CANADIAN GP – Max Verstappen takes a dominant forty-first win to equal Ayrton Senna nine seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso

Testing & Race Reports

Max Verstappen has taken another dominant victory by nine seconds to win the Canadian Grand Prix and equal Ayrton Senna on forty-one wins, as well as allowing Red Bull to take a century of wins. While Verstappen took an eight second win it wasn’t as dominant as his other wins with Fernando Alonso keeping him honest before having to back off in his chase of the Red Bull because of braking issues.

Verstappen controlled the race once again as he pulled away early on, but instead the Aston Martin driver battled with Lewis Hamilton throughout the race and managed to fend of the Mercedes in the closing stages. His nine-second lead was the smallest winning margin of the season. But it allows him to extend his championship lead over teammate Sergio Perez to sixty-nine points.

It was another text book win of Verstappen’s wins this season, he has not lost the lead since overtaking Perez on lap forty-eight in Miami. Not even hitting a bird managed to stop him winning the race, underlining how strong the Red Bull is.

Alonso overtook Hamilton when the Mercedes driver made his final stop, then despite the top three looking evenly matched on pace Alonso and Hamilton couldn’t close the gap and stayed behind the Dutchman. It also underlines his potential to become one of the greats of the current era alongside Hamilton and Alonso.

Verstappen wasn’t even born when Senna took his forty-first and final victory in Adelaide in 1993, but most of the victories of the last three seasons and shows the way Red Bull have dominated the sport over the last eighteen months. Red Bull also becomes the fifth constructor to reach a century of wins, and if they continue to win all the races this season they could pass Williams for fourth.

After matching Senna’s win tally and delivering Red Bull their century of wins, Verstappen said: “To win the hundredth GP for the team is pretty incredible. It’s amazing. I never expected to be on these kind of numbers myself as well. We keep enjoying it and keep working hard. Today has been a great day again.”

“I expected more or less what we had today but it was really difficult to keep the temperature into the tyres, so there was not much grip. Maybe that was why the gap was not that big.”

Hamilton said: “It’s been a great weekend for us. We are slowly chipping away. We knew this weekend it wouldn’t be our strongest circuit because we struggle in the slower corners, particularly. That was where I was losing to Fernando and Max – just on traction out of pretty much every corner.”

Alonso added, “We were hoping to challenge a little more the Red Bull, but we lost a place at the start to Lewis. I didn’t have one lap where I could relax a little bit, so it was an amazing battle. It was tough, a very demanding race, all 70 laps of qualifying today.”

The battle between Hamilton and Alonso for second was closely fought from the very start. The Mercedes had won the start, but the Spaniard kept pushing Hamilton until the safety car was brought out when Hamilton’s teammate George Russell tagged the wall putting debris onto the track.

Hamilton and Alonso would almost collide in the pitlane as their teams rushed to secure second place, but Alonso would seize his chance five laps after the Safety Car ended with a move down the straight before the final chicane.

On the restart Alonso was closer to Hamilton and after a few laps off pressuring the Mercedes managed to pass him through the Wall of Champions on lap twenty-three. From then on Alonso edged clear and although Hamilton switched to the medium tyres at his second pit stop while the Spaniard stuck with the hards they had used for their second stint, the seven-time champion could do nothing about his old rival.

That was despite Alonso being told to take it easy because of a rear brake issue for much of the second half of the race, Hamilton closed up to within a second and a half, of his long-term rival in the closing laps but was unable to snatch second place. The two oldest drivers on the grid proved to duel like they did when fighting for victory as teammates at Indianapolis in 2007.

Mercedes and Aston Martin in the battle for second in the constructors could become the battle to watch this season, but their will be questions whether Ferrari can join that battle despite signs of progress.

While Russell did re-join the race for a long period after the contact with the wall, the damage lead to overheating of his brakes and his retirement with fifteen laps to go. Before his retirement, Russell had recovered from his contact with the barrier to run in eighth fifteen laps from the end.

Ferrari recovered from a poor qualifying with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz both working together and gain five places each. Sainz had managed to pass Leclerc early on, as the team ran a long opening stint until around the halfway stage then switched to mediums tyres, they then opted tacitly agreed not to fight between themselves to get points on the board.

That brought him into contention to fight for third place, but Hamilton responded by upping his pace and finished four and a half seconds behind the Mercedes.

Ferrari starting perhaps to start showing progress under team principal Fred Vassuer in the communication and strategy errors which have been their undoing for the last five years. Although Leclerc stayed with Hamilton he looked not to have that little bit more needed to mount an attempt to try and stay in order to attempt a pass on the Mercedes.

Sergio Perez didn’t really seem to feature in the fight after his disappointing qualifying saw him knocked out in Q2. Like Ferrari he used a long opening stint to come through the pack to finish sixth and finish on the soft tyre. Alex Albon used a similarly defensive strategy to finish seventh and fend off Esteban Ocon in the closing stages to finish seven.

Albon has had an impressive weekend in Montreal thanks partly due to Williams upgrades, the pace of which impressed rival teams and suggested an upturn in form as the season heads into the inessive run into the summer break with four races in six weeks before the August break. The teams best result since Russell’s podium at Spa in 2021.

However Albon’s teammate Logan Sargeant retired early with a “critical” issue – and the performance of the FW45 in his hands will offer confidence of a potential upturn in fortunes as F1 returns to Europe.

Ocon struggled to get the advantage from the DRS and a wobbling rear wing, that allowed Lando Norris to close up. However the Englishman received a five-second penalty for driving too slowly behind the safety car dropping him to thirteenth, McLaren were trying to double-stack at the first round of stops.

After the race, Norris said  the five-second penalty which dropped him out of the points, “makes no sense”. The FIA stewards gave the Briton a five-second penalty for “unsportsmanlike conduct” in their verdict: “The driver slowed under the Safety Car to avoid a delay during a ‘double stack’ for his pitstop. During the Safety Car period the driver slowed to allow a gap to form between his team-mate in Car 81 and him. In doing so he delayed the cars behind.”

Norris told reporters, “The team didn’t tell me, so I have no idea what I got a penalty for.”

Once he was brought up to date, he said: “I only got told to box like three seconds before the box. By that time I was flat out, so it doesn’t make sense to me. There are plenty of times where you go slow under VSC. So, if I get a penalty today I should get a penalty for the last three years as well and so should everyone else. But no, I don’t think I did anything wrong.”

Lance Stroll was ninth three hundredths ahead of Valtteri Bottas, as they rounded out the top ten. Oscar Piastri was eleventh the McLaren driver finished a tenth ahead of Pierre Gasly, who spilt the McLarens thanks to Norris’s time penalty. The penalty moving Stroll and Bottas into the points.

Yuki Tsunoda was fourteenth the final car on the lead lap, Nico Hulkenberg was fifteenth ahead if Guanyu Zhou who spilt the Haas’s, with Kevin Magnussen ahead of Nyck De Vries the final finisher.


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