Image: Wikimedia Commons/Steve Melnyk
Image: Wikimedia Commons/Steve Melnyk

Verstappen extends championship lead with Canadian GP win

Max Verstappen has further extended his championship lead with a dominant drive at the Canadian Grand Prix. He showcased an impressive level of composure to hold off Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and claim his first victory at the track.

It was an engaging weekend of racing, which led to some unexpected results in both qualifying and the race, and offered the first glimmers of hope all season for the third-placed Lewis Hamilton.

At the start of the race, Verstappen shared the front row with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, who pulled out a phenomenal lap in qualifying, but who couldn’t challenge the Red Bull. Sainz soon passed him on lap three, and the story of the race began – the two-horse battle between the Ferrari and the Red Bull. Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez, who started 13th, hoped to advance through the pack, but he was forced to stop with a gearbox issue on lap nine, leading to a Virtual Safety Car.

Verstappen pitted, opting for hard tyres (as did Hamilton). Sainz stayed out, pitting from the lead on lap 19 when an engine failure by Mick Schumacher led to a second VSC. Come lap 43, Verstappen was complaining of grip issues, and he pitted again, handing the lead back to Sainz. But then the Red Bull started closing, and Sainz needed to change his tyres once again – and then, that chance came.

Yuki Tsunoda crashed on lap 49, leading to a safety car – Ferrari jumped on the opportunity and pitted Sainz, who emerged in second. Come the restart, there were 15 laps remaining, and Sainz stayed in DRS range as he attempted to overtake the Red Bull. But he was never close enough to make a genuine pass, and despite his best efforts, Verstappen hold on for the win. In the pursuit process, Sainz did pick up the bonus point for fastest lap.

Hamilton’s third-place finish was a remarkable turnaround for Mercedes – as recently as practice, the seven-time world champion was complaining that the state of the car was no good. The car’s race pace, coupled with the aid of the safety cars, put Hamilton on the podium, with his teammate George Russell in fourth. Charles Leclerc rounded out the top five – he drove an excellent recovery race after being forced to start at the back of the grid. He could have come higher, but he suffered from poor timing of the safety cars, a weak pit stop, and being stuck behind Esteban Ocon in the early 

Ferrari need to pull something out of the bag soon, or the championship may effectively be over already

Qualifying hero Alonso lost out to VSC times – the Schumacher VSC came just after Alonso had passed the pit entry, and ended just before he reached it again. He stayed out for a few more laps, but his tyres dropped off, and he had to pit under racing conditions. He was stuck behind Ocon as well, and the team refused to let him pass – he finished seventh, but received a five-second penalty for weaving on the straight and was demoted to ninth.

After his win, Verstappen said: “The safety car didn’t help. It was really exciting at the end. I was giving it everything, but so was Carlos. He was pushing, charging, pushing, charging, naturally when you’re on the DRS it’s easier to charge. The last few laps were a lot of fun.

“I think I would have preferred attacking instead of defending but luckily it worked out.”

Sainz said: “I was pushing flat out, I wasn’t leaving an inch. I was pushing everything, with the battery. I tried everything to pass Max. Today we didn’t have the pace delta. The positive thing is we were quicker, we were faster, just [needed] that little bit more to overtake around here.

“I am particularly happy with the race pace, with the way we put pressure on Max. The timing of the pit stop was right. Honestly, we tried everything, we were close to winning today.”

Hamilton said: “We have had such an awesome crowd here this weekend. It’s quite overwhelming honestly to get this third place and it has been such a battle this year with the car and as a team. We have continued to stay vigilant and focused and never giving up. That’s something I am so proud about and I’m inspired by my crew. So thank you to everyone that is here and back in the factory.

“They are a little bit too quick for us at the moment but we are getting closer. We have got to keep pushing and hopefully we will be in a fight with these guys. Honestly I’m ecstatic. I didn’t expect this coming into the weekend. It’s my second podium of the year and it feels really special especially as it is where I got my first Grand Prix win.”

After a two-week break, it’s time for the iconic British Grand Prix. Last year, the race led to a very controversial Hamilton-Verstappen crash as the title rivalry between the two only heated up – this time round, though, Verstappen looks unassailable. Ferrari need to pull something out of the bag soon, or the championship may effectively be over already.

 


Drivers’ Championship

  1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull, 175)
  2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull, 129)
  3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari, 126)
  4. George Russell (Mercedes, 111)
  5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari, 102)

Constructors’ Championship

  1. Red Bull (304)
  2. Ferrari (228)
  3. Mercedes (188)

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