Verstappen survives late Safety Car to beat Sainz to Canadian GP victory
Max Verstappen claimed his fifth win in the last six races at the 2022 Canadian Grand Prix, withstanding a late onslaught from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton took his second podium of the season in P3.
Verstappen was looking well-placed for a comfortable victory over Sainz at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve when a Safety Car was called on Lap 49 of 70, after Yuki Tsunoda hit the Turn 2 barriers after exiting the pits.
Racing resumed with 16 laps remaining, Verstappen holding off the attacks of the fresher-tyred Sainz to claim his sixth victory of the season, and his 26th overall, as Sainz took his fifth podium of the year – although the Spaniard’s wait for his first victory continues.
Hamilton had been scathing in his assessment of the Mercedes W13 on Friday, but the car looked handy on race day in Canada, as the seven-time champion completed the podium, his first rostrum appearance since the Bahrain season opener.
George Russell backed up his team mate in P4, while Charles Leclerc was able to recover to P5 for Ferrari, having started 19th after a raft of power unit element changes.
FORMULA 1 AWS GRAND PRIX DU CANADA 2022
|1 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||1:36:21.757||25|
|2 Carlos Sainz SAI Ferrari||+0.993s||19|
|3 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes||+7.006s||15|
|4 George Russell RUS Mercedes||+12.313s||12|
|5 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||+15.168s||10|
Despite starting P2 after a sensational qualifying on Saturday, Fernando Alonso finished a frustrated P7 behind his Alpine team mate Esteban Ocon, as Valtteri Bottas led home his Alfa Romeo team mate Zhou Guanyu for P8, Zhou taking his second-ever points score. Home hero Lance Stroll rounded out the top 10 for Aston Martin.
A slow stop for Daniel Ricciardo contributed to him finishing just outside the points in P11 for McLaren, ahead of the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel, with Alex Albon taking 13th for Williams.
Pierre Gasly encountered problems early on and was left to come home 14th for AlphaTauri, ahead of McLaren's Lando Norris – who also had a slow stop – Williams' Nicholas Latifi and Haas's Kevin Magnussen, the Dane dropping from P5 on the grid to P17 after a tough day in Canada.
Tsunoda was joined by Haas's Mick Schumacher and Red Bull's Sergio Perez in the retirements category, both Schumacher and Perez pulling up at Turn 8 early doors with technical issues.
For Verstappen, though, there were no such problems, as he further stretched his lead at the top of the standings, with what was only his second ever Montreal podium.
AS IT HAPPENED
Saturday may have witnessed a deluge at the historic Circuit Gilles Villeneuve – but that had made way for clear skies and a balmy 20-degree heat by Sunday, with the track temperatures up in the low 40s. A perfect day for racing, in short.
Fernando Alonso told the media after his fantastic P2 in qualifying yesterday that he wanted to lead the opening lap of the race. Max Verstappen knew, though, that with Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari starting P3, conceding position to Alonso would have been disastrous – and the Dutchman refused to let it happen, nailing the start to quickly ease into a solid lead over the Alpine.
Behind, it was a polite opening tour from the drivers, Mick Schumacher losing out from a career-best qualifying position of P6, as he was quickly demoted by Esteban Ocon and George Russell to P8 – Russell’s team mate Lewis Hamilton having a side-by-side moment with Haas’s Kevin Magnussen, causing wing damage to the Dane that brought out a black-and-orange flag that forced him into a pit stop.
At the front, Sainz was finally able to clear Alonso on Lap 3 and set off after Verstappen. But Verstappen’s team mate Sergio Perez would cause early drama, the Mexican pulling up on Lap 8 with what Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner felt was a gearbox issue, Perez retiring after an unhappy couple of days in Canada.
The resulting Virtual Safety Car allowed Verstappen to pit to swap from medium to hards, emerging P3 as Sainz and Alonso stayed out, Verstappen joined by Hamilton, Tsunoda and Latifi in taking a cheap pit stop.
Verstappen was past Alonso on Lap 15 for P2 – while another Virtual Safety Car was called for after the luckless Schumacher pulled up in the same spot as Perez on Lap 20, allowing Sainz, Russell, Zhou, Ocon, Vettel and the two McLarens of Ricciardo and Norris to box.
It was a disastrous pit stop for the papaya team, though, who were slow with Ricciardo, while trying to double stack only worsened the problem, Norris’s tyres not ready as he sat helpless in the car, eventually emerging P18 and last.
Lap 21 and Charles Leclerc was up to P7 after a sweet pass on Valtteri Bottas’s Alfa Romeo into Turn 13, the championship protagonist having started P19 after taking penalties for power unit changes, with Leclerc opting not to pit under either VSC after starting on the hards.
The Monegasque wasn’t calm in the cockpit however, as he complained of a lack of grip, Ferrari having trimmed the rear wing off his car to improve his straight-line speed.
