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Verstappen wins entertaining Canadian Grand Prix


Without wishing to put the mockers on things - seemingly an old Australian term for what might also be called the Murray Walker curse - today's race promises not to be classic.

Hopefully not in terms of 2011 in terms of delays, but with all of the drama.

After all so many teams and drivers have something to prove.

Mercedes, well if ever a team needed a break it's the Brackley mob, and this appears to be their best chance for some time. While George Russell starts from pole, surely Lewis Hamilton has something to prove.

Then there's Max Verstappen, seemingly on the cusp of losing his and his team's stranglehold on the titles, coming back to match Russell to a thousandth of a second. The Dutchman will be chomping at the bit to re-establish himself and continue cruising towards his fourth title, while teammate Sergio Perez will be desperate to prove that, contrary to what Helmut might think, it's not all in his head.

McLaren and its driver are probably the exception, as none seemingly have a point to prove, though Oscar Piastri would surely love to come out of his teammate's shadow... assuming the team allows him.

Daniel Ricciardo? Where do you start? Having already told Jacques Villeneuve to eat s**t, the Australian would surely love to serve the Canadian a dollop of the same on a silver platter, possibly accompanied by one of those silly medals they get now for finishing on the podium.

Fernando Alonso, well the Aston Martin hasn't been kind to him this year, and if ever a driver needed a lucky break it's the two time world champion, who revels in the sort of conditions we are expecting today. The same goes for teammate Lance Stroll, who also came in for some criticism from the 1997 world champion. A strong result in his home race would be just what the doctor (and Daddy ordered).

Ferrari? Again, where do you start. From heroes to zeros in a fortnight. If nothing else we can expect Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz to want to battle their way to the front today, but the car really doesn't like this circuit. And surely, no offence intended, Carlos deserves better than Williams, so what better motivator.

Talking of Williams, Logan Sargeant has looked strong this weekend but is it too little too late. Personally, we think he's out of his depth, but perhaps he's a slow learner. Consequently today serves as a great opportunity.

With Oliver Bearman looking set to join Haas, the American team might well want to keep Kevin Magnussen on board as mentor. Then again - and we love his Viking spirit - would you want the Dane mentoring your young hopeful? On the other hand, Esteban Ocon, who takes a 5-place grid penalty and therefore starts from the back, is also linked with the American team.

Valtteri Bottas has also been linked with Williams - returning to the team that nurtured him - however his cause is not helped today by the fact that he and his teammate will start from the pitlane after changing their rear wings under parc ferme conditions.

So, lots to prove and lots of teams and drivers needing to do so.

As ever, the start will be vital, and while Russell will be desperate to fend off Verstappen, who has a great record in terms of starts, he will also be under attack from the McLarens.

We wouldn't dare to make any predictions other than this race looks set to be everything that Imola and Monaco were not... and that's without the (hoped for) interference from the Weather Gods.

Ahead of the start it is cool and dry, but there has been rain and there will be more - hence our keen anticipation of a decent race. Indeed, while the sun is currently shining, the track remains damp from the last downpour, and while there are dark clouds all around, it has been noticed that the track has dried remarkably quickly throughout the weekend.

The track which has been completely resurfaced since last year, is still very green - a fact not helped by the fact that the rubber has been persistently washed away - and therefore we saw very obvious evolution even during the course of Q3 when many drivers failed to improve on their previous bests.

This also led to significant graining, particularly with the mediums, which is the compound that almost everyone used for long runs.

Therefore, it is increasingly likely that, if we have a dry race, which is unlikely, the most effective strategy is a two-stop, the predominant choice being to use two sets of hards, which explains why seven teams still have two sets available for each driver.

The one-stop strategy, using a combination of medium and hard, is possible, but it's very marginal. Indeed, it's not impossible that someone might try to start the race with this in mind, while retaining the flexibility to switch to a two-stop.

However, should the Weather Gods decide to have some fun this would all go out of the window, as would be the case should Guanyu Zhou decide to put his Stake in the barriers for a third successive day.

Fifty minutes ahead of the start, it begins to rain again as Race Control confirms an 80% chance of further downpours during the race.

As the pitlane opens it is remarkably cool, with the air temperature a mere 16 degrees C, and track temperature 20 degrees.

As the drivers head out on wets, Piastri asks to switch to Inters as he believes it's improving.

"Our target is to win today," says Norris, "we are in a good position, we have a good car, we have had all weekend and for the last few races."

"More opportunities for sure, let's see what we can do," says Alonso. "One of those races you need to see the chequered flag.

"We expect rain in ten minutes, quite heavy," he adds.

As the clock counts down it has stopped raining, while there is a wastegate issue with Ocon's car.

Race Control ups its estimate of rain to 100%.

All are starting on Inters, bar Magnussen and Hulkenberg who are on full wets.

They head off on the formation lap, as Verstappen is warned of standing water at Turn 2 only.

"The cell of rain coming should last ten to fifteen minutes," Ricciardo is told.

The grid forms.

They're away! It's a cautious start, and while Russell has the edge on Verstappen, the entire field is struggling, particularly the Ferraris. As they nervously negotiate the opening complex the field disappears in a cloud of spray, at the back Gasly gets out of shape as his right rear tangles with Perez' left front causing the Frenchman to spin. They touch and some bodywork is shed... but whose?

At the end of Lap 1, it's: Russell, Verstappen, Norris, Piastri, Alonso, Hamilton, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Stroll and Leclerc. Hulkenberg is up to 12th while Sainz has dropped to 15th after making a mistake in the final chicane.

It is now raining heavily.

"This level of rain is the worst we expect," Russell is told.

Magnussen passes Alonso for fifth as his teammate passes Stroll for ninth.

Magnussen claims third rom Piastri, as Russell leads Verstappen by 2.6s, the Dutchman 2.2s clear of Norris.

On Lap 3, Magnussen posts a new fastest lap (36.134) as the rain starts to ease.

"We are seeing something strange engine-wise," Leclerc is warned. "We are looking at it, keep pushing."

As Magnussen closes on Norris, Hulkenberg is being held up by Hamilton who is right behind Alonso.

Lap 5 sees Verstappen post a new fastest lap, suggesting that conditions are coming to the Inters.

"People on Inter now going faster than those on Ex-wets," Leclerc is told.

Sargeant is off at Turn 6, thereby bringing out the yellows. He is able to continue.

Elsewhere, Alonso misses the final chicane while Hamilton misses Turn 1 and the Spaniard has a major tank-slapper exiting the opening complex.

"How much am I losing down the straights?" asks Leclerc. Quite a bit," he is told.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Montreal here.


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