Max Verstappen wasn’t expecting Ferrari to be as competitive as it was in the Canadian Grand Prix as he had to hold off Carlos Sainz in a tense battle throughout the final part of the race.
A Safety Car period led to a restart with 16 laps left and Sainz was within DRS range of race leader Verstappen for the remainder of the race, putting pressure on the Red Bull driver. Verstappen admits he had been worried by the race interruption because he’d noted how strong Ferrari looked earlier on, leading to a close fight to the flag that he won by 0.9s.
“It was a tough race,” Verstappen said. “I expected to have a little bit more pace but we seemed to lack a little bit compared to Carlos — that’s the only one I could compare to with the Ferrari — and it was a bit more difficult than I expected. But we did our strategy and I think for us it worked. That was the right one to do, and I think that second stop…I had the fresher tires and I was closing in on Carlos but I was not sure if I actually would fully close that gap to the end of the race.
“Then the Safety Car came out and I was also not happy with that because then I knew that he had fresh tires behind me, and [then he had] a little bit more pace compared to me, [so] that it’s difficult to defend.
“The last 15 or 16 laps — we were flat out, pushing to the limit — and I knew of course I couldn’t make a mistake, but it was good racing. It’s always more enjoyable to be able to really push in a Formula 1 car instead of just saving your tires.”
Verstappen says he was aware that he couldn’t afford an error anywhere, otherwise Sainz would have a chance of overtaking him, such was the advantage he felt the Ferrari had.
“He didn’t have a go in terms of overtaking but it was super close all the time. He was constantly in my DRS. I think [he never once backed off] so the pressure is always on.
“You always had to make sure that the places where he had DRS you had a good exit the corner before, but it was really about pushing to the limit and not making a mistake in general. I knew that even in sector one, if I would make a tiny mistake, then Carlos would gain a tenth on me and that might have been enough to then get closer in the first DRS zone and, then in second.
“So it was proper racing, proper pushing. I had my moments where I had a bit of oversteer and then I looked in my mirror and saw Carlos having the same amount of moments! It was really on the edge and that’s good to see.”