100 metres and was well clear by the time they reached Turn One, despite the short run.
Behind him, the Mercedes were side by side going into the corner, with Hamilton on the inside.
Listen: Vettel takes the lead at the start
They touched slightly on the exit and Rosberg was forced to take to the grass, but this appeared merely a function of their narrowing trajectories rather than an especially aggressive defence from Hamilton, of the sort that angered Rosberg at times last year.
Bye bye: Vettel, starting third, left the Mercedes standing on the grid
But Rosberg was clearly aggrieved, saying afterwards: “Sebastian had a great start, I had a decent one, Lewis had slow one. In Spain I went for the outside and made it work. Here, I went for the outside again and he did a real hard racing manoeuvre and I was off. I was pissed off at the time but that’s racing.”
Vettel tried to build a lead in the early laps, but Hamilton was able to hold him easily, staying just over a second behind.
Ferrari’s needless gamble
Nevertheless, Vettel was still in control of a race that was expected to need one pit stop if teams could make that work.
But Ferrari surrendered that control when the virtual safety car was deployed while track workers recovered Jenson Button’s McLaren, which suffered an engine failure on lap 10.
They chose to stop both Vettel and Raikkonen, putting them both on the same two-stop strategy and forcing the German to pass Hamilton again to win the race.
James Hunt in 1976, Nigel Mansell 1986, and Damon Hill 1996
Britpack: James Hunt won in Canada for McLaren in 1976, Mansell for Williams in 1986 and Damon Hill in 1996 – also for Williams
The decision – which Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene admitted later was “wrong” – put the two drivers on off-set strategies.
Hamilton ran until lap 24, preventing Vettel getting any closer than about six seconds, before making his single stop, swapping his ultra-soft tyres for softs.
The world champion came out 13.5 seconds behind the Ferrari, which has been improved by a new turbocharger design.
Measuring his pace to ensure he did not over-use his tyres, Hamilton closed the gap to just under 10 seconds before Vettel made his final stop on lap 37.
The Ferrari came back out on to the track just 7.8 seconds behind but try as he might Vettel could not close in.
Hamilton let him close to 4.5 seconds on lap 54, with 16 to go, before gently extending his lead again, emphasising how he had been managing his pace.
He celebrated over the radio on his slowing down lap by saying: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” in memory of the late Muhammad Ali, and then did an ‘Ali shuffle’ in parc ferme.
What happened to Rosberg?
Whacky racing: Rosberg went off track after banging wheels with Hamilton, after both were overtaken by Vettel
Hamilton’s team-mate Rosberg got the worse of a battle with Hamilton into the first corner after Vettel’s stunning getaway and slipped down to ninth on the first lap.
He was back up to fourth when forced to stop for a third set of tyres with 19 laps to go after picking up a slow puncture.
The stop dropped the German to seventh, but on his fresher tyres he was able to pass Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to slightly reduce the damage to his title hopes.
Rosberg tried to pass Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the closing laps, but could not manage it, hampered by being low on fuel.
He spun with one desperate attempt at the start of the final lap, from which he recovered without losing a place.
Wasn’t it Red Bull who were supposed to challenge Mercedes?
Ricciardo and team-mate Max Verstappen started fourth and fifth and had entertained thoughts of battling for victory.
Lewis Hamilton and Michael Douglas
Romancing the microphone: Michael Douglas was also a guest of honour – in the paddock and interviewing the drivers after the race
Ricciardo lost a place on the first lap, after being caught behind Rosberg rejoining from his off, and appeared quicker in the first stint.
Red Bull effectively ordered Verstappen to let his team-mate by, saying: “Don’t hold Daniel up.”
But not for the first time in his career, Verstappen disobeyed, claiming afterwards he was saving his tyres and speeded up as soon as he got the message.
Ricciardo then dropped behind Raikkonen, and his race fell apart when he had to make an unplanned second stop, because he locked a wheel and damaged a tyre, eventually finishing seventh.