Red Bull’s Max Verstappen held off a charging Carlos Sainz to clinch victory in the Canadian Grand Prix, further extending his championship lead with Red Bull’s sixth win in a row.
A late safety car put the former teammates together on the track for the final 16 laps in Montréal but despite Sainz’s pressure, the Dutchman held on to win his 26th F1 Grand Prix.
Verstappen said after the race: “The safety car didn’t help; overall Ferrari were very quick. The last few laps were very fun!”
Verstappen, 24, now has a 46-point advantage over teammate Sergio Perez at the top of the championship standings, after the Mexican retired early in the race.
Sainz’s fifth career second-place finish is a welcome tonic for his season, which has been marred by errors and failures to finish.
Lewis Hamilton scored his second podium finish of the season completing the podium in third place, beating teammate George Russell for the first time since the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Red Bull’s grip on the lead of the Constructor’s Championship loosed slightly thanks to the Perez DNF, as Ferrari double scored with Charles Leclerc recovering from the back of the grid to fifth place.
Leclerc, who retired from the previous race in Baku, started on the back row after taking extra power-unit elements which incurred a penalty.
There were also double points for Alpine and Alfa Romeo, with home driver Lance Stroll collecting the final point in 10th.
Verstappen wins but it was far from easy
It may be another pole position converted into victory for 2021 world champion Max Verstappen but his race was turned on its head by the retirement of his team mate Sergio Perez on Lap 9, which brought out a Virtual Safety Car (VSC).
Verstappen pitted for fresh hards, a choice which Team Principal Christian Horner described as “the best way to the end of the race,” while Ferrari kept Carlos Sainz out, who had moved ahead of fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso, who had started second.
Sainz extended his opening stint on the mediums as his Dutch rival edged closer on fresh tyres, before pitting on Lap 22 under a second VSC, caused by the stoppage of Mick Schumacher’s Haas.
With a significant tyre offset, Sainz set about chasing down the Red Bull and was able to reduce the lead which had been 9.5 seconds to under six when Verstappen stopped again on Lap 44.
On Lap 49, Yuki Tsunoda’s Alpha Tauri crashed when exiting the pit lane, bringing out a full safety car, which allowed Sainz to pit for fresh rubber and re-join on the Dutch drivers tail.
Once released, Verstappen tried to get out of the one second DRS window to get away from Sainz, but the Spaniard was relentless in his pursuit.
“Max just couldn’t break the DRS – the Ferrari was quick in a straight line,” said Horner, who also said that Verstappen had radio communication issues.
Verstappen had just enough to keep the Ferrari at bay and hung on to secure his sixth victory of 2022, strengthening his championship lead.
Leclerc recovers to fifth from the back
Charles Leclerc recovered to fifth from his 19th place grid, after his penalty for exceeding the allotted number of power-unit elements.
The 24-year-old gained a couple of early places but made slow progress on the hard compound tyres, finding himself stuck behind the Williams of Alexander Albon and Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas.
Leclerc’s race was a long-term play considering his starting tyre choice but it took a while for Bottas to pass the Williams.
When the Finn did eventually get by, the Monegasque wasted no time passing Albon at the very next corner.
As Leclerc’s strategy brought him further forward, he closed on the Alpine of Esteban Ocon, which proved to be a tough nut to crack.
Alpine had shown superb straight-line speed again, meaning the winner of two races this year was not able to pass until after the safety car period.
Leclerc had dropped behind both Alpine’s having boxed ahead of the safety car, while Ocon and Fernando Alonso stopped while the safety car was out on track.
The Ferrari driver pulled two neat overtakes on the French team’s drivers at the turn 10 hairpin, to much delight of the mass of Ferrari fans in the grandstands.
Leclerc has lost a further 15-points to Verstappen in the title fight, falling to 49-points adrift, but surviving a potentially chaotic race with a points finish is a decent save.
Mercedes show race pace
“Before the safety car came out, we were quicker than Sainz,” said Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff.
The Silver Arrows were impressively fast at times in this race, with the bouncing at a minimum as their drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell brought home a second consecutive third and fourth finish.
Hamilton, who at one point on Friday called the car “undrivable”, moved ahead of Alpine’s Alonso and ran third for much of the race, having followed a very similar strategy to race winner Verstappen.
Before the safety car, Hamilton was able to match Verstappen’s pace, as the pair were setting fastest sectors and laps with ease.
Speaking about his third place, Hamilton said: “We’re getting closer and it’s overwhelming to get this third place. Honestly, I’m ecstatic.”
Formula 1’s most successful driver had been beaten in all of the last seven races by new team mate George Russell, but was able to arrest that run with a strong weekend in Canada.
Russell could have started higher than his eighth place, but his choice to try slicks on a drying track failed on Saturday.
24-year-old Russell eased by both Haas cars and Ocon early on and managed his race maturely to follow his team mate over the line, securing more important championship points for Mercedes.