Max Verstappen has always promised that he can win a world championship with the means at hand. Last year he snatched the title but his Canadian Grand Prix victory for Red Bull was proof of his appearance in any position to now win multiple championships.
He had never won at Gilles Villeneuve before, but he dominated the race with a dominant and confident drive reminiscent of the great champions, including a late attack from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz who finished second. The victory boosted Verstappen’s lead over his third Ferrari rival in the world championship, Charles Leclerc, to 49 points.
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished third and fourth for Mercedes in a performance that will give the team a real boost. Third place was Hamilton’s best result this season. The seven-time hero’s big smile and joy at having a good ride under him were palpable, clearly energized by a real sense of being part of the fight. “It feels great today to be in the midst of a fight,” he said. “For a second it was all about keeping up with the guys up front. It gave me and the team a lot of hope that this car could become even more.”
There is reason for optimism at Mercedes because they have shown excellent speed in the race and match well the times of Ferrari and Red Bull. They may still dare to fight for victory in the next race at Silverstone.
However, it was Verstappen who showed the stadium how difficult it is to catch him this season. After a great lap in wet conditions to take the pole, another master class of control followed, sometimes under heavy pressure. The 24-year-old’s title win in Abu Dhabi last year may have been controversial, but his qualifications as a world champion then and especially now are undeniable. This is his sixth win of the season in nine races and after that he has shown the relaxed demeanor of exactly what he wants to be.
“I was in full swing and pushed myself to the limit. I knew I could make a mistake, the pressure was always there.” “It was a real race, a real push. It was really on edge and it was good to see that.”
Verstappen helped through the Ferrari reliability issues that have plagued Leclerc recently. Here was the case for Leclerc doing his best to minimize damage from the start 19 after the penalties for the engine change started. This was always a tough day and he’s back in fifth place. Not quite what he had hoped for as Ferrari left him behind Esteban Ocon for so long. The Scuderia now urgently needs to be given a car they can rely on to challenge and sharpen their decision-making if they are to start reclaiming Verstappen’s leadership.
The world champion has shown his intent right from the start. Verstappen made a great start from pole position, fending off a threat from Fernando Alonso, who was next to him in the front row, while Hamilton retained fourth. Then Sainz overtook Alonso to finish second on lap three.
Verstappen quickly opened a gap, three seconds ahead of Sainz on lap eight. The pit stop after an early virtual safety car when Sergio Perez went off the track on lap nine after a gearbox problem. Verstappen and Hamilton stopped but Ferrari passed Sainz to take the lead. The race resumed with Verstappen now behind Sainz and Alonso but he quickly passed the latter on lap 16 to finish second, showing his commitment to new rubber with a series of fastest laps.
In a race dictated by his control, a flawless execution cycle was decisive and he showed no cracks in the armor. Sainz ran under second VSC and Verstappen took the lead again, the Dutchman had already opened a lap 20 lead, nine seconds ahead of Sainz. Verstappen was calm up front and reacted swiftly every time the Spaniard came close. He stopped for a second time on lap 44 and Sainz now led Verstappen by nine seconds with Ferrari trying to break down.
However, on lap 49, a safety car was called and Ferrari took the opportunity to stop free for Sainz who finished second. I left a sprint to finish between the two on similar rubber.
Verstappen restarted after 15 laps and tried to regain his power. Sainz refused to bow and remained within the DRS range. He kept closing in, but Verstappen kept his cool and perfect streak. Sainz chased after him hard but the Dutchman was brilliant at seeing the pressure to take the flag.
The season still has a long way to go, but in Montreal Verstappen showed form that is more than ready to disappear over the horizon. Capturing him now would be a feat.
Alpines Ocon was sixth and teammate Alonso was ninth. Valtteri Bottas and teammate Juanio Zhou finished seventh and eighth for Alfa Romeo and Lance Stroll tenth for Aston Martin.