Max Verstappen fended off a dogged challenge from Carlos Sainz to win Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Round 9 of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship.
Back at the City of Saints, F1 blew the roof off the Ile Notre Dame on the track named after Canada’s favourite racing son – Gilles Villeneuve – as it lived up to its reputation of delivering grand races, which today’s most certainly was.
The 51st Grand Prix in the country got underway under bright sunny skies, in stark contrast to the rain and miserable weather experienced during qualifying a day earlier.
From pole and third on the grid, Verstappen and Sainz slugged it out for the final 15 laps, after a Safety Car period concertina-ed the field, the Ferrari driver hanging in within the DRS range but simply lacked the firepower as the Red Bull did just enough to take one of the hardest-fought of his 26 F1 career wins.
The Dutchman summed up his race in parc ferme: “The safety car didn’t help. Overall, they [Ferrari] were very quick in the race, so it would have been really tough for me to close that gap at the end even on fresher tyres but it was really exciting at the end.”
Verstappen: I was giving it everything I had and Carlos was doing the same
The Red Bull ace continued: “I could see he was pushing and charging, but when you’re on the DRS it’s a lot easier to charge. The last few laps were a lot of fun. Luckily, this year, we seem really quick on the straights so that helps a lot,” explained Verstappen, a first-time winner in Montreal.
It was an engrossing end to an action-packed final half dozen laps, thanks to Sainz’s dogged pursuit, the Spaniard still hunting an elusive first win said afterwards: “I was pushing flat out, I wasn’t leaving any inches to the walls, the braking and I was pushing everything with the battery. I tried to pass Max.
“The positive thing is that we were quicker, faster all race and it just [needs] that little bit more to overtake around here. Honestly, we tried everything and we were very, very close to winning today. I will take the positives and keep trying in the next one,” added Sainz.
Behind the battling front two, Lewis Hamilton had a great view as he claimed his second top-three finish of the season, ahead of Mercedes teammate George Russell whose fourth means he now has a remarkable nine top-five finishes so far this year.
Hamilton: It’s quite overwhelming to get this third place
Seven-time Canadian Grand Prix winner, Hamilton was chuffed with his podium finish: “It’s been such a battle this year with the car. We continue to stay vigilant, focused and never give up, and that’s something I’m proud of.
“We’re getting closer, so we’ve got to keep pushing and keep pushing, and hopefully, we’ll eventually be in the fight with these guys,” added Hamilton.
Charles Leclerc recovered from the back row of the grid thanks to PU-related penalties to finish fifth after an afternoon battling with just about everyone but the podium trio. It was a great recovery and damage limitation on an afternoon he was voted Driver of the Day, but the points gap to Verstappen grew.
Fernando Alonso starred in qualifying a day earlier, and of course, was his usual feisty self as he started from the front row for the first time in a decade. He hung in the top three for a while, even led the race but a strange decision to keep him out when others stopped may have compromised his race.
In the end, the veteran Spaniard was seventh, behind teammate Esteban Ocon who had a solid race to finish sixth on a good weekend for Alpine.
Also double-scoring on Sunday were the Alfa Romeo duo, with Valtteri Bottas in eighth heading home teammate Gunayu Zhou, the Chinese rookie impressing all weekend.
The final point went to local hero Lance Stroll, claiming a point for Aston Martin on home soil.
The 2022 Canadian Grand Prix as it unfolded
Earlier, it was a frenetic opening lap of the 2022 Canadian Grand Prix but with no serious contact apart from some wheel rubbing between Lewis Hamilton and the Haas of Kevin Magnussen, the Mercedes stayed ahead as the order among the top ten remained pretty much the same, except for Mick Schumacher who dropped back two places in a couple of laps.
Magnussen’s shenanigans resulted in a broken front wing on the Haas, forcing him to stop for a change.
At the front Verstappen cranked up the pace and by lap five he was well ahead with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz getting by Alonso behind them, Hamilton held fourth with teammate Russell the man on the move in fifth from eighth on the grid.
Sergio Perez’s woeful weekend in Canada came to an early end, forced to park a smoking Red Bull on lap nine as the reliability pendulum swung from the Reds to the Bulls.
This prompted a virtual safety car which triggered a slew of pitstops, with Verstappen among them handing the lead to Sainz with Alonso chasing in second. Others to pit early included Hamilton which gave them fresh rubbers almost for free.
The order when the track went full green was SAI-ALO-VER-RUS with Esteban Ocon also in the hunt from seventh on the grid. At this point, Leclerc was 12th from the back of the grid thanks to PU-related penalties but then found a ‘wall’ of Bottas and Albon battling for the final point.
By lap 15, Verstappen was second on fresh Hards and only five seconds behind Sainz, but the Spaniard still on the Mediums he started on.
On Lap 20, Schumacher’s Haas came to a stop, triggering another VSC and inevitable train of pitstops as another Ferrari cried enough. Haas going from heroes on Saturday to zeroes on Sunday.
The order after the second VSC, Verstappen led by almost ten seconds while Alonso was second but in freefall, totally stranded as Alpine did not bring him for new rubber. Sainz was third ahead of Hamilton in fourth and Russell fifth, Ocon sixth and, incredibly, Leclerc up 12 positions in seventh and hunting until he stopped for fresh Mediums on lap 42.
Then the Ferrari crew dropped the ball, a long pitstop meant he emerged back down in 12th behind a gaggle of cars battling for the crumbs. Had he not lost the time during his stop, he would have been far better placed.
Verstappen pitted from the lead on lap 44, the Red Bull crew dispatching him in an incredible 2.4 seconds, the World Champion emerged behind Hamilton who boxed a lap later. Sainz now led by ten seconds. Verstappen chasing, knicking a couple of tenths per lap on the leader.
Russell pitted on lap 46 from third, rejoining the track in fourth.
Lap 49 a Safety Car was deployed, as Tsunoda’s race ended in the wall exiting the pitlane which gave Sainz the break he needed to pit for fresh rubber.
Behind the safety car, the top half dozen were VER-SAI-HAM-RUS-OCO-ALO with Leclerc, who pitted earlier up to seventh.
The top four on hards, the Alpines on Softs as well as Leclerc and Bottas behind him. The field was unleashed again on lap 55 for a 15-lap shootout.
Verstappen scurried off as he hit the final Wall of Champions complex, Sainz was wise to him and began his charge, constantly in DRS range and putting immense pressure on the reigning World Champion but the Ferrari lacked the legs to make the race-winning move.
Behind them, Hamilton had the best seats in the house behind the battling duo, with Russell behind him and Leclerc gobbling up the Alpines to take fifth with Ocon sixth ahead of Alonso seventh; Alfa Romeo drivers Bottas and Zhou, with the final point going to Stroll.
Out of the points, McLaren had a forgettable weekend as their slide down the pecking order continues, neither Daniel Ricciardo nor Lando Norris was worth a mention as they hardly played a role in today’s race; the team was sloppy in Montreal and the results showed.