Canadian Grand Prix – Max Verstappen’s only potential challenger in Montreal were the kerbs as he went unchallenged from pole to victory.
After a three place penalty for Nico Hulkenberg dropped him back from P2 to P5, Max Verstappen will now share the front row with Fernando Alonso, as he did in Montreal a year ago.
There was a bit of intrigue on the grid as Ferrari had Charles Leclerc’s car up on jacks and were doing work on his floor but it was revealed that they were just replacing the plank as it had been damaged by a kerb as the Monegasque made his way to the grid.
After two days of rain being a feature in Canada, race day looks very different with much warmer weather and sunshine. The overwhelming majority of the grid have chosen the medium tyres to start the Grand Prix, however Sergio Perez P12, Kevin Magnussen P13, and Valtteri Bottas P14 all have the hards, while Pierre Gasly in P15 is the sole soft-shod car.
As the race got underway Verstappen held station at the front but Lewis Hamilton in P3 got a good start and was able to pass Alonso and into P2. At the end of the opening lap there, Carlos Sainz and Perez were fighting over P11 and as the door got closed off and he moved back to the racing line, Magnussen had to take avoiding action and had to go through the run off at the final chicane, which lost him a few places.
After five laps Verstappen had pulled over a second and a half to Hamilton, who had Alonso right on his tail despite the Spaniard having tapped the wall at T4. On lap 8 Logan Sargeant stopped at T6, which brought out the Virtual Safety Car. The Williams racer was told to park the car due to a “critical message”, but he was quickly wheeled back behind the barriers so it was a very brief VSC.
On lap 12 Verstappen reported that he thought he’d hit a bird but that wasn’t the biggest drama that lap as George Russell, in P4, hit the wall which brought out the Safety Car. The Mercedes driver took too much kerb at T9 and went into the wall. He slowly made his way back to the pits but there was a good bit of debris to be cleared up.
The top three all took the opportunity to pit for hard tyres but Mercedes might be getting looked at for an unsafe release between Hamilton and Alonso while there was also a close call with Lando Norris being released into the path of Alex Albon. Russell did rejoin at the back of the pack with a slightly bent car.
The race was back to green on lap 17 and the only cars who hadn’t pitted were the Ferraris who had moved up into P4 and P5 as a result. While the Stewards would be looking at potential overtaking at the pit exit between Esteban Ocon, Bottas and Magnussen.
The pit exit issue was sorted out on track with Bottas and Magnussen letting Ocon pass them to slot into P7. At the front though there was a full facing pass with Alonso managing to make the move and retake his P2 from Hamilton. The Aston Martin racer went down the inside at the final chicane and quickly pulled out of DRS range, while the Stewards decided that there wouldn’t be any further action taken for either of the potential unsafe releases.
While Sainz told Ferrari he had good pace, most likely looking for permission to get ahead of Leclerc, but a couple of laps later the Monegasque was told his teammate wouldn’t be challenging him so he obviously hadn’t got that permission. Around lap 30 the Scuderia told the Spaniard to box but he disagreed, happy on his current tyres for the moment and Ferrari followed his lead this time.
At the front however Verstappen wasn’t as happy on his hards, letting Red Bull know on multiple occasions though he was still over four seconds in the clear at the front.
There was a big battle between Magnussen and Nyck de Vries on lap 35 as the two fought over P12. They went side by side and banged wheels a couple of times before both cars went down the run off at T3, they both had to reverse back down the run off to rejoin and dropped right to the back of the pack.
Lap 39 saw Sainz head to the pits for his first stop, he swapped to the hards and rejoined still in P5. At the same time Norris was handed a five second penalty for unsportsmanlike behaviour after being investigated for driving unnecessarily slowly, no other details were given so it might possibly be from that he slowed to give himself a gap to his teammate before double stacking in the pits behind the Safety Car.
The following lap Leclerc made his own stop, just holding station in P4 ahead of Sainz while Hamilton took his second stop to switch him back to the mediums to cover the Ferraris. Alonso and Verstappen did the same the following two laps though the Aston Martin racer put on another set of hards.
While Verstappen was almost six seconds out in front, Hamilton was putting in quick times and closing up on Alonso, who lost over a second when he went through the run off at T9 and was also under orders to lift and coast.
While Russell had made it to P8, having remained on the same tyres since his accident forty laps earlier, on lap 55 he was told to retire the car as brake wear was too high.
With ten laps to go Verstappen had extended his lead to almost eight seconds while Hamilton was just a second and a half behind Alonso. Further back in the points positions, Albon, still on the tyres he switched to under the Safety Car, was at the head of a train of cars in P7.
Lap 63 and Hamilton was informed that it “sounds like Alonso is nursing a rear brake issue” while Alonso was told there was a 1.9 second gap to the Mercedes and seemed very confident as he replied “leave it to me”. Verstappen had his own message, letting his team know that “I almost knocked myself out on that kerb, haha.”
There was a good battle between Norris and Bottas over P9, with the McLaren racer getting the better of the Finn as he tried to move far enough up the top ten to ensure he’d stay in the points after his penalty. With three laps to go Norris reported that Ocon’s rear wing was wobbling and he thought it was dangerous, the Stewards noted it.
In the end, despite his best efforts, Norris wasn’t able to find a way past Ocon and his penalty dropped him down to P13.
Verstappen took the chequered flag over nine seconds ahead of Alonso to seal not only Red Bull’s 100th win but also his own 41st which sees him equal Ayrton Senna. Hamilton came home in P3 while the Ferrari strategy worked out well today to convert their P10 and P11 starting positions to P4 and P5 at the end.
Perez made a late pitstop for softs to take the fastest lap, a 1:14.481, while it was a fantastic result for Williams with Albon managing to hold on in P7 to take their best results of the season since the Thai driver’s P10 at the opening round in Bahrain.
Ocon took the flag in P8 though he might be under investigation for his rear wing while Lance Stroll got the better of Bottas on the line to take P9 in his home race by 0.030 seconds from the Alfa Romeo driver.