Max Verstappen Holds Off Carlos Sainz Jr. To Win Canadian GP

·4 min read
Photo credit: Mario Renzi - Formula 1 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mario Renzi - Formula 1 - Getty Images

Carlos Sainz Jr. has been waiting a long, long time to get a shot at a season in a race-winning F1 car. He left Toro Rosso when it became clear he had no real avenue to fight for wins at Red Bull Racing. In his stints at Renault and McLaren, the teams that had won championships in the 2000s were well off the pace. In his first year at Ferrari, the team was still racing a variant of their 2020 car that was their worst in two decades. This year, though, he's finally racing in a car that teammate Charles Leclerc has taken to race wins. Bad luck and on-track mistakes have kept him from contending on his own, but that finally changed today. Unfortunately for Sainz, he left his first battle for a race win the same way he came in: With another career high finish of second and the dream of F1 wins forced to wait for another day.

As expected, pole sitter Max Verstappen made quick work of second-place Fernando Alonso on the start of today's race. It seemed like it would be Verstappen's day with relative ease, but he pitted during the day's first virtual safety car and was instantly put onto a two-stop strategy. Carlos Sainz Jr., meanwhile, waited until the second virtual safety car to make his own stop and was able to plan for what could be a one-stop strategy. With 30 to go, Sainz was closing in on Verstappen and had forced the championship leader to cede the lead and chase him down on track with fresher tires instead.

Then, Yuki Tsunoda crashed while exiting the pit lane. A full safety car created an opportunity for Sainz to pit for his own set of fresh tires and still restart directly behind Verstappen. Although mediums would have created a better opportunity for Sainz to make a pass, they would have required Sainz to defend against Verstappen near the end of the stint. So, Ferrari chose to put Sainz out on slightly fresher hard tires, like the ones Verstappen had thrown on a few laps earlier.

That set up long duel to close the race. Sainz, in the Ferrari, had the fresher tires and the advantage of DRS. Verstappen's Red Bull had been slightly faster in a single lap all race, just enough to negate the slight tire wear advantage. His bigger advantage was the Red Bull's inherent straight line advantage, however. Verstappen had shown on many occasions this season that the Red Bull will make quick work of a leading Ferrari in a straight line with DRS. Sainz, however, could only get enough out of DRS to get back to Verstappen's rear wing at the end of every straight. Sainz stayed with Verstappen for the entire 15 lap closing stint, but he never got within striking distance. Verstappen would go on to win his sixth race of the season.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, who ran opposite strategies, outran the Alpines to finish third and fourth. Charles Leclerc recovered to fifth after starting from the back of the grid, while Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso's once-promising races ended in sixth and seventh for an Alpine team that briefly seemed ready to fight for a podium. Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu, and Lance Stroll completed the points-scorers. Sergio Perez and Mick Schumacher both retired with engine problems.

With six wins in nine races, Verstappen remains the clear championship favorite. Leclerc did well to fight his way up to fifth in a Ferrari that had struggled in traffic all day, but Verstappen has added another 15 points to his championship lead and now leads Leclerc by 49 points. Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez remains a few points ahead of Leclerc, too. If they want to stay in this championship fight, Ferrari will need to find a lot of speed over the Summer.

Formula 1 has just one week off before returning to Europe for the British Grand Prix in early July. That will be a major race for teams introducing new components to their cars.

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