Lewis Hamilton was left to rue a Mercedes engine problem after he lost the lead of the Formula One championship to Sebastian Vettel in Canada on Sunday.
Vettel ruled from lights-to-flag at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in an emphatic display as he crossed the line ahead of Valtteri Bottas with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in third.
But Hamilton, so often the master here in Montreal, had to settle for fifth on a weekend to forget for the defending champion and his team.
The Englishman, who arrived in North America with a 14-point lead over Vettel, will now head to the next round in France trailing his Ferrari rival by one point. Daniel Ricciardo took the chequered flag in fourth ahead of Hamilton with Kimi Raikkonen sixth for Ferrari.
Unlike all of their rivals, Mercedes failed to bring a planned engine upgrade to the seventh round of the championship, and it would cost Hamilton dearly.
Hamilton, running on a seven-race-old engine, reported he was down on power in the opening exchanges, and had to pit earlier than planned as his Mercedes team added coolant to his overheating machinery.
Hamilton, fourth at the time, headed into the pit lane on lap 16 of this 70-lap race, but the early change of tyres allowed Ricciardo to usurp the Mercedes car.
“Why did we stop early?” a frustrated Hamilton asked the Mercedes pit wall.
“The stop was brought forward to resolve this PU [power unit]problem,” his engineer Pete Bonnington replied. “It has helped a little bit.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes team have dominated the sport since 2014, but the fiercer competition provided by both Ferrari and Red Bull this year has led to a series of errors.
A timing glitch during a virtual safety car period cost Hamilton the win in Australia before a gearbox issue resulted in a grid drop at the next round in Bahrain.
Mercedes can also be accused of playing it too safe when they failed to bring Hamilton in for new tyres following a late safety car in China. And here, their failiure to give Hamilton a fresh engine has contributed to him losing the championship lead.
In contrast, Vettel, armed with a fresh engine, flew to victory to claim Ferrari’s first win in Canada for 14 years and the German’s first in five races.
His win was never in doubt after he surged off the starting line and controlled the race to claim his 50th grand prix win – despite the chequered flag accidentaly being waved one lap before the finish by Canadian model Winnie Harlow – and apply the championship pressure back on to Hamilton.
Bottas did well to finish second, while it was a much-needed quiet afternoon for Verstappen following his series of accidents as he finished a comfortable third.
Vettel joins only Michael Schumacher, the last Ferrari driver to triumph in Canada, Hamilton and Alain Prost to win a half-century of races.
It is 40 years since Canadian Gilles Villeneuve, of whom the circuit is named after, won the first F1 race in Montreal in a Ferrari car.
“It is unbelievable,” Vettel said. “I have already said what this place means to Ferrari.
“To have a Ferrari winning today, and me driving it, makes me very proud and honoured. It is a day to remember for the great Gilles Villeneuve.
“There is still a long way to go [in the championship]but it is a good side effect. After a long stretch that Ferrari have not won here, the people will be super-happy, and they will have a blast tonight.”
Bottas, who crossed the line the best part of seven seconds down, added: “That was the maximum today. Maybe from pole, it could have been different, but we maxed out with second, so I am happy with that.”