Verstappen rebounds to win a thriller in mixed Canadian weather

Max Verstappen beat Lando Norris to victory in a thrilling mixed-weather Canadian Grand Prix.

Polesitter George Russell beat Verstappen to the first turn in a super slow start in the sopping wet, with Norris and Oscar Piastri slotting in behind them to maintain an unchanged top four.

Conditions were treacherous. Intermediates were the choice tire for 18 of 20 cars, but both Haas drivers had gambled on full wets, and the decision appeared to be paying off handsomely.

While the rest of the field had to crawl around on the drying line, Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg were racing freeform, overtaking cars wherever they chose to rise to a barely believable fourth and eighth, up from 14th and 17th on the grid.


The gains weren’t to last, however. By lap six the track had dried enough for the intermediate tire to excel. Magnussen stopped at the end of the following tour to try to preserve his gains, but the team wasn’t ready, and a slow 8.6s stop dumped him back out of the points.

Hulkenberg extended hoping to switch to slicks, but by lap 13 he’d lost too much time and likewise dropped down the order after a pit stop.

The drying track compressed the leaders as the top four were forced to manage the aging intermediate rubber. With rain still on the radar, no team was willing to gamble on slicks and be forced into multiple stops.

Russell’s tires were wearing worst, and by lap 13 Verstappen had closed to within a second of the lead, but the McLaren drivers behind were in even better shape, trading fastest laps between them.

The battle broke open on lap 17, when Verstappen locked up and ran off the road exiting the first turn. He fell into Norris’s clutches just as DRS was enabled, and by lap 20 the Briton was through down the back straight.

Russell’s defense would be short-lived, running off the road at the final chicane to cede the lead to Norris and losing a place to Verstappen in the process.

Norris was rapid in the lead, gapping the field by 4s almost instantly, but his margin was eliminated on lap 25 when Logan Sargeant spun his car into the barriers exiting turn 4.

It came at the worst time for strategists, with the track ready for slicks but with rain threatening on the radar.

McLaren left Norris out, but almost the entirety of the field pitted for fresh inters. The Briton held the lead and pitted on the following tour but dropped to third on exit.

The race resumed on lap 30 of 70 with little fanfare. Light rain arrived on the following lap, but drivers were focused on making it back to the crossover point for slicks.

Pierre Gasly was the first to try the switch at the end of lap 40 and immediately ran off the road exiting pit lane.

Lewis Hamilton was the next to gamble, at the end of lap 43, and this time the circuit looked closer to the window. Piastri followed him in on the following tour to fend off the undercut, and Verstappen and Russell stopped at the end of lap 45 to hold position.

Norris again stayed out, his times on the intermediates still competitive while his rivals had to warm their slick tires on the still slippery surface. He held off until lap 47, jumping Russell for second and narrowly missing out on pinching the lead.

Russell had the better pace on his warmer rubber and two laps later was through on his compatriot only to hand the place back on lap 51 after running wide over the curbs at the Turn 8-9 chicane.

Their private battle allowed Verstappen to open a 5.6s gap in the lead, but his advantage was wiped out by a second safety car on lap 54 for a clumsy crash between Carlos Sainz and Alex Albon.

Sainz took too big a bite out of the curb at Turn 6 and spun around. Albon was in close pursuit behind and was powerless but to collect the out-of-control Ferrari.

Sainz was able to limp back to the pits, but Albon was spat into the barriers, forcing the neutralization.

Verstappen perfectly managed the restart on the now mostly dry circuit with 12 laps remaining to put victory beyond doubt, but behind him the battle was tight for second place.

Russell and Hamilton had taken the opportunity to pit for fresh rubber, the former dropping to fourth and the latter holding fifth, and both were in pursuit of podium places.

Piastri gamely held back both drivers to give Norris breathing room, including a stern defense on Russell from the inside line of the final chicane that ended in contact that sent the Briton off the road, which the stewards will investigate after the race.

It allowed Hamilton to slice through and pick off Piastri in his place, with Russell following him through on lap 66, and the younger Mercedes driver used DRS to move back ahead of the intra-team battle to claim Mercedes’s first podium of the year.

Hamilton and Piastri finished fourth and fifth ahead of Aston Martin teammates Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll.

Daniel Ricciardo finished eighth in a busy race. The Australian dropped from fifth to seventh at the start and was running comfortably in that position until the first safety car, when he was forced to serve what appeared to be a stiff 5s penalty for a false start, forcing him into a comeback drive.

He harried teammate Yuki Tsunoda for ninth when the Japanese driver slid off the road and into the barriers at Turn 9, and he subsequently picked off Esteban Ocon to collect four points in his first Sunday score since last year’s Mexico City Grand Prix.

Gasly squeezed ahead of Ocon on the penultimate lap to lead a double points finish for Alpine.

Nico Hulkenberg led home Kevin Magnussen, Valtteri Bottas, Tsunoda and Zhou Guanyu.

Sergio Perez clumsily crashed out of the race from 13th on lap 52, breaking his rear wing at the barriers at Turn 6.

Charles Leclerc also joined the list of retirements, having had his race hampered by an engine issue requiring a long pit stop to rectify before a botched too-early gamble on slicks.

Story originally appeared on Racer