Max Verstappen maintained his grip on the Formula 1 championship fight as he fended off a late challenge from Carlos Sainz Jr. to take his sixth win of the season in an easy Sunday practice at the Canadian Grand Prix.
Verstappen won from pole at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve to extend his lead in the standings to 46 points over Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, who retired early with a gearbox problem.
“It’s still a very long way to go and I know the gap is of course quite big, but I also know it can change very quickly,” the Dutchman said of his points lead. He noted that he trailed Charles Leclerc by 46 points after the third race of the season.
Canadian Lance Stroll finished 10th, while Toronto’s Nicholas Latifi, who admitted his seat at Williams is not secure, finished 16th in his first career home Grand Prix.
“It’s great to finally have my first home race and the support I felt from my family, friends and all the fans in the stands was amazing,” said Latifi. “In terms of the track, we were lacking a lot of rhythm and we have to try to understand why. Whatever the result, it was a memorable weekend.
Verstappen had no trouble clearing Fernando Alonso, who got his first top-row start in a decade, then joked he would attack Verstappen at turn one to steal the win.
But there was no challenge and by the time Sainz cleared Alonso for second place on lap two, Verstappen had already built up a 2.4 second lead in his Red Bull. Sainz managed to close the gap over the final 10 laps and put pressure on the reigning F1 champion, but faded on the final lap and finished 0.993 seconds behind in his Ferrari.
“It was a good race, it’s always nicer to be able to really push rather than just save your tyres,” said Verstappen, who added that Sainz “didn’t have time to overtake, but it was was very tight.”
Sainz said second place was the best he could get on Sunday.
“When I gave it my all, I was risking it all,” Sainz said. “I can tell you I was pushing. I dropped everything. For the first time this season I can say I was the fastest man on the track, which gives me confidence and a bit of hope. for the next races.
Enthusiastic ovation for Hamilton
Mercedes enjoyed a huge rebound from their struggles of the season, which included a terrible Friday practice, as seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton scored his first podium since the season-opening race in March. George Russell finished fourth as Hamilton beat his new team-mate for just the second time in nine races this season.
“It’s great to be in the middle of the battle and at the end I was following these guys, but it gives me and the team a lot of hope,” Hamilton said. “The potential is really there if we can get the setup right and I think that’s been the hardest thing this year.”
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Hamilton received a rousing ovation after his arrival and said he had no back problems, which has plagued him all season because of the way the new Mercedes bounces around the track.
“It’s good, I’m getting young again,” said the 37-year-old. But he added “we still had some rebound, but it’s day and night that make the difference”.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitted after the race that the team had raised the ride height of its cars to make them more manageable and eliminate the “porpoising” effect that has bogged down Hamilton and Russell all season. The bounce caused backaches and headaches for its drivers.
“The [wind] tunnel told us that the lower the car, the faster you go, the more ground effect it will have,” Wolff said. “But actually you can’t drive the car there, so you have to lift and lift and lift it, then on paper you lose about half a second in downforce.
“We already raised it [Saturday] but the more you increase, the more you lose in performance. So it’s always a compromise.”
Record attendance over a 3-day weekend
Verstappen, meanwhile, has now won six of the first nine races of his title defense season.
It was Verstappen’s best result in Montreal, which F1 said welcomed a record 338,000 spectators over the three-day weekend as the series returned to Canada after a two-year break during the pandemic. Sunday crowds were treated to clear, sunny skies after two days of rain that upended qualifying and created the slippery track that helped Alonso – and other drivers including Hamilton – earn their best ever places. leaving this year.
Leclerc rallied after a 10-place grid penalty for changing his Ferrari’s engine to finish fifth from 19th. Alpine’s Estaban Ocon was sixth and teammate Alonso, who said he would be happy with a fifth place, finished seventh but was penalized five seconds after the race for weaving.
This dropped Alonso to ninth place, while Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas dropped to seventh. Bottas was followed by rookie teammate Zhou Guanyu, who moved up to eighth after Alonso’s penalty and finished in the points for the second time this season.
Sergio Perez left the race after just nine laps with a gearbox problem, the fourth Red Bull mechanical failure this season between Perez and Verstappen. Eleven laps later, Mick Schumacher came to a stop, ending the Haas driver’s attempt to score his first F1 points.
Haas had equaled his best qualifying effort in team history a day earlier when Kevin Magnussen and Schumacher qualified fifth and sixth, but the team failed to convert. Magnussen damaged his front wing on the first lap and finished 17th.
“I feel like we built the cake, but we just couldn’t get the icing on it,” Schumacher said.
The British Grand Prix at Silverstone is scheduled for July 3. Hamilton won a year ago in what is considered the Briton’s home race.