Lewis Hamilton’s pace and McLaren’s strategy was too much for the likes of Sebastian Vettel in Montreal (Image | Getty)

Lewis Hamilton became the seventh race winner of the spectacular 2012 Formula 1 season in Montreal yesterday with a commanding drive and some late, great pace to eclipse the tactical manoeuvres of championship rivals Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel.

For F1, the unbelievable trend of different winners this season continues to break records. All seven grands prix have been won by different drivers, with Hamilton joining teammate Jenson Button as well as Alonso, Vettel, Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg and Pastor Maldonado in standing on the top step of the podium.

For Hamilton, this win – which should arguably have come sooner – is just reward for the maturation he has shown in dealing with a succession of setbacks thus far in 2012.

McLaren’s season to date has been bookmarked by unusual errors, small slips which in a sport as marginal in F1 can – and have – cost them dearly. Poles for Hamilton in the first two events of the year became third-place finishes thanks to questionable strategy; pit-stop calamities befell the 27-year-old in China and notably in Bahrain, where he had been leading. Then, at the first European round of the season in Catalunya, Hamilton was forced to watch Maldonado lead from lights to flag after having his pole position stripped from him thanks to a fuelling issue with his car.

After a forgettable showing in Monaco and the re-appearance of last year’s questions over how happy Hamilton is at McLaren, a strong showing west of the Atlantic was essential as much for Martin Whitmarsh and the team as it was for their pilot. Both responded, and Hamilton was at the front all weekend through practise before sticking his car on the front row for the race. With Button qualifying only tenth – portentous of an utterly forgettable race – the pressure was on Hamilton to keep McLaren competitive.

From there, Hamilton’s racecraft came into full swing. Pitting early in the race from the lead, Hamilton made maximum use of his soft Pirellis in the middle stint. Then it was the team’s turn. Ignoring Hamilton’s concerns over the possibility of his pursuers staying out for a one-stop race, McLaren pulled him in and gave him more fresh rubber. That, thanks to the ‘cliff’ effect suffered by Pirelli tyres when they reach the end of their useful life, allowed Hamilton to hunt down and sweep past first Vettel, then Alonso as their respective gambles failed to pay off.

It was a pivotal weekend for Hamilton. With the combination of disappointing mistakes and average results in the last three outings, it was time for a win to spark the Englishman’s season. His consistency thus far will stand him in good stead for a title challenge in the 2012 season – but race wins are the best way of getting the edge. After seven races, Hamilton now sits atop the Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship. How long can he stay there?

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