Max Verstappen stops Carlos Sainz Jr. from winning in Formula 1’s return to Canada

MONTREAL — Max Verstappen clinched his sixth win of the season with a fairly easy Sunday drive at the Canadian Grand Prix, stopping Carlos Sainz Jr.’s late run challenge, thus maintaining the contention for the Formula 1 championship.

Verstappen’s victory from pole position at Gilles-Villeneuve extended his lead in the standings to 46 points over Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, who was pushed ahead with a gearbox problem retired.

“There’s still a long way to go and I know the gap is big of course, but I also know this can change very quickly,” Verstappen said of his points lead. He noted that he was 46 points behind Charles Leclerc after his third race of the season.

The Dutchman easily cleared Fernando Alonso, who had his first front row start in a decade, before joking that he would attack Verstappen in the first leg to steal the victory.

But there was no challenge and Verstappen had built a 2.4-second lead when Sainz passed Alonso for second on lap 2. Sainz closed the gap in the final 10 laps to put pressure on the reigning F1 champion, but backed off on the final lap and trailed his Ferrari by 0.993 seconds.

“It was a good race and it was always more enjoyable to be able to really push rather than just save the tyres,” Verstappen said, adding that Sainz “didn’t try to overtake, but it was very close.”

Sainz said second place was the best he could get on Sunday.

“When I give everything, I risk everything,” Sainz said. “I can tell you I’m pushing. I put everything in there. For the first time this season I can say I’m the fastest guy on the track, which gives me confidence and gives me confidence for the next race. hope.”

Mercedes has bounced back hugely from struggles all season, including a poor practice session on Friday that saw seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton reach the podium for the first time since the season-opening race in March. George Russell was fourth and Hamilton beat his new team-mate for the second time in nine races this season.

“It felt great in the fight, and at the end I was keeping up with these guys. It really gave me and the team a lot of hope,” Hamilton said. “If we can get it right, the potential is there and I think that’s the most difficult thing this year.”

Hamilton was greeted with applause after finishing the race and said he had no problems with his back, which had plagued him all season as the new Mercedes bounced around the track.

“It’s good, I’m young again,” the 37-year-old said. But he added: “We still have a rebound, but the difference is day and night.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said the team had raised the ride heights of the cars to make them easier to drive and to eliminate the “dolphin” effect that has plagued Hamilton and Russell all season. The bouncing gave drivers back pain and headaches.

“The (wind) tunnel tells us that the lower the car is and the faster you go, the more ground effect it has,” Wolf said. “But in reality, you can’t drive the car there, so you need to lift it, lift it, lift it, and then on paper, you lose about half a second in downforce.

“We’ve improved it (Saturday), but the more you improve, the more performance you lose. So always compromise.”

Verstappen, meanwhile, has now won six of his first nine games of the reigning title.

It was Verstappen’s first win in Montreal, and F1 said the series returned to Canada after a two-year hiatus during the pandemic, hosting a record 338,000 spectators over the three-day weekend. Two days of rain disrupted qualifying and created a slick track that gave Alonso and other drivers including Hamilton their best starting spots of the year, with Sunday’s crowd seen as clear, sunny Sky.

Leclerc was penalized 10 places for replacing the Ferrari engine, finishing 5th from 19th. Estaban Ocon from Alpine finished sixth and teammate Alonso said he was happy with fifth, but he was penalised for weaving five seconds into the race.

That dropped Alonso to ninth, while Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas moved up to seventh. Bottas is followed by rookie teammate Zhou Guanyu, who moved up to eighth after a penalty kick from Alonso, scoring points for the second time this season. Aston Martin’s Canadian driver Lance Stroll was 10th.

Perez dropped out of the race after just nine laps with a gearbox problem, the fourth Red Bull mechanical failure between Perez and Verstappen this season. Eleven laps later, Mick Schumacher came to a stop on the track – ending the Haas driver’s quest for his first F1 points.

A day earlier, when Kevin Magnussen and Schumacher finished fifth and sixth, Haas had qualified for the best results in the team’s history, but the team failed to switch. Magnussen damaged his front wing on the opening lap and finished 17th.

“I think we made the cake, but we just didn’t frost it,” Schumacher said.

Toronto native Nicholas Latifi admits his seat at Williams is shaky, finishing 16th in his first home Grand Prix of his career.

“It was great to finally have my first home game and the support I got from family, friends and all the fans in the stands was amazing,” Latifi said. “As far as the track is concerned, we lacked a lot of rhythm and we need to try to understand why. Whatever the outcome, this weekend is something to remember.”

UP NEXT: British Grand Prix at Silverstone on July 3. A year ago, Hamilton had won what was believed to be the Briton’s home game.

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