PHOTO | Louis Hamilton, F1 Victory june 10th 2012

MONTREAL - In 2007, Lewis Hamilton scored his maiden Formula One victory at the Canadian Grand Prix. On Sunday, he joined Michael Schumacher and Nelson Piquet as the only drivers to win the race at least three times. The 27-year-old Brit earned his first victory of 2012 after passing Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso with six laps remaining in the 49th edition of the Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Île Notre Dame. Hamilton becomes the seventh different winner to win in as many races this season, extending a record in the 62-year history of F1 racing. It marked the third time Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, took the checkered flag in Montreal, having also won in 2010. He dedicated his 18th career win to the Montreal fans. “What a feeling!” he said. “This is where I won my first Grand Prix. I knew it would be tough, but I loved every single minute of it and I’m really, really grateful. “I want to dedicate this one to all the fans out there who constantly send letters and messages, always being so positive in their support throughout the year,” he added. “It was one of the most enjoyable races I have had until now, and I was just thinking today to finish at the front as I did with my first win would be very, very special for me. “I could not believe it when I crossed the (finish) line. The feeling inside was like an explosion. That is what I like about racing.” Hamilton completed the 70 laps around the 4.261-kilometre circuit in one hour, 32 minutes and 29.586 seconds at an average speed of 198.027 km/h. Frenchman Romain Grosjean was second in 1:32:32.099 to give Lotus F1 its second and best of two podium results this season. Mexican Sergio Perez of Sauber F1 was third in 1:32:34.846. Pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing was fourth in 1:32:36.881, and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who started third on the grid, was fifth in 1:32:42.997. Defending race champion Jenson Button of McLaren, who has continued to have problems after winning the season-opening race in Australia, finished in 16th place. Seven-time Canadian Grand Prix winner Michael Schumacher’s day was done on lap 45 when his DRS got stuck in an open position. Mechanics tried to snap it back, but without success, and the 43-year-old German was forced to retire for the third straight race and for fifth time this season. He is the only driver to win the Canadian Grand Prix more than three times. Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso ran 1-2-3 for the first 15 laps of the race, which for the first time in memory did not see an appearance by the safety car. Last year, the safety car appeared a record six times during a rain-delayed race that lasted a record four-plus hours. Hamilton took the lead from Vettel on lap 16 when the latter made the first of two planned pit stops, but he gave it up for his first stop for new tires on the following lap. Hamilton returned to the lead, ahead of Alonso and Vettel, for laps 21 through 49 before pitting again. He returned to discover that Alonso, gambling on a one-stop strategy and heading the field, would be the one to beat to the finish line. Hamilton first chased down Vettel, who had moved into second, by maximizing McLaren’s speed in the DRS zone on lap 62, and two laps later he blew past Alonso in the same area, erasing a 14-second gap. “The team did a great job with the pit stops and the strategy,” said Hamilton, who finished third in each of the first three races this season and started from pole in the first two. “I was very, very surprised that I was able to look after the tires and push at the times I needed to push,” he added. “I was surprised in the first stint. I knew Fernando was the one to beat. He has generally great pace on long runs. “I was not able to do a one-stop. I would have fallen back, so a two-stop was just right.” Both Grosjean and Perez made surprise trips to the podium. Grosjean admitted he was unaware he was in a position for a podium in the late stages of the race. But his team’s one-stop strategy paid dividends. “I didn’t realize I was third, and then I saw Fernando Alonso was slowing down and I was second,” said Grosjean, who passed Alonso on lap 66. “It was like a crazy end to the race, because I was thinking P4 or P5, but the pace stayed there.” Perez, who started 15th, also went with a one-stop strategy, and slipped into third with three laps remaining after getting by a sagging Alonso. The 22-year-old from Guadalajara enjoyed the race of his life after having to withdraw from a practice session before last year’s race because of concussion-like symptoms following a crash in qualifying in Monaco two weeks earlier. “To be honest, starting 15th the last thing you think about is to end up on the podium,” Perez said. “But we went quite aggressive, the first stint was quite good, the stop very good, and the second stint was very, very good. “We managed some overtaking manoeuvres, and then I saw that the degradation (of tires) was not so high for me, so I could manage my pace well and then managed to get some of the other drivers. “It’s a great result for the team after such a bad day yesterday,” Perez added. “Today it’s just great to finish on the podium. It’s a great boost for the team.” With 25 points for the victory, Hamilton moved atop the drivers’ championship standings with 88 points, two more than Alonso and three in front of Vettel. McLaren also closed to within 31 points of Red Bull’s lead in the constructors’ championship with 164 points. “Seven different winners in seven races …,” Hamilton said. “I can’t remember hearing of anything like that. I hope there’s no more. I hope there’s not eight winners in ….”
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