Max Verstappen resisted the late pressure from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz to win the Canadian Grand Prix following a late safety car disruption, with Lewis Hamilton taking a well deserved third.
The race had already been twice interrupted by virtual safety car periods, which put Verstappen and Sainz on different two-stop versus a likely one-stop strategy for the Ferrari ahead of the closing stages, before the safety car closed them up and set up a straight fight for the victory on the same hard compund, even though Carlos was on fresher rubber.
Behind, Fernando Alonso’s front row start became a seventh-place finish for Alpine behind Mercedes drivers Hamilton and George Russell, while Charles Leclerc’s recovery drive from the back of the grid finished with fifth position.
At the start, Alonso’s intention to attack Verstappen at the first corner never came close as the Red Bull driver made the perfect getaway and easily led into Turn 1.
Sainz followed Alonso through the opening corners while behind Hamilton’s left-front brushed Kevin Magnussen’s right-side front wing endplate when the Haas attacked to the Mercedes’ outside of Turn 3, which broke the part and left it hanging off.
As Verstappen consolidated his lead, which was 1.0 seconds at the end of lap 1 of 70, Sainz took until the end of lap three to pass Alonso – using DRS to get by on the approach to the final corners.
Verstappen eked out a few tenths per lap over Sainz during the initial laps, where the Ferrari driver struggled with graining tyres, but the Spaniard was starting to reverse this trend when the first stint was interrupted by the first VSC activation on lap nine.
Just after Magnussen had been ordered to pit to replace his front wing by the FIA, Sergio Perez pulled out of the mid-pack with what he suspected was an engine problem that meant he stopped in the runoff behind Turn 9 and the run down the hairpin late in the lap.
While one of its cars was being cleared away under the VSC, Red Bull immediately pulled Verstappen in to switch for hards to take advantage of the reduced time stop with racing neutralised, as Sainz and Alonso stayed out while Hamilton followed Verstappen in.
Sainz led for the next phase of the race after green flag racing resumed at the end of lap ten, with Verstappen then eating into what was a maximum 6.4 seconds advantage for the Ferrari over the former leader, who quickly caught and passed Alonso for second, getting by with an easy DRS move down the back straight
The status quo held until lap 20, when the VSC was activated again after Mick Schumacher, who had fallen back from his sixth-place starting spot on the opening lap, pulled off with a mechanical gremlin at the same spot as Perez had done earlier.
This time Sainz pitted to take the hards, rejoining just as the VSC ended at the start of lap 21 and slightly ahead of the already-stopped Hamilton, then leading him back up behind Alonso, who again stayed out despite the offer a cheap VSC service.
Like in the very early stages, Sainz used DRS to blast by Alonso on the run to the final corners on lap 22, which left him with a 9.4 seconds deficit to Verstappen, while Hamilton soon followed the Ferrari past Alonso to run a distant third behind the leaders.
Sainz used his fresher hards to slowly erode Verstappen’s lead over the next section of the race, but it was still holding firm at just above eight seconds with 30 laps completed and even as Verstappen reported his hards were beginning to lose grip.
But by the start of lap 40, Sainz had been taking ever bigger chunks from Verstappen’s meant the gap had shrunk to just over six seconds and so Red Bull opted to bring the leader in for a second time, again taking new hards on lap 43.
Verstappen was frustrated to come out just behind Hamilton, but shot past the Mercedes with DRS the next time down the back straight, with Hamilton then immediately pitting for a second time as well.
Sainz therefore enjoyed a 10.8 seconds lead with 25 laps remaining, but Verstappen quickly pushed to bring that down to 7.7 seconds at the end of lap 49.
But the race picture was then completely altered when Yuki Tsunoda crashed just after making his second stop and slid straight into the Turn 2 barriers at the pitlane exit.
Ferrari called Sainz in and he was able to take fresh hards and re-joined just behind Verstappen, which set up a 14-lap chase to the finish once the race resumed at the start of lap 56 after the AlphaTauri had been craned away.
Sainz could not put a move on Verstappen at the restart after the leader had waited until the final corners before shooting back to top speed, with the Red Bull pulling a 0.8 seconds gap on the first lap back to racing speed.
But Sainz pushed hard to stay in DRS range when the system was reactivated two laps after the restart and so was able to keep Verstappen under severe pressure.
Lap after lap the Ferrari used its DRS to close in on the long final and pit straights, but Verstappen was able to stay ahead thanks to his excellent traction out of the hairpin and final chicane.
Twice Sainz got to 0.3s back from Verstappen’s rear wing and twice moved towards the inside line for the final chicane in a bid to put his rival off, but Verstappen did not crack to the pressure.
Sainz locking up at the hairpin on the final lap meant Verstappen was able to scamper to a final winning margin of 0.9 seconds, with Hamilton completing the podium having been quickly dropped by the leaders after the safety car restart.
Russell was a gainer under the second VSC and was homing in on Hamilton before the leading Mercedes pitted after Verstappen blasted by, after which Russell was also given a second stop and so ran behind his teammate to the finish, with neither coming in under the safety car.
Leclerc’s race was one of frustration as he struggled with rear tyre grip while making his way up the order from P19 on the grid.
He made steady progress through the lower positions but was not making the progress he expected and was then frustrated for a long time behind Esteban Ocon during the middle phase of the race.
By this point, Alonso had finally stopped and was roaring back towards the Ferrari, which had started on the contra-strategy of hards for the start and had likewise not come in during the two VSC periods.
When Leclerc pitted on lap 41, a slow service meant he re-joined behind a gaggle of cars – Zhou Guanyu, Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo – that were trailing the then yet-to-stop Lance Stroll.
He took several laps to clear them, with Leclerc just clearing Stroll before Tsunoda’s crash and he was another driver not to come in during the resulting safety car.
That meant he trailed the Ocon and Alonso for the restart, the latter still behind his teammate due to what Alpine called a “straight line speed issue” following his pitstop.
Despite having older rubber (Ocon and Alonso did stop for the same mediums Leclerc was already running), Leclerc fought his way past the pair with two moves at the hairpin to rise to fifth – although his pass on Ocon came after he had got a move into the chicane wrong and had to let his rival by a short while beforehand.
Alonso suggested Alpine should let him by Ocon before the finish, but ended up coming home behind his teammate in seventh.
Valtteri Bottas was the second-highest one-stop finisher (behind Leclerc) in eighth, with Zhou taking ninth after a battling drive following his period stuck behind Stroll.
The Canadian claimed the final point after a late DRS pass on Ricciardo, who lost time with a long stop during the second VSC.
Lando Norris also lost a heap of time due to McLaren’s double-stack stop calamity, with the Briton then handed a five-second time addition for speeding in the pitlane.
Norris eventually took P15 ahead of Nicholas Latifi and Magnussen, who ended up as the last finisher.
So congratulations to Max Verstappen in winning the race and extending his championship lead. Carlos Sainz put up with a brave fight against the defending champion, but the Red Bull car was faster than the Ferrari. As for Lewis Hamilton, this was a solid result following so many difficult weekends. The next race is Hamilton’s home race in Silverstone so expect massive fan support from the British fans.
Canadian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:36:21.757
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 0.993
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 7.006
4 George Russell Mercedes 12.313
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 15.168
6 Esteban Ocon Alpine 23.890
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine 24.945
8 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 25.247
9 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 26.952
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 38.222
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 43.047
12 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 44.245
13 Alex Albon Williams 44.893
14 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 45.183
15 Lando Norris McLaren 52.145
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams 59.978
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 68.180
– Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri DNF
– Mick Schumacher Haas DNF
– Sergio Perez Red Bull DNF