Canadian GP: Max Verstappen triumphs in instant wet-dry classic in Montréal

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen during the Canadian Grand Prix.

Conditions were mixed and the lead changed hands multiple times in a frantic Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Max Verstappen took victory in an absolute thriller of a Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday, with Lando Norris and George Russell rounding out the podium in Montréal.

With multiple leaders and varying conditions throughout, it was the reigning World Champion who took track position under Safety Car conditions from Norris, who had been leading, but Verstappen held onto first place in a Canadian Grand Prix that is highly likely to be mentioned as a contender to be the race of the season.

Max Verstappen wins frantic wet/dry Canadian Grand Prix

While the predicted rain for qualifying on Saturday held off, for Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix, it most certainly did not.

The intermediate tyres were the order of the day for a wet start in Montréal for most of the grid, with only the Haas pair using full wet tyres – with rain having come down leading up to the race and a fresh shower being forecast for the early laps.

But crucially, it was a clean start for the drivers as they edged away from the line – Russell keeping his lead from Verstappen into Turn 1, with Norris and Piastri following.

Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton leapfrogged Daniel Ricciardo in the opening corners, but the gamble of the full wet tyre paid off in particular for Kevin Magnussen, who flew up nine places on the two laps – getting up from P14 to P6 as he overtook Hamilton himself, before getting past Alonso into the Turn 13/14 chicane on lap 2.

Nico Hulkenberg also made huge progress, getting up nine places himself as he made his way into the top 10 as Haas won the early strategy battle – with the Formula 1 adage in wet weather of being on the right tyre at the right time proving hugely accurate.

The start of the race was the worst of the weather that was expected, meaning the Haas duo had to make the most of the conditions as they stood, with Magnussen passing Oscar Piastri for fourth place on the road.

Come the sixth lap, however, the sun burst through and Charles Leclerc’s race engineer, Bryan Bozzi, reported the 18 intermediate runners would be quicker than the extreme wets.

A battle between Alonso and Hamilton broke out for sixth place as the Aston Martin driver went straight on at the final chicane, allowing Hamilton a run down the pit straight, but the Mercedes driver went too deep and ran straight through Turns 1 and 2, allowing his former team-mate back past again on the exit.

With Magnussen pitting on lap 8, the Haas crew did not look ready for him – with an 8.6-second stop putting him back out in P12, though that was still a two-place net gain on his starting grid slot on Sunday.

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But having dropped those behind, the change in conditions saw Hulkenberg reeled in by the cars behind as he opted to stay out on full wets, with Ricciardo passing him for seventh place – while the RB driver was under investigation for a false start, and subsequently given a five-second time penalty as a result.

At the front, Verstappen closed up to the back of Russell as a dry line emerged on track, though the threat of rain was still there as the teams predicted another shower later in the race.

In chasing Russell, a dose of understeer at Turn 1 saw Verstappen lose time at Turn 2 as he ran over the kerb at Turn 2, with a small piece of bodywork flying off his Red Bull and Norris closing in behind him for second, while offering the Mercedes driver vital breathing room.

With DRS enabled by lap 18, Norris hassled Verstappen for two laps and he got a run on the Red Bull driver out of the Turn 10 hairpin, using the rear wing to his advantage and passing the reigning World Champion into the Turn 13/14 chicane – moving himself into P2 and chasing Russell for the race lead.

Barely a lap passed before Norris was on Russell’s rear wing, pulling off an identical move into the same chicane to take the lead. The Mercedes driver took to the escape road after out-braking himself, with Verstappen able to make his way through – and Russell lost two positions in one corner.

As Norris escaped into the distance, the sister McLaren of Piastri joined the fight behind before the Safety Car was deployed for the first retirement of the race, as Logan Sargeant spun into the barrier on the exit of Turn 6 – the Williams driver going rearwards into the wall after collecting the kerb.

This prompted a flurry of activity in the pit lane, with Norris unable to stop before the three drivers in the chasing pack, who took the opportunity to do so beforehand.

Norris stopped the following lap but in doing so, dropped to third place – promoting Verstappen to the lead with Russell back up to second. Elsewhere, a quick stop at Mercedes saw Hamilton leapfrog Alonso in the pit lane for fifth place, as the field bunched back up once again – and this was under half race distance.

While that could have been seen as a turn of bad luck on Norris’ part, losing two places in the pit lane, Verstappen’s race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase felt that was balancing the scales from a few races ago, telling his driver on team radio after informing him of the new order: “What goes around comes around, that’s Miami back.”

With the rain threatening to fall again, Ferrari gambled with Charles Leclerc on slick tyres – at Leclerc’s call – to take a punt on something different, having had a power unit issue for most of the race.

