Race Weekend Central

F1 Review: Max Verstappen Weathers Drama To Win Third Straight Canadian Grand Prix

Max Verstappen took advantage of a late safety car to turn back Lando Norris and pole-sitter George Russell to win the AWS Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday (June 9th). Verstappen’s safety car luck turned the tables on Norris, who won in Miami over Verstappen on May 5th, thanks partly to a timely safety car. The race was devoid of any challenge from the Ferraris, as double DNFs in the race compounded poor qualifying efforts from Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. 

“It was a pretty crazy race,” said Verstappen. “A lot of things were happening, and we had to be on top of our calls. I think as a team, we just did really well today, we remained calm, and I think we pitted at the right time. 

“Of course, the Safety Car worked out nicely for us, but even after that I think we were managing the gaps quite well. I loved it – that was a lot of fun. Those kinds of races, you need them once in a while!”

Norris finished third, while George Russell passed Lewis Hamilton two laps from the end to take the final podium spot. Hamilton was fourth, Oscar Piastri finished fifth, while Aston Martin posted their first double-points race since Australia, with Fernando Alonso in sixth and Lance Stroll in seventh. 

RB’s Daniel Ricciardo scored points for only the second time this season, and the Alpine’s of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon closed out the points-scoring positions in ninth and 10th, respectively.  

In the driver standings, Verstappen’s lead over Leclerc ballooned from 31 points to 56, or 194 to 138. Leclerc’s scoreless day leaves him only seven ahead of Norris, 138 to 131.

See also
Max Verstappen Returns to Form at Canadian Grand Prix

In the constructor standings, Verstappen single-handedly outscored Ferrari 25 to 0, and Red Bull leads Ferrari 301 to 252. McLaren holds third with 212 points.

The Race

Russell won the traction battle with Verstappen at lights out as the wet track dictated the need for intermediate tires, with the threat of more rain determined to add more uncertainty to the track, as well as strategies.

Russell took the lead, leaving Verstappen to deal with his rooster tail of spray. Alonso and Hamilton both slipped by Ricciardo, who started fifth. Sainz struggled at the start and lost three spots.

As rain started to fall, Kevin Magnussen, who started on full wets, was up to fifth by lap 3, while his Haas teammate Hulkenberg, also on wets, was up to ninth.

Magnussen picked off Piastri for fourth on lap four while Hulkenberg took ninth and set off for Hamilton in seventh.

Leclerc’s team radioed on lap four, informing him that they were seeing something unusual in the engine. Not good news for the Ferrari, which was already languishing in 11th.

As the heaviest rain passed, the Haas duo saw their advantage dissipate, verified by Verstappen’s fastest lap on the intermediates. 

The sun broke through the clouds on lap eight, and Magnussen was the first to pit, switching his wets for intermediate. Pitting from fourth, he resumed in 12th, with his advantage now simply fresher tires.

A panicked Leclerc demanded to know how much time his engine issue was costing him on the straights, and was informed “a half a second.” A terrible weekend for Ferrari appeared to be getting worse.

Verstappen was closing on Russell as the track dried, and a series of fastest laps had the Red Bull less than a second behind by lap 12. 

On lap 12, the order was Russell, Verstappen, Norris, Piastri, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Stroll, Hulkenberg, and Leclerc. Ricciardi, however, was penalized five seconds for jumping the restart.

As Verstappen hounded Russell for the lead, Hamilton was doing the same to Alonso in a battle for fifth. If trying to pass Alonso on a dry track is impossible, just imagine the difficulty of doing it in the rain. 

Norris, in third, was charging towards the battle up front, and was just over two seconds behind Russell on lap 17. Verstappen stumbled into Turn 2 and went wide, which allowed Russell to pull away while also letting Norris closer.

Norris was less than a second behind Verstappen and with DRS enabled, Verstappen’s second place was in jeopardy.

Rain was now ten minutes out, and it appeared most drivers were intent on making their current intermediates last until then and then make a tire decision based on the intensity of the rain.

Norris blasted by Verstappen down the final chicane on lap 19 and was quickly on Russell’s rear. Norris blew by Russell on lap 21, and Verstappen overtook the Mercedes after Russell bailed out into the corner, nearly hitting Verstappen as the Mercedes returned to the track. Stewards investigated Russell for an unsafe re-entry, but the Mercedes driver was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Norris’ lead was up to six seconds over Verstappen by lap 24, while Piastri was flying in fourth, less than a second behind Russell. Russell was “pootling” while the McLarens were doing anything but. 

Logan Sargeant lost it into turn four and stalled in the middle of the track, and a safety car was deployed. It’s arguably the only way Sargeant can make a race more exciting. 

Norris stayed out, while Verstappen and Russell pitted, both for intermediates. Norris pitted a lap later, and came out in third. While Norris did lose time, he was in the same position he was earlier in the race: behind Verstappen and Russell, with all on intermediates, with plenty of time to reel them in as he did before. Norris was a little unlucky with the timing of the safety car, but what could have been disastrous was not.

