Max Verstappen extended his lead atop driver strandings to 46 points after the Canadian Grand Prix. But he was forced to work hard for it by former Toro Rosso team-mate Carlos Sainz, with Verstappen relishing the “real race” with the now Ferrari driver.
Verstappen looked set for a relatively stress-free afternoon in Montreal, comfortably leading from Sainz in the early stages, after claiming pole on Saturday.
But after Verstappen dropped behind the Spaniard after making a second stop, Yuki Tsunoda then crashed into the barriers at Turn 2, with the safety car allowing Sainz to stop and close behind Verstappen – the pair then giving fans a fantastic 16-lap battle for the flag as the green flag race resumed, with Verstappen securing victory by just 0.993s.
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“It was a tough race,” Verstappen said. “I expected to have a bit more pace, but we seemed to be a bit lacking compared to Carlos… It was a bit more difficult than expected.
“We did our strategy, and I think for us it worked, it was the right thing to do. By this second stop, of course, I had newer tires and was closing in on Carlos, but I wasn’t sure I would close that gap completely until the end of the race.
“But then the safety car came out and I wasn’t very happy either, because of course I knew he had new tires behind me, and already with I think a bit more pace compared to me… But the last 15, 16 laps, we were pushing hard on the limit, and I knew of course that I couldn’t make a mistake. But it was a great race. It’s always nicer to be able to really push in a Formula 1 car instead of just saving tires.
When asked what had been the key to keeping Sainz at bay, Verstappen replied: “Well, of course you always had to make sure that the places where he had the DRS, you have a good exit from the front corner. . But it was just about really pushing the limit, not making mistakes in general, because I knew that even in sector 1, if I made a small mistake, Carlos would gain a tenth on me and that would have maybe enough to be closer. in the first DRS zone and then in the second.
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“It was a good race, a good push. I had my moments where I had a bit of oversteer, then I looked in the rear view mirror and saw Carlos having the same amount of moments! So it was really borderline but good to see.
With Verstappen’s advantage in the drivers standings now close to two race wins over teammate Sergio Perez – who failed to finish in Montreal after a technical issue on lap 8 – the Dutchman could be forgiven for believing the title 2022 was already on track.
2022 Canadian Grand Prix: Verstappen holds off Sainz to take victory in Montreal
But the Red Bull driver refused to follow that line of thinking, despite winning five of the last six races.
“It’s still very long [to go]said Verstappen, whose Red Bull team has also won the last six races, a feat they have only achieved once before. “I know the gap is of course quite big, but I also know that it can change very quickly. I mean, in the third race I was 46 points behind, so we just have to stay calm, we We have to concentrate and we have to improve because today we weren’t the fastest.
HIGHLIGHTS: Watch exciting racing action in Montreal as Verstappen holds off Sainz to seal victory
“It wobbles a bit,” he added. “Last weekend [in Baku] it looked good in the race, now it didn’t look as good, but we still managed to win and I think that’s also a quality, and we just have to work with the whole team to try to find small improvements in the car.”