The German arrived in Montreal without a win in his last four races, but, after edging out Valtteri Bottas for pole and beating the Mercedes auto off the starting line, he did not put a foot wrong and was thoroughly deserving of Ferrari's first win at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for 14 years.
The four-time champion German drove his Ferrari with near flawless aplomb to convert his 54th pole position into a triumphant afternoon ahead of Finn Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes and determined Dutchman Max Verstappen, who was third for Red Bull.
Erstwhile points leader Lewis Hamilton, who was aiming for a record-tying seventh victory in Montreal, struggled to finish fifth and fell one point behind Vettel in the standings.
It was Ferrari's first win in Canada since 2004 and came from their first pole there in 17 years. 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. Max Verstappen was third and the other Red Bull vehicle, driven by Daniel Ricciardo, was fourth.
Kimi Raikkonen in the other Ferrari and Monaco victor Daniel Ricciardo are in the third row.
Vettel said he was "not too bothered" about retaking a lead he last held after the Chinese Grand Prix back in April. It means a lot. "Every single lap I was waiting for the power to just drop away and disappear, but it kept going".
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He said the win was special because it came 40 years after Canadian Gilles Villeneuve had won his first race for Ferrari. The fact that a season could sway through reliability, I don't think anyone wants to see that.
It was a short day for the lone Canadian as Stroll's Williams slid across the track and rammed New Zealander Brendon Hartley of Toro Rosso into a wall. Both drivers climbed out unhurt, but their days were over on the spot. "Kimi I think was happier on one lap so probably he's one of the favourites, I'm not, but we'll see tomorrow".
Bottas finished second for the fourth time in seven races.
What was particularly impressive was how Vettel looked after the Ultrasoft tyre on which he started, going 21 laps longer than some of the other leading drivers.
It was left to Bottas to chase Vettel, who made a clean getaway from the start, with Verstappen nearly passing the Finn before the order settled down.
Fernando Alonso would have hoped to make Q3 in his 300th Grand Prix weekend, but he had to settle for P14 after finishing Q2 more than a second off the pace. "Sorry mate, gutted", said his McLaren engineer. Vettel's lone pit stop on the 38th of 70 laps saw him emerge with a six-second lead that was never threatened.