On lap 28, the order was Verstappen, Russell, Norris, Piastri, Hamilton, Alonso, Tsunoda, Stroll, Ocon, and Ricciardo. Hamilton, who was having trouble getting by Alonso on the track, got by him in the pits.

Leclerc pitted for hard tires, a bold gamble considering the state of the sky directly above him. But considering his standing in the order, Leclerc had nothing to lose.   

Green flag racing resumed on lap 30, and the forecasted rain was now materializing. Verstappen was well over a second up on Russell two laps later. In the back, Leclerc was struggling. But if Ferrari strategists were right, the rain shower would be a short one, and once the track dried, Leclerc would be able to somewhat reap the advantages of his gamble. Over a minute out of the lead, Leclerc would need everything to go right. 

Albon pulled off the move of the race on lap 32, picking off Ricciardo on the outside and Ocon on the inside in the final chicane to snatch ninth place.    

Verstappen lapped Leclerc on lap 37, soon followed by the rest of the top 5. Hamilton, in fifth, was hovering around a second behind Piastri, while Alonso, likely in tire conservation mode, was over seven seconds behind Hamilton. 

With 30 laps remaining and the track quickly drying, the leaders had to consider when to switch to slick tires. Pierre Gasly decided now was the time, which was the wrong answer, and he slid off the track just moments after affixing a set of hard tires.

Norris locked up the brakes into the Turns one and two complex on lap 42 and lost nearly two seconds to the leaders. Norris hung on to third, but had temporarily lost touch to Russell.

Leclerc retired his Ferrari on lap 43, ending a miserable weekend for the Monaco winner.

Hamilton made the bold move for medium tires on lap 44, with several cars mid-pack reacting to Hamilton’s move and also pitting for medium tires. 

Piastri pitted for mediums and returned in fourth, still ahead of Hamilton. Verstappen and Russell pitted a lap later, Verstappen for mediums and Russell for hards, but Norris stayed out on his intermediates and immediately set a fastest lap. Norris stayed out for another lap, and it was a wise move for McLaren, as Verstappen and Russell struggled with grip on their respective lap 47 circuits.

Norris finally pitted on lap 47, fitting a set of medium tires, and Norris briefly had the lead and he accelerated from the pits, his McLaren lost grip on the wettest part of the track, allowing the Red Bull to take back the lead. 

Verstappen’s lead was over four seconds just a few laps later as Russell and Norris scrapped for second. Russell won that battle for now and began the chase of Verstappen while minding Norris, who was less than a second behind.

Russell ran wide at Turn 8 and clipped the curb, giving Norris a wide-open door to take second. Norris jumped through it but still found himself over five seconds behind Verstappen on the other side.

Things went haywire on lap 53. First, Perez hit the barrier in Turn 6 and lost his rear wing. The wall he hit was definitely not the “Wall Of Champions.” Then Sainz and Albon made contact into the same turn after Sainz lost control. Albon’s car stalled in the grass and the race’s second safety car was deployed.

Both Mercedes took advantage of the safety car and pitted for new tires, with Russell taking a set of mediums and Hamilton hards. 

The order on lap 56 was Verstappen, Norris, Piastri, Russell, Hamilton, Alonso, Stroll, Tsunoda, Ocon, and Ricciardo.

The final safety car set up a 12-lap dash to the finish, with a mostly dry track with a few lingering wet areas. Verstappen controlled the restart and kept the McLarens at bay. The Red Bull’s lead was up to two seconds on Norris by lap 60, while Russell set a fastest lap. 

Verstappen set a series of fastest laps, building a lead that was close to being categorized as insurmountable, nearing three seconds.

Russell made a run on Piastri into the final chicane and the cars made contact as Piastri emerged still in third. Russell then lost fourth to Hamilton, and Piastri lost time to Norris in second.   

Hamilton slipped by Piastri for third on lap 65 and eyed Norris’ McLaren ahead. But he still had to contend with Russell seconds later  dove to the inside of the final chicane to take third. 

Verstappen took the checkered over three seconds ahead of Norris for his third straight Canadian Grand Prix win. Norris finished second, and Russell held on to third despite a fastest lap from a disappointed Hamilton, who missed out on his first grand prix podium of the season. 

The Good

The race was arguably the most entertaining of the season. That praise was due mostly to the rain, which always makes an F1 race more interesting. The more rain, the more interesting. That’s why the Monaco Grand Prix could have used a deluge of biblical proportions. 

Because of the rain in Canada, tire strategy became even more important, and the rain also played a role in the deployment of two safety cars. And this all increases the number of drivers with a chance to win the race. In Canada, that number was five: Verstappen, Norris, Piastri, Russell, and Hamilton. That number could have been higher. Just imagine adding the two Ferraris to that mix – that would have made it seven drivers with a chance at victory. Sadly, Ferrari is always disappointing someone, and it’s not always their own fans.  

