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Verstappen wins gripping wet-dry race in Canada

Max Verstappen holds aloft the trophy after winning the Canadian Grand Prix
Max Verstappen has now won six of the nine races so far this season [Getty Images]

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won a gripping wet-dry Canadian Grand Prix that developed into a five-car battle for the lead over the final 10 laps.

Verstappen expertly managed a restart after a safety-car period with 11 laps to go to bolt into a decisive lead while McLaren’s Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri fought with the Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton behind him.

Verstappen pulled out nearly two seconds in one lap and controlled the race to the end from there.

Norris had twice led the race earlier on as conditions fluctuated between wet and dry but lost it each time by stopping later than Verstappen.

And in the closing laps he could not do anything about the world champion when it mattered and had to settle for second.

Russell, who had led the early laps before the race's various dramas began to unfold, passed Hamilton with three laps to go to take the final podium place but was left ruing a couple of key errors during a race that he started from his first pole position for nearly two years.

Hamilton took fourth place ahead of Piastri with the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso sixth.

Verstappen calm amid the storm

George Russell's Mercedes throws up a ball of s spray at the start of the Canadian Grand Prixpray at the start of the Canadian Grand Prix
The race started wet with George Russell converting his pole position into a lead at the first corner [Reuters]

It was Verstappen’s sixth win in nine races this year, and extended his championship lead over Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to 56 points after a terrible race and double retirement for the Italian team.

Although Verstappen won again, it was far from the foregone conclusion of grands prix at the start of the season.

The last 11 laps started finely poised, after Mercedes pitted Russell and Hamilton for fresh tyres under the safety car, giving both drivers a 10-lap advantage on their tyre wear over Verstappen and the McLarens in front.

But just as Russell was beginning to mount a challenge on the McLarens, with Norris and Piastri running nose to tail behind the escaping Verstappen, the Mercedes driver was a touch ambitious in trying to pass Piastri on the outside of the final chicane and was forced on to the run-off area.

That dropped him behind Hamilton, who soon passed Piastri and himself looked briefly set for a charge towards the front.

But Russell fought back to pass Piastri and then Hamilton, who was given hard tyres rather than the mediums on Russell’s car.

Bad timing for Norris

Norris also had cause to rue misfortune.

As the track dried through the first stint, he closed in on Verstappen in second place and passed him and then took the lead from Russell into the final chicane.

Russell was forced to cut the chicane as Norris passed, and Verstappen demoted him to third on the exit.

Five laps later, after Norris had built a substantial lead, Logan Sargeant crashed his Williams as more rain began to fall and the safety car was deployed.

But the call was too late for Norris to pit - he had passed the pit exit already - while everyone behind him could. The safety car then picked Norris up, slowing him down, and he came out in third place behind Verstappen and Russell.

At the restart, Verstappen began to slowly edge away from Russell, and the race seemed to have fallen under his control.

But the track dried, and Russell and Norris began to come back at the Red Bull, only for each to make mistakes.

First, Norris went off the track at Turns One and Two, also delaying Russell, who lost 1.5secs to Verstappen in one lap.

Three laps later, on lap 45, Verstappen and Russell stopped for slick tyres, while Norris stayed out for two more laps.

He was trying to build a sufficient advantage to come out in the lead, and it was close - he looked to be set to race wheel to wheel with Verstappen as the McLaren exited the pits.

But Norris lost grip on the damp area off-line on the pit-lane exit, and Verstappen was able not only to retain the lead but finish the lap nearly four seconds ahead.

The race for the win seemed all but over, only for a safety car, triggered when Carlos Sainz lost his Ferrari at Turn Six and collected Alex Albon's Williams, to close up the field again, and Mercedes to take their chance with fresh tyres.

It was worth a gamble, but in the end the race was won by the driver and team who kept things under control best in tough conditions and made fewest mistakes - even if Verstappen himself had a couple of off-track moments.

Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez had a poor race, failing to make significant progress from his 16th grid position and then crashing late in the race.

Perez was given a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Spain for returning to the track with a damaged car after his accident, leaving carbon-fibre debris strewn around the circuit.

George Russell and Lando Norris after the Canadian Grand Prix
The Canadian Grand Prix was the first time George Russell (left) and Lando Norris have been on the podium together since Formula 2 in 2018 [Reuters]

What's next?

It's back to Europe and the start of a triple-header with the next race the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona two weeks from now.

That is followed by a trip to Austria and then the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, from 5-7 July.