MONTREAL – Three straight Formula One championships have done more than a little to ease Sebastian Vettel's disappointment over his previous failures to win the Canadian Grand Prix.
"I wasn't desperate to win here," he said after cruising to his third victory of the year and his first at the 2.71-mile Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. "We've had strong results in the past and I wasn't ashamed coming here having not won this race. So I wasn't desperate when I got up this morning and thought, 'I have to win. I have to win.'"
Starting from the pole in Montreal for the third year in a row, Vettel finally converted it into a win on Sunday. The Red Bull driver survived an early brush with a wall and late trouble in Turn 1 to finish 14.4 seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso's Ferrari.
Vettel picked up 25 points to extend his lead in the championship standings to 36 points over Alonso, who picked up 18 points to jump past Lotus' Kimo Raikkonen and into second place. Raikkonen finished ninth for two points and now trails the leader by 44 points.
"Obviously you don't have to be a genius to know that you get more points than anybody else for that result ... but the championship is still long," Vettel said, noting that there are five months and 12 races remaining on the Formula One calendar. "I'm happy to stand on the grid and focus on the race, trying to win. And the rest we will see later on if we are still in a strong position."
Two years ago, Vettel came in second here after a slight skid in the rain on the final backstretch allowed Jenson Button to pass him and take the checkered flag. He also has two fourth-place finishes at the race.
But this time he led for 67 of the 70 laps, giving up the pace only when he made an early pit stop.
After the practice sessions and qualifying were slowed by rain, the sun came out Sunday for a warm and dry race on the Ile Notre Dame across the St. Lawrence from downtown Montreal. That gave Vettel a clear path to the checkered flag in 1 hour, 32 minutes, 9.143 seconds.
"We've had good races here before, but it didn't come together to win," Vettel said on the victory podium. "It made up for that today. Great feeling. Great car by the team and we were really able to pull away from the rest of the field."
Alonso passed Lewis Hamilton, the 2012 winner, at the start-finish line in the 62th lap and held on for second place. Vettel's teammate, Mark Webber, was fourth after running the fastest lap of the day, 1:16.182, on the penultimate lap. Monaco winner Nico Rosberg was fifth.
"We just weren't quite on the pace of Seb and Fernando," Hamilton said. "It would have been nice to have kept second place, of course, but Fernando was very quick today and it was difficult to keep him behind. I got close to taking the place back but he was just that little bit too fast."
A brush with the wall in Lap 11 kicked up some debris but did not keep Vettel from extending his lead. He pitted in Lap 16, switching from supersoft to the medium tires that he continued with for the rest of the race.
Hamilton's Mercedes moved into the lead with Vettel in the pits, but the Red Bull went back to the front in the 19th lap and stayed there for the remainder of the 70-lap race.
He lapped Raikkonen in the 34th — halfway through the race. Vettel ran wide and cut the corner of a chicane in Lap 52, but it did not threaten his lead.
"Turn 1, I wasn't proud of — especially because there are a lot of people watching there. I think they were as surprised as I was," Vettel said. "I did not want to risk a spin so I decided to cut. It was fine; it just seemed to be the safe option to avoid the spin. Fortunately, there was no wall."
By the end, the Red Bull car had lapped every other in the field except for the top five finishers. He posted an average speed of 123.503 mph.
The dry track was good for Vettel but not for rookie Valtteri Bottas, who made the second row for the first time in his career. He said after qualifying that his car would not be able to compete on a dry track — and he was right, quickly falling out of the top 10 before stabilizing his position and eventually finishing 14th.
With his ninth-place finish, Raikkonen tied Michael Schumacher's record by recording a point in 24 consecutive finishes.