Daniel Ricciardo consolidated an impressive weekend with an eight-place finish on Sunday. Ricciardo accomplished what may come to be known as the “Danny Ric Triple Crown,” which occurs when you qualify in the top 5, finish in the top 10 of the race, and insult a former F1 world champion by telling him to “Suck it.” Ricciardo began his day with an actual pat on the bum of Martin Brundle and ended his day with a virtual sack tap of Jacques Villeneuve, who had earlier questioned why Ricciardo was still in F1.

Both Alpine drivers scored points in Canada, with Pierre Gasly finishing ninth and lame duck Esteban Ocon taking 10th. That’s a miracle in itself! But the fact that they finished ninth and tenth, in other words, close to each other, makes it that much more impressive. The last time they were that close, in Monaco, Ocon used his teammate’s car to launch himself out of a job. Then Alpine team principal Bruno Famin called Ocon out on live television. It was likely the low point of Ocon’s F1 career. After his performance in Canada, they’re calling Ocon “The Comeback Kid.” Actually, no one’s calling him that. Certainly, Alpine’s not calling him that. They’re not even calling him at all. 

The Bad

Ferrari definitely had “pace” in Canada because I don’t think you can lose momentum any faster than Ferrari did from Monaco to Canada. Has an F1 driver ever gone from winning a race to being blue flagged in the next race? Leclerc won in dominant fashion in Monaco, with Sainz finishing third. Neither completed the race in Canada. Ferrari did, as they say, “poop the bed,” which is something Lewis Hamilton likely did after his recent appearance on the famous hot sauce You Tube talk show “Hot Ones.”

Sergio Perez ushered in his contract extension with Red Bull by failing to make Q2 on Saturday (June 8th) and posting a DNF in the Grand Prix on Sunday (June 9th). There’s a difference in “money well spent” and “money, well, spent.” While Perez may underachieve on the track, he overachieves at the negotiating table.     

Grid Walk Moment

Martin Brundle had a lively conversation with 87-year-old Mary McGee, who is a legend in racing circles, and also sewing circles. McGee may be the oldest person ever interviewed by Brundle on the “Grid Walk” and possibly the most interesting. If I had to choose between Mary McGee and Machine Gun Kelly as someone I’d like to talk to, I’d choose Mary McGee every time. If the choice was who I’d like to see euthanized, I would choose Machine Gun Kelly every time. If she’s not known as “The First Lady Of Motor Racing,” then she should be known as “The World’s Coolest Grandmother.”  

The Disappointing

It was unfortunate to see Lewis Hamilton miss his first podium finish of the season by the narrowest of margins, losing out when he was passed for third late in the race by Mercedes teammate George Russell. It had to be devastating for Hamilton. I’m sure, as they might say in England, that really “chapped his arse,” which is also the result of appearing on “Hot Ones.”  

The Driver

When conditions were at their most treacherous, Verstappen ran a mostly mistake-free race, remaining near the lead or in the lead for most of the race. When conditions improved, Verstappen took charge and ran away for a relatively easy win (almost four seconds over Norris in second). 

While Verstappen hasn’t been as dominant this year as he was last year, he’s still won six of nine races. That’s still domination. And in the three races Verstappen hasn’t won this season, he’s won the subsequent race each time. That’s called a “market correction.”

When Verstappen doesn’t win a race, we tend to conclude that Verstappen is slipping or Red Bull’s performance is slipping. That’s usually not the case. When Verstappen doesn’t win, it’s because of a brake issue or an unlucky break with a safety car. Red Bull’s performance may falter occasionally, as it did in Monaco, but Verstappen responds every time.   

The Results (AWS Canadian Grand Prix, Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve)

11Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT701:45:47.92725
24Lando NorrisMCLAREN MERCEDES70+3.879s18
363George RussellMERCEDES70+4.317s15
444Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES70+4.915s13
581Oscar PiastriMCLAREN MERCEDES70+10.199s10
614Fernando AlonsoASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES70+17.510s8
718Lance StrollASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES70+23.625s6
83Daniel RicciardoRB HONDA RBPT70+28.672s4
910Pierre GaslyALPINE RENAULT70+30.021s2
1031Esteban OconALPINE RENAULT70+30.313s1
1127Nico HulkenbergHAAS FERRARI70+30.824s0
1220Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI70+31.253s0
1377Valtteri BottasKICK SAUBER FERRARI70+40.487s0
1422Yuki TsunodaRB HONDA RBPT70+52.694s0
1524Zhou GuanyuKICK SAUBER FERRARI69+1 lap0
NC55Carlos SainzFERRARI52DNF0
NC16Charles LeclercFERRARI40DNF0
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