Montreal Takeaways: How to stop the Dutch trailblazer?

Montreal Takeaways: How to stop the Dutch trailblazer?

Max Verstappen won again in Montreal, rubbing more salt into Charles Leclerc’s wounds as the latter must now be wondering how to stop the Dutch trailblazer.

We definitely missed racing in Montreal, and once Formula 1 returned there, we realized how much we loved watching F1 cars race around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

It was an exciting weekend overall, despite the Wall of Champions not claiming any victims this time – just some minor brushes – but the rain provided us with a thrilling qualifying, with some unexpected outcomes – Fernando Alonso qualifying second.

As for the race, it was a somehow wearisome, had it not been for the two Virtual Safety Cars – that mixed the strategies up a bit – and the actual one towards the end, which made things a little interesting as Carlos Sainz attempted to overtake Max Verstappen over the space of 15 laps.

However, the Spaniard’s maiden win is yet to be realized, while Verstappen took a commanding win, his second in a row, while his Title rival Charles Leclerc had to settle for fifth having started from the back of the grid following his power unit penalty.

Apart from racing, the FIA’s decision to reduce “porpoising” offered off-track entertainment with team bosses spewing some really interesting arguments, each to his own convenience of course.

I am not sure the word “entertainment” fits well here, as this ongoing debate is becoming quite frivolous, with the prospect of it going on for some time a cause of concern and frustration.

Now to our Takeaways from the Canadian Grand Prix.

A win worthy of a 150th race

Considering how young Max is, one could struggle to get his head around the fact that he already has 150 grands prix under his belt, Canada being the 150th.

And he marked this milestone with one of his best performances ever, as he was confident from the word go. Such was his confidence that he barely did any running in the rain hit FP3, but come qualifying, he was in imperious form, bagging pole by over six tenths from Fernando Alonso.

His race performance was faultless, and while Red Bull’s strategy might not have been perfect, coupled with the ill-timed Safety Car towards the end of the race made things a tad more difficult, the reigning World Champion handled the pressure well, fending off Sainz for the win.

Verstappen now has six wins so far, and the gap he has built up to now may prove crucial as the season progresses,

Don’t forget that Red Bull are vocal about this year’s $ 140-Million budget cap being not enough with inflation levels, and this suggests that they are in trouble and may need to hold back on updates going forward, so maximizing the results now will be very important in Verstappen’s Title defense campaign.

Also don’t forget that at one point Verstappen was over 40 points down on Leclerc following his DNF’s in Bahrain and Australia. Now it is the other way around, and nothing guarantees another switch of of fortunes.

Every point counts, and Verstappen is making sure he collects the most he can, unlike Charles Leclerc; which brings me to my second Takeaway.

Charles Leclerc’s predicament

Leclerc’s entered the Canadian weekend on the back foot after his DNF in Baku, and the announcement that his power unit was written off.

Now it made sense to take an extra unit in Canada with the consequent grid penalty as the track promotes overtaking with three DRS zones, and that’s what Ferrari did.

But Leclerc got stuck in one DRS train in the first stint, and Ferrari made sure he got stuck in another after botching his pitstop, meaning fifth place was the best the Monegasque could achieve.

Fourth, a target that Leclerc set before the race, might have been quite possible on the day, but luck still seems to be evading the Ferrari ace. Until when no one knows, but with a season so long, things are bound to turn around at some point.

The problem for Leclerc is that he has to worry about the consistent George Russell, only 15 points behind him, while Verstappen is 49 points up the road.

If he keeps hemorrhaging points, and rather than try to catch up with Verstappen, Leclerc will soon have to worry about fending off Russell, Mercedes’ lean mean point-scoring machine.

Mercedes seemed decent in Canada and are planning a major upgrade for Silverstone next, so if – I can’t stress enough on the “if” – they somehow sort the W13, Leclerc might be in trouble.

Alonso’s fall from grace in Montreal

Let’s not be under any illusions that Fernando Alonso had a shot at winning the race in Montreal on Sunday, but going from second to seventh was painful.

The post race five-second penalty throwing him back to ninth just added insult to injury.

Alonso showed his worth and experience during qualifying in mixed conditions to take second behind Verstappen, on a day when drivers like Sergio Perez ended up in the barriers.

There was so much Alonso could do with a Ferrari and two Mercedes hunting him down, without Alpine messing up his strategy, choosing not to pit him under the Virtual Safety Cars’ periods.

The engine troubles which hit the #14 Alpine were just the final nail in the coffin of Alonso’s race.

The old man still has it, but for how long?

His A522 is a handy piece of kit, but nowhere near close to fighting for wins and Championships, and by the time Alpine deliver a race-winning car – if they deliver one – will Alonso be at the same performance level?

Another case of being in the right place at the wrong time for the Spaniard…

Quick Hits

  • Not to take anything away from Carlos Sainz who delivered a strong race in Canada, but one can’t help but wonder how things would’ve panned out had it been Charles Leclerc chasing Verstappen in those final 15 laps.
  • Another under-the-radar impressive performance from Zhou Guanyu, scoring points for Alfa Romeo for the second time this season. Impressive stuff from the Chinese rookie.
  • A pity Mick Schumacher couldn’t capitalize on his qualifying performance. I was looking forward to seeing how he would manage during the race, but Ferrari’s power unit had other plans.
  • Ricciardo continued his slow improvement in Canada, but McLaren continue their slow decline.
  • Aston Martin’s qualifying! What was that?
  • Yuki Tsunoda’s crash… Really?!!

Finally my tweet from the Canadian Grand Prix weekend: