Montreal (AFP) – World champion Max Verstappen extended his lead in this year’s Formula 1 title chase on Sunday when he rode his Red Bull to a thrilling victory in a hotly contested Canadian Grand Prix.
The 24-year-old Dutchman controlled a tactical race from pole position with three safety car interventions and withstood intense late pressure from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz to win by less than a second.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who declared his car “undriveable” on Friday, came in third for Mercedes to claim his second podium of a difficult season ahead of team-mate George Russell in fourth.
It was Verstappen’s first Canadian victory in his 150th career start, his sixth this year and the 26th of his career, lifting him to 46 points clear of his championship rivals.
“I gave it my all,” Verstappen said. “But Carlos too. He was pushing, charging, pushing, charging. Naturally, it’s easier to charge with the DRS! I had fun today.”
Sainz said: “We were faster, faster the whole race, but it’s hard to overtake here. I’m particularly happy with the race pace and the pressure we put on Max.”
Hamilton, a record seven-time winner in Montreal, cheered the large crowd – part of a weekend attendance of 338,000 – and said he was “overwhelmed to get third place.” It was quite a battle, but we never gave up. ‘ve been inspired by my crew.”
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who started from the back of the grid after picking up a penalty for a new engine, finished fifth ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon.
Valtteri Bottas and his Alfa Romeo team-mate Zhou Guanyu were then promoted to seventh and eighth after Fernando Alonso in an Alpine was penalized five seconds for defending against Bottas.
The Spaniard slipped to ninth with Lance Stroll 10th for Aston Martin.
After Saturday’s deluge, the race started with a mixed “wet” grid – with Leclerc, Perez and several others out of their normal racing positions – as Verstappen got off to a strong start from his 15th pole position to take control .
Behind him Kevin Magnussen made a blistering start from fifth to challenge Hamilton, but the Briton fought back and held on to fourth as the order settled in, Russell making his move early to pass Mick Schumacher for seventh square.
“I lost the engine”
On lap three, Sainz passed Alonso, who had been unable to deliver the attacking start he had promised, to take second place and begin his pursuit of Verstappen.
Perez suffered bad luck on lap nine when, struggling in midfield after starting 13th, his Red Bull lost practice at turn 13.
“I lost the engine, man,” he told the team as a virtual safety car (VSC) was deployed and Verstappen and Hamilton pulled to a quick stop to switch from medium to hard.
Seeking his first F1 win, Sainz cleared up front as Verstappen passed Alonso, with a DRS move, to take second place on lap 18.
A second VSC on lap 20, when Schumacher pulled over and retired at turn 13 after his highest grid position of sixth. It appeared that his Haas car had suffered a power failure.
Sainz also pitted, joining third place ahead of Hamilton – with Verstappen back in the lead ahead of Alonso, who didn’t pit.
Alpine’s reluctance to pit Alonso, still on his original mids, allowed Hamilton to make an easy pass for third on lap 25.
The two-time champion finally arrived after 29 laps and joined eighth behind Leclerc, who was struggling on old tires to overtake Ocon.
At halfway, Verstappen led Sainz by 7.5 seconds with Hamilton third, a further nine seconds adrift.
A lap later, Verstappen made his second stop, emerging just behind Hamilton who pitted again on lap 45, giving Russell third place, briefly, before he too entered.
Sainz led again, 7.5 seconds ahead of Verstappen, with 20 laps to go when Yuki Tsunoda crashed his Alpha Tauri at turn two and a full safety car was deployed.
Sainz stopped, followed by the Alpines and Bottas, all opting for mediums.
Verstappen retook the lead but faced a close fight with the Spaniard when action resumed, after a 10-minute delay, with a final dash to the flag.
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