Thursday, February 2

Max Verstappen holds off Carlos Sainz to win Canadian Grand Prix | Formula One


Max Verstappen had long promised that given the tools he was more than capable of delivering a world championship. He duly took the title last year but his victory for him at the Canadian Grand Prix for Red Bull was an object demonstration that he appears in every position to now go on to seal multiple championships. He had never won at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve before but owned it with a dominant and composed drive redolent of the great champions, including seeing off a late charge from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

The victory has crucially further extended Verstappen’s lead over title-rival Leclerc, who is third in the championship, to 49 points.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell secured third and fourth for Mercedes with a performance that will be a real fillip for the team. Third place equaled Hamilton’s best result this season. The seven-time champion had been enormously happy at claiming fourth on the grid and given that the Mercedes is proving enormously difficult to drive he was similarly pleased to have taken it into third place. There will also be cause for optimism in that they demonstrated superb race pace, staying well in touch with the times of Ferrari and Red Bull.

After a remarkable lap in treacherous wet conditions to claim pole, Verstappen followed it with a masterclass of control at times under fierce pressure. The 24-year-old’s title-winning victory in Abu Dhabi last year may have been mired in controversy but there is simply no arguing with his credentials from him to be world champion, then and more importantly, now. This is his sixth win from him since nine races this season and afterwards he bore the relaxed, smiling demeanor of a man who knows he is exactly where he wants to be.

He has been aided this season by Ferrari’s reliability problems that have recently plagued Leclerc. Here it was a case of Leclerc doing his best to minimize the damage of starting from 19th after grid penalties for an engine change. This was always going to be a difficult afternoon for Leclerc and he made it back to take fifth. Not as good as they might have hoped as Ferrari left him out too long bottled up behind Esteban Ocon. The Scuderia now badly need to give him a reliable car and hone their decision making to at least begin clawing back Verstappen’s lead.

Verstappen made a great start from pole, seeing off the threat from Fernando Alonso, who was alongside him on the front row, while Hamilton just held on to his fourth place. Sainz then cleared Alonso to take second place on lap three and began chasing Verstappen allowing Hamilton to duly close on Alonso.

Russell made it from eighth to fifth by lap six but Verstappen was already opening a gap, three seconds clear of Sainz by lap eight.

Sergio Pérez had to pull off track with a gearbox problem on lap nine, prompting a virtual safety car and Red Bull took the opportunity to pit Verstappen as did Mercedes with Hamilton but Ferrari left Sainz out, inheriting the lead.

Racing resumed with Verstappen behind Sainz and Alonso, but he swiftly passed the latter on lap 16 to claim second. His commitment to him on fresh rubber was clear with a series of fastest laps.

Mick Schumacher also suffered a mechanical failure, triggered another VSC and Russell and Sainz both pitted. Verstappen reassumed the lead and Hamilton was on Sainz’s tail but the Dutchman had already pounded out an advantage, a full nine seconds clear of Sainz by lap 20.

Hamilton cleared Alonso again for third as the race settled but Verstappen was serene, controlling his lead, reacting with pace every time Sainz edged closer. Russell however was a strong fourth and using his fresher rubber to close on his teammate.

Verstappen took his second stop on lap 44 and emerged just behind Hamilton, not where he expected to be and he was furious with the team. It was however a minor inconvenience as he wasted no time in passing and the British driver duly pitted.

Sainz now led with Ferrari looking to pull off a one-stop race, with a nine-second lead to Verstappen. However a safety car was called on lap 49 when Yuki Tsunoda hit the wall. Ferrari jumped on the chance for a free stop for Sainz, who came out in second. It left a sprint to the finish between the two on similar rubber over 20 laps.

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    Verstappen nailed the restart with 15 laps to go and promptly attempted to reimpose his authority. Sainz refused to be bowed and stayed within DRS range. He closed repeatedly but Verstappen held his nerve and the perfect line. The Dutchman was imperious in seeing out the pressure to take the flag.

    The season still has a long way to run but Verstappen showed form that sees him more than ready to disappear over the horizon. Catching him now will be some feat.

    Alpine’s Ocon was in sixth and his teammate Alonso seventh. Valtteri Bottas and his teammate Guanyu Zhou were eighth and ninth for Alfa Romeo, and Lance Stroll finished 10th for Aston Martin.


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