The aggressiveness and the revision of the strategy placed him as unattainable, the entry of the safety car forced him to measure himself in a new scenario and adjust the defense to celebrate the victory. The versatility of Max Verstappen, the most competitive driver on the current Formula 1 grid, a virtue that enabled him to celebrate for the sixth time on the calendar and for the first time at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit, which brought together 338 thousand people in the three days of activity that unraveled the Canadian Grand Prix. A nondescript race that became an entertaining show in the final 15 laps, but that always found the Dutchman setting the pulse.
There is no better lineup today than Verstappen, the car that Red Bull Racing designed, and the pit wall from the Milton Keynes factory. The statistics overwhelmingly highlight it, but also the events that alter the course of a race and that find the team always on the alert: making the right decisions, solid in configuring a strategy and serene to withstand a change of course, if the plan pushes to reverse. Canadian plotting features open windows for plotting multiple projections and this time was no exception. A Virtual Safety Car (VSC), on lap 10, blew up the original plan and there it was Mad Max and RBR to take on the challenge: Sergio’s car breakdown Czech Pérez -the Mexican launched a “I lost the engine” in the radio communication, although the team analyzes if the problem was not the gearbox- invited to reject the Pirelli projections, which established a useful life of between 20 and 25 laps of medium tires.
The call of the engineer Gianpiero Lambiase to go to the pit it did not provoke questions or doubts in Verstappen. Behind him, Lewis Hamilton -The Mercedes star started in fourth position and kept the place after battling some corners with Kevin Magnussen (Haas)– He copied the play. Champion and runner-up, actors in a fierce battle in 2021, mounted hard tires and left the Spanish at the head of the race Carlos Sainz Jr. (Ferrari) Already Fernando Alonso (Alpine). The pilot of the team would take the second window that offered a VSC -abandon Mick Schumacher (Haas)– to put on fresh tyres, while the two-time world champion continued to spin, although performance dropped and he had to rehearse a stop on lap 28, four laps after the appearance of the VSC. A missed opportunity for the Asturian, who later received a five-second penalty for making more than one change of direction on the straight against Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)which dropped him from seventh place to box nine in the qualifier.
If the first pit stop he did not push him to the consultations, the return to the track after rehearsing the second arrest – turn 44 – was different. “Why behind Lewis?”, Verstappen opened the radio, who from the wall heard a laconic “because he had rhythm”. The answer did not bother him, a few meters later he overtook the British, while the stopwatch indicated a difference of 11 seconds in favor of Sainz Jr., who had a stop. Hannah Schmitz and Will Courtenay’s strategy was once again on target: Mad Max headed for a comfortable victory.
A driver from the RBR subsidiary team was the one who caused a stir: Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri) he got confused and forced the Safety Car to enter. Verstappen brought out his character and virtuosity to drive. He drove the final without communicating with the team: he had information that his engineer passed him, but he could not make inquiries. “There was only one-way traffic,” he acknowledged. Christian Horner, the head of RBR. He did not lose focus due to the failure presented by the radio: he only had to manage the difference against a rival who had tires with five laps less wear. That was the challenge.
“The Safety Car didn’t help me. Ferrari was very fast during the race and difficult for me in the final part. It was an exciting definition, the last laps were a lot of fun, even though he had the DRS. Being quick on the straights helped us keep the advantage, although he would have preferred to attack rather than defend”, commented Verstappen, who now leads the Drivers’ World Championship with a 46-point advantage over his teammate. Czech Pérez and 49 units away against Charles Leclerc (Ferrari). The Monegasque started last, after penalizing for the engine change, and arrived fifth, behind the Mercedes of Hamilton and George Russell. “I felt young again. They are too fast for us, but we must fight”, some definitions offered by the seven-time world champion, who marked his second podium of the year, after the one he achieved at the 2022 premiere in Bahrain. Also the second time he has beaten his garage mate in nine races.
The dissatisfaction remained for Sainz Jr., who hoped to close the gap with the Dutchman and score the first victory in F.1 in 149 grand prix. “I didn’t leave a millimeter with the wall and when braking I gave it my all. We were faster, we had pace, we were able to put pressure on Max, but we lacked that little bit to overtake him”, Said the Spaniard, Verstappen’s former teammate at Toro Rosso.
On a wet floor at the time of qualifying and dry to run, with a change of strategy and dominant when he had to attack or defend the position, Verstappen drew the sixth victory out of nine possible and nothing seems to appease his appetite.