The Canadian Grand Prix was done and dusted at Montreal as the 9th round came to a close. Max Verstappen took victory ahead of a chasing Carlos Sainz, after a tense late race battle between these front runners.
Lewis Hamilton took the final step of the podium after his team capitalised on the porpoising clampdowns by the FIA. His teammate George Russell, maintaining his record of a top 5 finish in every race this season, finished P4. Charles Leclerc curated a significant magnitude of damage limitation after starting at the back of the grid, having taken an engine penalty and finishing P5.
Both the Alfa Romeos finished in the points with Alonso and Stroll rounding up the top 10.
As it happened at the Canadian GP:
Max Verstappen got an incredible start off the line, yet Alonso not having a similar fortune. Sainz on the second row got a brilliant run down to turn 1 while Kevin Magnussen was looking to make a move on Lewis Hamilton into turn 2. The Haas and Mercedes did have the slightest of contacts; the latter emerging unscathed but the former suffering from a broken front wing end-plate.
Having been assured of no performance fall off, the no. 20 Haas continued until it was shown the black and orange flag. This meant the Dane had to pit the next lap for a new front wing, thus losing track position, dropping down to plum last.
A quiet few laps later, the first yellow flag (subsequently a virtual safety car) was brought out on lap 8 when Sergio Perez stalled by the track with an apparent transmission problem. This meant there was about to be a spree of teams pitting for a “cheap” pit stop. Surprisingly enough, not a lot of teams did so, only Verstappen among the front runners coming in for hard slicks. Hamilton also pit during this opportunity, which would end up helping him by the end of the race.
On track battles at the Canadian GP were aplenty, as there was a four-way contest being waged between Leclerc-Norris-Bottas-Albon for P10. Having made up 6 places from the start, Leclerc looked set for some easy overtakes, but was only stuck behind a DRS train of the cars in front.
In addition to that, with Mick Schumacher duked it out against Zhou Guanyu for a while, before the former came to a halt at the same place Perez did. This was yet again another opportunity snatched from Schumacher’s hands in scoring his first F1 points.
Zhou meanwhile went on to have his fair share of track action with homeboy Lance Stroll, with the Chinese driver trying to overtake the Canadian on multiple instances but to no avail.
Around lap 40, having pit for Medium tires, Leclerc now had a lot of ground to make up for, which he sure did. In a matter of a few laps, the Ferrari driver had already put Ricciardo, Tsunoda and Guanyu in his rear view mirrors.
Soon after, Tsunoda brought out the safety car as he lost it into the barriers coming out of the pit lane. But this had played right into Ferrari’s hands as they were now able to pit Carlos Sainz (running 2nd at that moment) for a cheap pit-stop. Emerging out of the pit lane again right behind Verstappen, Sainz had his eyes set on the victory with the pack all bunched up.
Green flag conditions resumed on lap 54, with Verstappen nailing the restart. Sainz did not have the worst of starts, but was no match for the sheer pace of that Red Bull engine. The top 2 tried their might out for the better part of the last 15 laps. Sainz was mostly within the DRS range of Max, with the Spaniard waiting for his prey to make even one mistake for him to take advantage of it.
Meanwhile Charles Leclerc made up two places over the Alpines and up to P5, with Alonso not being able to fight for anything due to an engine issue.
It came as close as 0.2sec on one lap between the frontrunners, but the flawless Red Bull yet again managed to keep the Ferrari at bay. The final few laps of the Canadian GP was as tense as it could get with Sainz repeatedly trying to make his moves on defending world champion with laps on end.
In the end, it was the Dutchman who came out on top at Montreal while Carlos Sainz had to settle for 2nd place once again. The top 2 were separated by a mere second over the line! Lewis Hamilton took the chequered at P3 with him being audibly happy with his team’s performance.
(Alonso initially finished 7th but a final lap penalty due to him weaving while defending against Bottas meant he was dropped down to P9).
Post-Race Analysis of the Canadian GP:
If it wasn’t clear already, Max Verstappen seems to be the driver who’s grasped the championship well enough into his hands. His obvious challenger is Charles Leclerc, and today’s drive from P19 to P5 meant the Scuderia made good progress in terms of points, yet the Dutchman and the Monegasque are currently separated by a massive 49 points valley. In hindsight, Verstappen’s current championship contender is Sergio Perez, whose race didn’t even last more than 8 laps today.
