"No, it's never easy", said the four-time champion. Some of the marshals were already celebrating.
The top three kept their positions from the start, with Vettel leading from pole position ahead of Bottas and Verstappen. "I could have had a DNF (did not finish)" which would have put him another 10 points behind Vettel, he said.
When asked if he was anxious errors could start creeping in as a result of an intense fight, he said: "I think you need to get the right balance between pushing development very hard, adding performance to the auto and at the same time keeping reliability".
Running against rivals who had upgraded power units, unlike Mercedes, Hamilton was unable to match the pace or rhythm on a circuit he touts as a favourite and where he has won six times including his first in 2007.
Canadian F1 Grand Prix 2018 Qualifying: Saturday's Results, Times, Final Grid
The only other retirement besides Stroll and Hartley was McLaren's Fernando Alonso who reported a loss of power due to an exhaust problem and was forced to garage his auto - a disappointing end to the Spaniard's 300th race.
"I think it's probably not a question for us". Force India's Esteban Ocon finished ninth, while Sauber's Charles Leclerc completed yet another solid race to finish in 10th, his third points finish of the season.
Montreal's Lance Stroll, in his home race, made a spectacular impact in his Williams, but not the one for which he would have wished, crashing out in stunning style and sending Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley into the air as well.
The Brit will get the chance to retake the championship lead at the France Grand Prix on June 24.
Sebastian Vettel takes Montreal pole, Lewis Hamilton only fourth
Even given the new engine Vettel had the pace of the field and managed his one-stop race untroubled to the flag . Stroll and Hartley's coming together saw the safety vehicle deployed but that was the extent of the drama.
Both men were taken to the medical centre and, following some concern about Hartley, he was taken to the nearby hospital for further checks.
The Safety Car was deployed in order to clear the wreckage while stewards opted to take no further action against either driver.
"It's unfortunate, I had a good start", said Stroll.
"Yesterday the auto balance was great into Turn Ten", he continued, "and usually the last sector is my strongest at this track, but I was just struggling with massive bumps into Turn Ten".
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"Then our cars were side by side". He forced me to the inside. He earned his first Formula One points with a ninth-place finish at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve previous year.
After 42 laps, sadly, Fernando Alonso's 300th Grand Prix weekend came to an end when, chasing 10th, he was called in to pit and retire.
Hamilton's early pit-stop on an enforced two-stop strategy, due to an engine heating problem, had done him no favours, but when Raikkonen pitted after 33 laps the Englishman was able to hang on and regain fifth as the Ferrari rejoined.
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