MONTREAL — Sebastian Vettel wasn’t losing any sleep over never having won the Canadian Grand Prix, but when he finally did it, he did it in style.
The triple world champion for the Red Bull team pulled out to a comfortable lead from pole position and was never threatened as he added the Canadian GP to his list of 29 career Formula One victories on Sunday afternoon.
The German, who has a commanding 36-point lead in drivers standings, took the chequered flag 14.4 seconds ahead of Ferrari ace Fernando Alonso, his closer pursuer on the track and in the standings.
“It is important to us, but I wasn’t desperate to win here,” said Vettel. “I think we had strong results in the past.
“It wasn’t a shame coming in here not having won this race, so I wasn’t desperate when I got up this morning, thinking ’I have to win, I have to win.’ But I was very pleased because it’s a very nice race.”
Vettel raced nicely himself, winning for the third time this season.
After rain complicated preparations for all the teams during practice and qualifying on Friday and Saturday, there was warm, dry weather at race time.
It made for one of the least eventful Canadian GPs ever, without the usual slipping and sliding into walls normally seen on the tightly cornered Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Only two drivers — Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg and Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde — failed to finish in the 22-car field.
Vettel held off Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes on the first turn from the start and pulled away. He led virtually the entire race, and had only one mishap on the 52nd of 70 laps when he cut across the grass after going into a chicane too quickly.
“I was pushing hard in the beginning to open a gap,” he said. “It’s Canada and you usually go close to the walls.
“Sometimes I was closer than I wanted, but fortunately I didn’t crash.”
As for taking a shortcut, he said: “I could have stayed on the track but it was quite tight. I didn’t want to risk a spin, so I decided to cut. I lost four or five seconds on that corner, but it was fine. It seemed the safe option.”
Well behind Vettel, a fierce battle raged as Alonso recovered from a disappointing qualifying by moving up from sixth place to his fourth top-two finish in seven races this year.
He got past Mark Webber’s Red Bull and Nico Roberg’s Mercedes and then zeroed in on Hamilton, the defending champion and a three-time Canadian GP winner.
Alonso made a bold passing move on lap 62 that just failed, but then caught the Briton going into the first turn on the following lap. Hamilton tried desperately to catch up, but fell short.
“He was very quick and it was difficult to keep him behind, but I tried my best,” said Hamilton, the 2008 world champion who said he didn’t have enough grip in his tires, especially during the tighter turns, to hold off Alonso. “I got closer, but he was generally too quick for me.
“But it’s still generally a good result, considering these guys are massively quick.”
Vettel leads drivers standings after seven races with 132 points to 96 for Alonso, who moved past Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus (88 points) into second place. Hamilton is fourth with 77.
Webber finished fourth in the race ahead of Rosberg, who won two weeks ago at the incident-filled Monaco Grand Prix,.
At that race McLaren’s Sergio Perez nearly bumped Raikkonen off the track, prompting the usually reserved Finn to say someone should punch him in the face.
Alonso emphasized how much more civilized the competition was in Montreal.
“It was nice to race with such talented drivers, so intelligent drivers,” Alonso said. “You fight at 300 km/h and you feel safe.
“You’re racing and competing. It can go your way or the other way, but this is real racing. I’m happy to see this back after Monaco, where it was a bit different.”
There was also a surprise sixth place finish from Jean-Eric Vergne, which delighted the modest Toro Rossi squad. It was his and the team’s best finish of the season.
“The best result for me, of course, but also the highest finishing position since Vettel’s results for the (Toro Rossi) team in 2008,” said Vergne. “It is even more satisfying because it was a normal race in the dry, with no one going out in front of me, so we achieved this position fair and square.”
Raikkonen had a miserable week. He was dropped two grid positions for ignoring a caution flag during qualifying and then suffered the ignominy of being lapped by Vettel after only 35 laps of the race.
But he fought back to finish ninth and tied Michael Schumacher’s record of 24 consecutive races in the points.