While Max delivers consistently at the front, eking out a lead of pure domination, it is as if the defending world champion has fully set sights into defending his crown. Mechanical failures aside, this man done little wrong this season.
Charles Leclerc, on the other hand, is a driver who has a tendency to falter under pressure; a characteristic one needs the least when fighting for the championship. His teammate hasn’t been helping him out either, with Sainz only having occasional good races such as today. Ferrari took a new power unit for Leclerc, dropping him to P19, but it sure was a very good recovery drive for the Monegasque to P5 at the Canadian GP. After all, even half a point matters in the championship.
Winners of the Canadian GP:
Speaking of winners, here are the ones who are taking home the most positives:
- Ferrari: Yes, they did not win the race, but it still was a very good limitation of damage from the team. Sainz ended up challenging for the win but his F1-75 could not give him the pace despite his commendable effort. On the other hand, Charles Leclerc gathered enough points after starting at the back of the grid. Overall, a 29-points haul from the weekend meant the Italians triumphed over the championship leader this weekend.
- Mercedes: Coming right off the bat in a weekend where both of its drivers were utterly disappointed at their cars, finishing on the podium as well as a P4 is just a tremendous improvement. Visually, the W13’s porpoising had lessened slightly on race day, and the drivers made sure they capitalised on that. Mercedes are just making sure they gather up points slowly and steadily with still being the only team with zero DNFs this season.
- Alfa Romeo: Again recovering from a relatively poor weekend, both Alfas ended up in the points with a 7-8 finish. Zhou Guanyu finally had a respite from his woes as he scored points after a very strong race against the midfield drivers.
- Lastly, Aston Martin. Although practice sessions provided a little glimmer of hope that Sebastian Vettel might be a real challenger with his Aston Martin, qualifying pace was nowhere to be seen with both cars out in Q1. But come Sunday, both of its drivers recovered well, with Lance Stroll finishing 10th and nabbing a point in his home race while teammate Vettel crossing the line at 12th.
You can’t really call Red Bull team winners, as they had one driver not even finishing the race. But Max Verstappen on the other hand drove an otherwise flawless drive, making as less of mistakes as possible. The RB18 was practically “untouchable” at Montreal, and this will surely be one of the things the team would like to carry forward onto coming weekends.
Losers of the Canadian GP:
And as for the losers of the weekend, here are the clear ones:
- Red Bull. Yes, the winning team should be considered as one of the biggest losers of the Grand Prix. Sergio Perez did not even get the chance to fight for a recovery after his botched qualifying the day before, and had to retire due to absolutely no fault of his own on race day. A transmission failure meant he Mexican gathered zero points, and Red Bull themselves losing out on a huge chunk of crucial points. (Although it is worth nothing, RB currently holds a 76 point lead over the Scarlet Scuderia)
- Haas finished 17th and DNF, but it is surely a shocker when you realise they had started the race 5th and 6th! Magnussen’s first lap tangle with Hamilton rendered a broken front wing while Schumacher’s car gave away mid race. The German looked set for his first F1 points finish when disaster struck once again, with the Dane’s race pretty much done for after another miss-timed pit stop.
- Alpine: Alonso had his best qualifying in almost a decade, starting on the front row. After a terrible start, he was only seen fighting at the front a pathetically short while. Although both cars finished in points, the results could have been a LOT better. Some “straight line issue” kept Alonso from overtaking any further, and to add fuel to fire, a 5 second time penalty on the final lap meant Alonso finished 9th while his teammate 6th. Poor strategy calls and diminishing pace contributing their parts to a lacklustre performance.
- McLaren: The team that seemed to be on the uptick last weekend, they were again nowhere to be found this time around. McLaren’s weekends have been more of a hit-and-miss all over with they being able to perform better only in certain speed heavy tracks (like Baku last week) but not in tracks that involve slow speed corners (like Montreal).
While Red Bull currently seems set on both championships, it is high time Ferrari bounce and answer back with their full might. All the teams have been plagued with reliability issues all over the grid (except Mercedes, but they have had their fair share of woes, even). So teams surely need to keep that in priority along with making their cars faster.
Almost all the teams will be bringing upgrade packages to the next Grand Prix at Silverstone, UK. In two weeks we shall again be treated to some great F1 action, that too at such a fabulous track! (We all know what Silverstone can show for….)