The race restarted on lap 30 of 70 with Verstappen leading from Russell, with the two McLaren drivers chasing in what was already a thrilling Canadian Grand Prix.

At that time, the rain came again, DRS quickly disabled as the track surface got wetter once again and Leclerc in his Ferrari crept around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve before he had to later retire.

Mention has to be made of a superb double overtake for Alex Albon, too, who passed Daniel Ricciardo on the outside on the back straight, before ducking to the inside to pass Esteban Ocon under braking to the Turn 13/14 chicane to put his Williams up into the points-paying positions.

The race settled into a rhythm as the drivers dried the track quickly, to such a degree that by the end of lap 43, Hamilton was the first of the frontrunners to try a set of slick tyres – putting on a set of mediums to see how his tyres would react.

Piastri, who was running just ahead of Hamilton, reacted and stayed ahead of the seven-time World Champion, but while Russell and Verstappen followed on lap 45, Norris stayed out and looked to gain track position if he could, all while he was being investigated for leaving the track and gaining an advantage at Turn 1.

Norris pushed hard for not one but two more laps, and while he had track position on Verstappen on pit exit, the treacherous wet line on the exit down to Turn 2 saw Verstappen able to retake the lead.

The McLaren driver set about chasing down the reigning World Champion for the win, with a near five-second gap to make up – but Russell flew back past into P2 on lap 49 as he, Norris and Piastri formed a close chasing pack.

But just a lap later, Russell clipped the kerb at Turn 8 and Norris was able to sweep back by, with Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff coming onto his radio and urging his driver to “focus”.

Soon afterwards, Sergio Perez was seen crawling back to the pit lane with a loose rear wing on the back of his Red Bull, having lost control of his car and spun into the barriers at Turn 5.

Carlos Sainz also spun at the same corner and tagged Albon at the same time, putting both cars out of the race at the same time and bringing the Safety Car back out once again.

Both Mercedes drivers took the chance to pit again leaving the running order upon the restart on lap 59 of 70 as Verstappen, Norris, Piastri, Russell, Hamilton.

Verstappen bolted clear ahead of the two McLarens, with both Mercedes drivers on fresh tyres behind him as a truly memorable race headed towards its conclusion.

As a result, Russell was bearing down on Piastri for the final podium position and, after holding him off for one lap, he dropped out of DRS range of Norris and that allowed Russell a run into Turn 13.

Russell had most of his car ahead, but not all, and Piastri held his line into the corner, with the two drivers making contact and Russell taking to the escape road, which dropped him behind his own team-mate Hamilton in the process, moving him down to fifth and Hamilton up to fourth.

The following lap, Hamilton had a run of his own at Piastri into Turn 13 and made the move stick, getting clear of the McLaren driver before the braking zone to move into the top three for a chance at the team’s first podium of the season.

It was third time lucky for Russell as he demoted the Australian to fifth at Turn 13, but elsewhere, Yuki Tsunoda turned his RB into something of a lawnmower at Turn 9 by running onto the grass. In attempting to get around the barrier, he came careering back onto the circuit and almost collided with his rivals on track.

After a reminder to “keep it clean”, Russell made a move on his team-mate and dived down the inside at Turn 13 to take third place from Hamilton.

At the front, Verstappen was able to bring his Red Bull home in first place from Norris in a thrilling victory for the reigning World Champion, with Russell and Hamilton in third and fourth – though Russell’s contact with Piastri will be investigated after the race.

Whichever way you look at it, the 2024 Canadian Grand Prix will not be forgotten any time soon.

Canadian Grand Prix 2024: Race classification

1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull 1:45:47.927 70 laps 2 stops
2 Lando NORRIS McLaren +3.879 2 stops
3 George RUSSELL Mercedes +4.317 3 stops
4 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +4.915 3 stops
5 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +10.199 2 stops
6 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +17.510 2 stops
7 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +23.625 2 stops
8 Daniel RICCIARDO RB +28.672 2 stops
9 Pierre GASLY Alpine +30.021 2 stops
10 Esteban OCON Alpine +30.313 1 stop
11 Nico HULKENBERG Haas +30.824 3 stops
12 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas +31.253 4 stops
13 Valtteri BOTTAS Kick Sauber +40.487 1 stop
14 Yuki TSUNODA RB +52.694 1 stop
15 Guanyu ZHOU Kick Sauber +1 lap 3 stops

Did not finish

Alex Albon, contact
Carlos Sainz, spin and contact
Charles Leclerc, power unit issue
Sergio Perez, crash damage
Logan Sargeant, crash

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