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Duel in the Sun
text & photos | Thomas Lam
edit | Henry Lau

Max Verstappen held off a relentless challenge from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz to win Canadian Grand Prix beneath the brilliant sunshine of Montreal’s venerable Circuit Gilles Villeneuve


Overview

With Formula One returning to Montreal for the first time in three years, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took the chequered flag to increase his lead over team-mate Sergio Pérez to 46 points in the standings.
The Dutchman led most of the dry Canadian Grand Prix after dominating qualifying during Saturday’s treacherous rain storm. Sunday’s Grand Prix was interrupted twice for virtual safety car periods, allowing teams’ tyre strategies to alter their mid-race competitiveness.
But, with 15 laps remaining, it was a Full Safety Car period that played into Carlos Sainz’s hands.

The Choice

Yuki Tsunoda pitted his AlphaTauri on Lap 48 and hit the Turn 2 barriers when he lost control over a bump while rejoining. A Full Safety Car responded– offering Ferrari a choice. Either pit Sainz for fresh tyres and surrender the lead to Verstappen or keep the Spaniard on older tyres at the restart. However, Sainz would have to defend against the Dutchman’s fresher- tyred RB18 right behind. The Scuderia chose to pit Sainz for fresh hard tyres.

No Space

With the field bunched up nose-to-tail, the safety car released the pack. The Spaniard’s fresher tires allowed him to instantly attack Verstappen in virtually every corner, lap after lap. Yet, despite never falling less than half a second behind the reigning champion, Sainz couldn’t find enough space to force his Ferrari past the meticulous Dutchman.
Verstappen crossed the line 0.9 seconds ahead of the Ferrari driver, Lewis Hamilton finished a brilliant third place, his first podium since the season-opening race in Bahrain. Thanks to Mercedes’ raising the W13 ride height and softening its suspension, it seemed to regain its status as the third-fastest car.

Qualifying

Despite treacherous rain and standing puddles for qualifying at the 2022 Canadian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen kept his cool to claim his first 2022 pole position since Imola – with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso producing a stunning lap to join him on the front row.

Lapping on intermediate tyres on the drying Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Verstappen clocked a 1m 21.299s. That left him a full 0.645s clear of the pack, headed by the “evergreen” Alonso – marking his first front row start since taking pole in the 2012 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.

Completing the top three was Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, with Lewis Hamilton taking a surprise P4, with his softened W13 Mercedes now capable of producing predictable wet weather speed.

The Gamble

Mercedes teammate George Russell was also quick, but he gambled on slick tyres in Q3 and slid off the track, leaving him eighth on the grid.
The Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher were equally impressive, sharing the third row in P5 and P6.
Prior to his power unit failure in Baku, Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari chassis had already been scheduled to receive a new set of control electronics in Canada that came with a ten- place built-in grid penalty.

Total Loss

However, after inspection, Charles Leclerc’s damaged Baku engine was ruled a total loss. Ferrari instantly committed to a new internal combustion engine (ICE), turbocharger, MGU-H and MGU-K for the rest of the race weekend. Penalised for the additional modifications, the Monegasque’s F1-75 would now start the race from the back of the grid.
Sergio Perez gave Red Bull similar disappointments. In soaking wet Q2, the Mexican went straight on at Turn 3, piercing the barrier with the nose of his RB18. Perez was eliminated on the spot and would start from 13th place.

The 2022 Canadian Grand Prix

At lights out, Verstappen got the better start, while Alonso held off both Sainz and Hamilton as they attempted to pass the Spaniard. Ocon’s Alpine passed Schumacher for sixth while Magnussen moved up, pushing Hamilton wheel to wheel from the outside. Within seconds, Magnussen sustained front wing damage causing him to slow. Despite his hustle, Leclerc had only advanced to 17th.

By Lap 5, Sainz watched as Verstappen streaked away to a 3.3sec lead while he kept Alonso and Hamilton at bay. Zhou pushed his Alpha Romeo ahead to 9th as Russell carved through the field into 5th.

The Stewards ordered Magnussen to pit, and Ocon took advantage, moving up to 6th, ahead of Schumacher in 7th.
Suddenly, Perez is out! He radioed that he lost the engine. It’s Red Bull’s fourth retirement of the season.

Continued Retirements

The Virtual Safety Car was called. Verstappen quickly stopped on Lap 10, as did Hamilton, before several drivers joined them. Staying out, Sainz moved into the lead, followed by Alonso. Both chose race position over a pitstop advantage. Just as quickly, the VSC ended.

By Lap 12, Sainz continued to lead, with Alonso 4secs behind. Hamilton passed Ocon. With no more scheduled pitstops, the Brit settled in to take 5th. Verstappen, in third, was producing scintillating times on his fresh hard tyres as he hunted down Alonso. By Lap 15, Verstappen passed Alonso with ease. Leclerc moved into 12th.

Schumacher, running strong in seventh, lost his power unit without warning on Lap 18. He stopped in Turn 8, triggering another VSC.

On Lap 20, Alonso reports problems with his Alpine’s battery system; he’s losing eight-tenths per lap. He’ll later reveal that without engine problems, he would have finished in P3.

As it is, the Spaniard finally pitted at the end of Lap 28 for hard tyres, dropping from fourth to seventh, and promoting Leclerc to sixth, as the Ferrari driver tried every move to find a way past Ocon’s Alpine. The Monegasque remained more than 40sec behind Verstappen.

Suddenly Upside Down

Leclerc finally pits on Lap 42, and the stop’s about three seconds slower than expected. He rejoins in 12th.

Verstappen pits on Lap 43 and exits as Hamilton passes. The Brit knows he can’t hold off the Dutchman and pits for tyres, returning the position to Verstappen.
By Lap 46, Verstappen is agin setting blazing laps. Seeing no tyre wear, Red Bull releases him for a flat-out attack on the now race leader Sainz. And then, suddenly, it’s all upside down.

Tsunoda spins out and pierces the safety barrier. A Full Safety Car comes out, and Sainz gave up track position to fit fresh hard tyres, but only dropped to second, directly behind Verstappen, as the safety car bunched the field up.

Game On

It’s Green on Lap 55, with Verstappen leading, followed by Sainz. Alonso is challenging Ocon in 5th, while Leclerc closes on Alonso.

On Lap 60, Leclerc passes Alonso, but goes straight through the chicane. While he gives the place back to Alonso. Eventually, Leclerc regains the position before also moving past Ocon for 5th.
Meanwhile, Verstappen’s mirrors remain full of Sainz’s Ferrari. With the Dutchman delivering 100 per cent on each lap, as was Sainz, the Spaniard searched to find any slip in Verstappen’s calm composure. The harder Sainz tried, the more Verstappen erased any opening.

The Dutchman took the victory just 0.9 seconds ahead of the impressive Sainz.

George Russell took 4th, continuing his incredible run of top 5 finishes in every race this season. Behind him, Charles Leclerc’s recovery drive brought him from 19th to 5th, with Ocon and Alonso coming home 6th and 7th. Alonso would later be penalized and dropped to 9th.

As a result, Bottas and Zhou finished 7th and 8th in a double- points finish for Alfa Romeo. Local Quebec resident Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) took the final point.

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