Lewis Hamilton handed Canadian Grand Prix win after Vettels penalty pain

Lewis Hamilton extended his world championship lead in bizarre fashion after being awarded first place in the Canadian Grand Prix by virtue of Sebastian Vettels five-second penalty

Optimistic that finally he might claim Ferraris first victory this season, Sebastian Vettels hopes turned to bitter ashes as he was denied by a controversial penalty at the Canadian Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton took the win for Mercedes but only after an incident that left Vettel fuming, disappointed and confused as to how the decision against him was made. The race had been in his and Ferraris hands but they were denied as the finale descended almost to pantomime, leaving little pleasure for any of the drivers involved, not least Hamilton.

Hamilton won the 50th Canadian Grand Prix having started from second behind Vettel and remained in that position. He had not looked like he had the pace to pass despite chasing relentlessly until a moment of high drama changed the race.

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Vettel pushing hard, lost the rear at turn four on lap 48, went across the grass and almost hit Hamilton as he returned to the track on the inside and Hamilton attempted to go around him. Vettel emerged in front and the incident was investigated by the stewards.

Shortly afterwards they gave Vettel a five-second penalty for an unsafe return and forcing another car off the track. He held his lead to the end but was only 1.3 seconds in front of Hamilton who thus took the win. Ferrari have appealed against the decision.

Vettel was angry and confused. I had nowhere to go. They are stealing the race from us, he said to his team. Then querying what he might have done having gone straight across the grass to rejoin the track. No, no, no. Seriously you need to be an absolute blind man, he said. Let him pass and not control your car where am I supposed to go? This is a wrong world, this is not fair.

He appeared to be struggling to control the car as it bounced across the grass as he rejoined, mitigating the circumstances and raising a major question of exactly what else he might have done as he fought for control of the car. He had made a mistake but it might easily have been dismissed as a racing incident.

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What followed the flag reflected how aggrieved the German felt. Vettel parked his car at the end of the pit lane and did not take part in the post-race interviews, immediately going instead to his team motorhome before returning to he podium ceremony. He is required to attend the podium and did so to a ringing endorsement of applause and cheers from the fans. On his way there the theatre continued as he moved the No 1 marker board from in front of Hamiltons car, replacing it with the No 2 and put the original where his car would have stood had he brought it to the parc ferme.

Sebastian
Sebastian Vettel switches the markers to place Lewis Hamilton second and himself first after the controversial finish at the Canadian Grand Prix. Photograph: Paul Chiasson/AP

Visibly disheartened Vettel did finally stand for the ceremony but with a face that betrayed his distaste at the events that had unfolded. Hamilton invited him to the top step, a moment the German did not indulge for long. Finally interviewed and with the crowd cheering him he reflected their feelings. You should ask the people what they think, he said of the decision.

Its not for us to decide and thats the sport – everyone seems to believe that Sebastian won, said Mattia Binotto, Ferraris team principal. He was driving at the limit in each corner, and we are on the border line of the tyres. When he was coming back on the track he went on the grass and there was nothing he could do. We won today. Honestly as I said, we were the fastest on track and that is important

Hamilton, who similarly lost a win in Spa with a time penalty for cutting a corner in 2008, said: Thats not the way I wanted to win but I wouldve been past. He pointedly noted that he had pressured Vettel into an error and would have taken the place had he not had to avoid the German as he returned to the racing line. Hamilton was booed after the podium ceremony but Vettel immediately defended the British driver.

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Hamilton believed the stewards decision was correct. I forced him into an error, he went a bit wide but then I had the run on that corner and we nearly collided. It is unfortunate but this is motor racing, he said. I took the corner normally but when you come back on track you are not supposed to go straight back on to racing line you are supposed to come back on safely.

The debate over the penalty will continue long into the season but Vettel believed it had done the sport as a whole a disservice. We deserved to win now and that is our opinion, he said. It was a great race, they [the crowd] cheered me on all the race, its a bit weird now, I dont know what else to say. It is not making our sport popular. People want to see us race, and it was racing. Just a shame when we have these funny decisions.

In what was otherwise largely a procession for the front three, Vettels Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc took third. He finished in front of the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen who came back from ninth on the grid to claim fifth. Bottas took the fastest lap.

Having taken a victory Ferrari had hoped would narrow the championship gap in their favour, they have been cast even further adrift. Hamilton has extended his lead over Bottas to 29 points in the world championship, while Vettel has fallen to a full 62 points back.

It was clearly not how Hamilton wanted to take the victory and perhaps not one he will take any great pleasure in, but he leaves Canada with his seventh victory here matching Michael Schumachers record tally. Vettel and Ferrari depart only with frustration and disappointment.

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