With team mate Sainz having pitted under the second VSC, by Lap 25 of 70 the order was Verstappen from Sainz and Hamilton – the pair having passed the non-stopping Alonso on Laps 22 and 23 – Alonso fourth ahead of Russell. Verstappen’s lead was a comfortable 8s, while Alpine eventually pulled Alonso in on Lap 28, emerging behind Leclerc in P7.
The halfway point was reached on Lap 35, the field spread out as Verstappen led Sainz by 8s, who was himself 8s clear of Hamilton in third – Russell a further 10s back ahead of Ocon, who was hemming in the Ferrari of an increasingly frustrated Leclerc, with Alonso and Bottas rounding out the top eight. Behind, an exciting battle was brewing between Stroll, Zhou, Tsunoda and the recovering Ricciardo scrapping over P9.
Tyre degradation was now the buzzword. Only Leclerc, Stroll and Bottas were yet to stop, while those who’d stopped under the Lap 8 VSC were starting to puzzle over whether they could make it to the end, or whether another stop would be required.
Verstappen, his lead having been trimmed to around 6s over Sainz, was sounding edgy about his rubber. Red Bull called him in for stop two on Lap 43, emerging side by side with his 2021 title rival Hamilton, who helped his former foe onto the Turn 2 run-off, before Verstappen quickly passed him back for P2, Hamilton then immediately pitting himself, quickly followed by Russell a lap later.
Leclerc had finally been allowed to pit on Lap 41, but a slow stop dropped him behind that Stroll-Zhou-Tsunoda-Ricciardo fight, adding to the Monegasque’s irksome afternoon thus far – although with fresh rubber he at least made short work of those drivers.
Tsunoda was called into the pits on Lap 47. But as the Japanese driver emerged on cold hard tyres, he appeared to carry too much speed and simply careened straight into the Turn 2 wall, an embarrassing error that brought out a Safety Car. That worked out nicely for Sainz, who was able to take a cheap stop and keep hold into P2 – Sainz joined in the pits by the double-stacking Alpines of Ocon and Alonso, the double-stacking Alfas of Bottas and Zhou, plus Ricciardo and Albon.
Green-flag racing got under way again on Lap 55, Verstappen having weaved all the way down the back straight right up until Turn 13 before bolting away. Verstappen quickly tried to pull a gap to Sainz as he desperately sought to escape DRS range, Sainz being kept honest by Hamilton, who was showing a decent turn of pace in a Mercedes W13 that he’d been extremely unhappy with in Friday’s dry running.
Sainz had scented blood, though, and lap after lap he parried against his former Toro Rosso team mate. It would be to no avail, though, Sainz trying everything but ultimately failing to stop Verstappen, who swept across the line at the end of Lap 70 for his sixth win of the season. It was also his fifth in the last six races, while Red Bull have won the last six Grands Prix – something they’ve only done once before, back in 2013 when Vettel won nine on the bounce.
Sainz may not have taken that elusive first win, but after a tough start to 2022, the Spaniard was buoyed by his strong race pace in Canada. So too was Hamilton, as he took third place, matching his best finish of the season at a track he adores, and showing a clean pair of heels to team mate Russell in P4 – who at least maintained his record of finishing in the top five in the opening nine races this year. ‘Mr Consistency’ indeed.
Leclerc limited the damage in his title ambitions by eventually recovering to P5 as Perez failed to score, Leclerc leading home the Alpine pair of Ocon and Alonso – Alonso pleading to be allowed past his team mate in the closing moments of the race, as he told Alpine he had been “100 times faster this weekend”. It was Ocon, however, who’d take Alpine’s joint-best finish of the year.
The Mercedes and Alpines were line astern in the classification, and so too were the Alfa Romeos, Bottas recovering from failing to make it out of Q2 to take P8, one place up on Zhou Guanyu, as Lance Stroll gave the home fans something to cheer about with a hard-earned point for P10.
McLaren will have some head-scratching to do after a trying weekend saw them finish outside the points, Ricciardo in P11 and Norris in a disconsolate P15. Vettel was 12th ahead of Albon and Gasly – who’d had to lift-and-coast to manage a technical issue early on – with Latifi and Magnussen rounding out the order. After starting fifth, Magnussen had been unable to recover from that early pit stop that ruined Haas’s chance of taking points – the team having now not done so since Imola.
So it’s Verstappen who tightens his grip on the lead of the standings, Verstappen now 46 clear of team mate Perez, Leclerc a further three behind – with Silverstone next up.
The key quote
“The safety car didn’t help!” joked race winner Verstappen after the race. “It was really exciting at the end, I mean I was giving it everything I had, of course Carlos was doing the same. Following is tricky around here, but I could see he was pushing, charging, pushing. But of course naturally when you’re on the DRS it’s a bit easier to charge. So, yeah, the last few laps were a lot of fun!”
F1 is back in two weeks’ time, as we head to British Grand Prix at Silverstone, the venue that hosted the very first Grand Prix 72 years ago. Last year saw controversy after Verstappen and Hamilton collided. What will the 2022 British Grand Prix serve up, as the drivers get set to tackle the fast, flowing track in Formula 1’s new breed of machines.