CANADA: Max Verstappen secured his 41st career victory at the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday, joining the ranks of racing legend Ayrton Senna in the all-time standings.
The Red Bull driver’s dominant performance marked his fourth consecutive win, solidifying his position as the leader in the World Championship.
While Verstappen’s victory was unquestionable, the battle for the remaining podium places kept fans on the edge of their seats.
Fernando Alonso, making an impressive comeback, clinched second place, narrowly fending off a charging Lewis Hamilton. The margin of victory for Verstappen was tighter than usual, highlighting the competitive spirit of the race.
Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz showcased their resilience, recovering from starting outside the top 10 to finish in the top five.
On the other hand, Sergio Perez settled for sixth place and faced further setbacks in the drivers’ standings, with Verstappen extending his lead by 69 points.
The race commenced after a wet qualifying session and subsequent grid penalties. Nico Hulkenberg’s fast driving under red-flag conditions pushed him down from P2 to P5, allowing Alonso to start alongside Verstappen on the front row.
Hamilton swiftly manoeuvred past Aston Martin to claim second place, with Esteban Ocon surging into the top five. Kevin Magnussen had a scary moment at Turn 13, where he had to go off track and onto the grass, narrowly avoiding a collision with Sergio Perez.
Carlos Sainz executed a daring move, overtaking Perez around the outside. Alonso determined to regain his lost position, brushed against the wall while battling Hamilton.
The race saw its first retirement as Logan Sargeant encountered a power unit failure. The race director deployed the Virtual Safety Car, but the marshals swiftly removed the stricken car, allowing the resumption of the race without full intervention.
However, George Russell’s collision with the wall at Turn 9 shortly after necessitated the Safety Car’s entrance, triggering a flurry of pit stops.
As the leaders pitted, Alonso capitalized on a faster stop than Hamilton, resulting in a close call between them as they exited their respective pit boxes.
Russell miraculously made it back to the pit lane despite the damage, albeit relegating him to the back of the field. The Ferrari duo of Perez, Magnussen, and Valtteri Bottas refrained from pitting under Safety Car conditions, opting to extend their stints.
Alonso gradually fought his way back into second place, executing a well-timed manoeuvre on Hamilton with the assistance of DRS.
However, the durability of the hard tires proved shorter than anticipated, leading to the formation of DRS trains in the midfield.
Lance Stroll and Pierre Gasly resorted to a second pit stop to secure free air and potentially gain positions later in the race. Meanwhile, Magnussen’s fading performance prompted a battle with Nyck de Vries, resulting in contact and subsequent off-track excursions.
Their incident relegated them both to the back of the field, a lap down. Leclerc, Sainz, and Perez skillfully maintained their positions in the top six after mid-race pit stops, joined by Alonso and Hamilton, who also opted for a second stop.
Although Verstappen remained in the lead, Alonso relentlessly pursued him, closing the gap to a mere five seconds by lap 48. Alonso demonstrated his determination to win and asked when he could stop lifting and coasting to conserve fuel.
However, Verstappen and Red Bull exhibited ample pace, preventing Alonso from making significant headway. Hamilton mounted a comeback in the final laps, narrowing the gap to Alonso. Nevertheless, the two-time World Champion skillfully extended his lead, securing second place.
The triumphant trio of Verstappen, Alonso, and Hamilton occupied the podium, captivating spectators with their display of skill and tenacity.
Further down the field, Alexander Albon showcased impressive defensive skills, fending off a lengthy DRS train to secure seventh place, his best finish with Williams.
Lando Norris, unfortunately, incurred a five-second penalty for unsportsmanlike behaviour under Safety Car conditions, dropping him out of the points.
Max Verstappen’s victory at the Canadian Grand Prix brought him level with the legendary Ayrton Senna and solidified his standing as the dominant force in the World Championship.