Max Verstappen has fended off a fast-finishing Carlos Sainz to win the Canadian Grand Prix and grow his championship lead.
Verstappen had led Sainz for much of the race after acing his getaway from pole, while the Spaniard lost crucial early seconds stuck behind Fernando Alonso.
Unable to recover the difference on track, the race turned into a potentially strategic grandstand finish when Verstappen made a second pit stop on lap 43, his hard tires aching from a 34-lap stint after an ambitiously early lap 8 stop during a virtual safety car.
The caution had been caused by teammate Sergio Perez, whose car stopped on track while running in 10th with an apparent hydraulics issue that left him unable to change gear.
Sainz had delayed his stop until lap 21, when he scored a cheap stop of his own during another VSC — this one for Mick Schumacher’s stopped Haas. He inherited the lead from the Dutchman with an almost 10s lead with 29 laps remaining.
The race was reset by a safety car on lap 48. Yuki Tsunoda, fresh out of the pits, locked up at Turn 2 on cold hard tires and speared into the outside barrier, ending his race on the spot.
The timing was perfect for Ferrari. Sainz dived into the pit for new set of hard tires, now six laps fresher than Verstappen’s, and prepared for a 16-lap assault of the lead once the race resumed.
While the Spaniard had the pace, he couldn’t make a move. Verstappen was inch perfect through the final hairpin to keep himself just at arm’s length down the long DRS-enabled straight, leaving Sainz just short of the advantage he needed to consider a pass on the brakes.
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Verstappen was able to grid out a hard-fought 0.9s victory to stretch his championship lead.
“The last few laps were a lot of fun,” he said. “I think I would’ve preferred attacking instead of defending, but luckily it worked out.”
Sainz collected the fastest lap of the race but was disappointed to miss another opportunity to win his first Formula 1 grand prix.
He slipped to 73 points behind Verstappen in the title chase.
“I was pushing flat out,” he said. “I wasn’t leaving any inches to the walls and the braking; I was pushing with the battery.
“I tried everything to pass Max, but today we didn’t have the pace delta. The positive thing is we were quicker throughout the race. We just needed a little bit more to overtake here.”
Lewis Hamilton scored an excellent podium for Mercedes, moving past Fernando Alonso on strategy early in the race and comfortably having the pace to hold the place through to the end.
“It’s quite overwhelming, honestly, to get this third place,” he said. “It’s been such a battle this year with this car.
“They’re a little bit too quick for us at the moment. I was giving it everything, but we’re getting closer.”
George Russell backed up his teammate with fourth place, up from eighth largely thanks to a superb opening five laps to join Hamilton on the cusp of a podium place.
Charles Leclerc’s recovery from 19th on the grid with a power unit penalty ended in fifth place and just 3s behind Russell, limiting his loss to Verstappen to 15 points and dropping him to 49 points off the lead.
Leclerc’s progress started slowly, but on the hard tire for his opening stint he made up ground as the medium-shod runners started to struggle.
Ferrari left him out until lap 41 — a long first stint — dropping him from sixth to 12th, and the shrunken gaps behind the safety car facilitated an incisive rise back into the points by the flag.
Esteban Ocon headed Fernando Alonso for a six-seven finish for Alpine. Alonso’s race was undone by an unusually long opening stint despite losing time to his midfield rivals throughout, and he reported a power problem after the safety car that left him unable to make progress.
Valtteri Bottas led home Alfa Romeo teammate Zhou Guanyu, the Finn making up ground from 13th on the opening laps with a one-stop strategy.
Lance Stroll collected the final point of his home race for Aston Martin with 10th.
Daniel Ricciardo was first outside the top 10, leading home Sebastian Vettel, Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly and teammate Lando Norris.
Nicholas Latifi was off the pace in 16th, while Kevin Magnussen’s race was undone by front wing damage picked up on the first lap that forced him into an unplanned early stop.