Lewis Hamilton took care of business on Sunday, winning a fifth Canadian Grand Prix, cutting Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg’s championship lead to nine points and paying tribute to the late boxing great Muhammad Ali.
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. That’s for Muhammad Ali,” the triple world champion said over the radio after taking the chequered flag at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
After parking up, Hamilton did an ‘Ali shuffle’ in another mark of respect for the former heavyweight champion, whose funeral was on Friday.
“I was just floating out there, the car was really floating,” he said of his 45th career victory in Formula One.
“The last 15 laps all I could do was think of him (Ali). The Rumble in the Jungle. Maybe he was watching the race. But RIP. This was for him.”
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished second and Finland’s Valtteri Bottas was third for Williams, 46.4 seconds behind the winner.
In a frustrating afternoon marred by yet another sloppy pit stop, Australian Daniel Ricciardo was seventh in his Red Bull.
Vettel had made a lightning start from third on the grid to blast past both Mercedes and grab the lead of the 70-lap race at the first corner.
Rosberg got alongside Hamilton, who made another sluggish start, but he refused to yield as they fought for the tight space and their wheels banged and forced the title leader onto the grass.
The collision proved a huge setback for Rosberg who dropped to 10th with Hamilton staying second.
“I am at a real loss to know what happened. Had it been a longer straight I would have been a sitting duck,” said Hamilton.
Rosberg admitted he was angry at the time, but added: “That’s racing. Sebastian had a great start, I had a decent one, Lewis had slow one.”
Vettel, benefiting from the upgraded turbocharger Ferrari brought to the race, held the lead until his pitstop on lap 11 but the two-stop strategy was to prove the Italian team’s undoing.
Hamilton regained the lead for the final time when Vettel stopped for fresh tyres on lap 36.
“I am not going to blame anybody, we took the strategy decision as a team … hindsight is always easy,” Vettel said.
Rosberg gradually forced his way back through the field despite suffering a right rear puncture and on the penultimate lap tried desperately to overtake the Red Bull of Dutch teenager Max Verstappen for fourth.
It proved too much of a gamble as he skidded sideways and managed to retain fifth place. He has now gone three races without a podium finish.