Verstappen victorious in crazy Canadian GP
Published:
June 10, 2024

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George Russell was the one to start from pole position after achieving an ultra-rare P1 qualification with the exact same lap time as another driver. The Mercedes man secured his 1:12:000 time earlier than Verstappen, letting him begin Sunday's race from the front. That slender advantage was all Russell needed to maintain the lead on the soaking-wet circuit as the 20 drivers tiptoed around the track.

Pre-race rain meant most racers opted for Pirelli's Intermediate tyre, designed for light standing water, rather than the blue-walled 'Extreme' Wet option that excels in downfalls. The opening laps, however, showed that this wasn't the right call for the soaking surface — not initially, at least.

The two Haas drivers, Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg, used Pirelli's Wet grooved tyre to find far more grip than others, shooting up the order and overtaking for fun. Sadly for the American team, their time in the top spots was only long enough for a cameo, and they fell back as the cars established a dry line. The strategic gamble secured some early-race TV time, but the Pirelli Intermediate's versatile rubber for a range of wet-weather conditions was the better long-term bet.

All front-running drivers held their position through the opening stint, with Russell leading Verstappen and the two McLarens chasing down both. Lando Norris, F1's newest race winner, led Oscar Piastri in the sister MCL38 and got faster and faster as the track dried. It seemed Russell and Verstappen had taken more performance from their Pirellis, but with another shower forecast, pitting for dry tyres wasn't an option.

Verstappen victorious in crazy Canadian GP

Norris made full use of the situation, easing up to Verstappen and passing down the final straight, then doing the same on Russell one lap later to take the race lead. The latter overtake was a double blow for Russell, too, as his Mercedes failed to turn in at the final chicane, allowing Verstappen through. There was no pain for Norris, though, who extended the gap to P2 by almost 10 seconds with McLaren's speed advantage in the changeable conditions and looked in a good position to take the win. Karma, however, had other plans.

A Logan Sargeant spin into the wall required a Safety Car intervention to clear his broken Williams, allowing all drivers a 'cheap' pit stop to switch tyres. Norris didn't immediately dive into the pit lane, and the time lost to the three drivers chasing him was enough to demote him back to P3. Verstappen now had the lead in a reversal of fortunes to those that gifted Norris his Miami victory.

Yet even with the lead now in his grasp for the first time in two races, Verstappen's win was far from secure. The expected brief shower fell, delaying any dry-tyre running, and both Russell and Norris kept close company behind the championship leader. Once the track had dried with 25 laps remaining, a strategic fight between Red Bull, Mercedes, and McLaren began to play out. Verstappen and Russell pitted for slicks, but Norris continued to run his Intermediates in the clear air out front.

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Verstappen victorious in crazy Canadian GP

Even though Norris set the Fastest Lap times, the cool track temperature and water at the pit exit hamstrung the Brit when he eventually switched to Pirelli's Medium tyres two laps later. The McLaren emerged just ahead of Verstappen, but Norris had no tyre temperature on the wet surface to fend off the Red Bull despite his best efforts. Nonetheless, he had jumped past Russell to P2 as the podium order continued to change.

Even that overcut gamble hadn't secured Norris his third P2 of 2024; a lock-up into the hairpin allowed Russell by at the Wall of Champions chicane to retake second place. As the back-and-forth battle raged on, a wide moment for Russell meant his P2 position only lasted two laps as Norris fought back. And still, the drama wasn't over.

A dramatic lap saw Sergio Perez, fresh from a two-year contract extension, crashing into the barriers and breaking his rear wing. The Mexican limped back to the pits to retire, but he wasn't the only one out of the race. Carlos Sainz had also span, and his loss of control had the Ferrari run into the innocent Williams of Alex Albon. The collision required a second Safety Car period to clear the Thai driver's broken car.

Verstappen victorious in crazy Canadian GP

During the slowdown, Mercedes rolled the dice to pit Russell and Lewis Hamilton onto fresh Medium Pirellis, hoping the grip advantage could help propel them forward. Oscar Piastri in the second McLaren benefitted from the decision, advancing to P3, but with both Mercs chasing him down at the restart.

A stern piece of defending at the final chicane had the Aussie shrug off Russell's overtake attempt to retain third. Russell's chicane antics had him lose a position down the start-finish straight for the second time in the race, this time to teammate Hamilton, who soon cleared Piastri without incident. The Mercedes' tyre advantage quickly had Russell ahead, too, and the two Silver Arrows then went head-to-head for the final podium spot. Russell took P3 from Hamilton with two laps remaining for the hardest-fought trophy of his F1 career.

All this frantic action had allowed Verstappen to create a small margin out front and take his sixth win of 2024. With Monaco winner and championship hopeful Charles Leclerc retiring with an engine issue, Verstappen leaves Canada with a sizeable 58-point lead. Judging by these 70 Montreal laps, though, the title fight is far from over, as F1 returns to Europe with four teams showing race-winning speed.

Verstappen victorious in crazy Canadian GP