By Adrian R. Huber
Madrid, Jun 19 (EFE).- The Netherlands’ Max Verstappen, driving for Red Bull, strengthened his leadership position in the world Formula One rankings by winning the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday, fending off enormous pressure put on him, especially in the final laps, by Spain’s Carlos Sainz, with Ferrari, who came in second and ran his fastest race this year.
The 24-year-old Verstappen thus notched his sixth victory of the year’s nine F1 contests so far, winning at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit in Montreal, while Sainz climbed onto his 11th F1 podium along with third-place Lewis Hamilton, the British Mercedes driver.
Another Spaniard, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, with Alpine, ended up in seventh place.
The Dutchman now leads in this season’s F1 rankings with 175 points, 46 ahead of Sainz and 49 ahead of Monaco’s Charles Leclerc (with Ferrari), who started out in the 19th spot but finished fifth, just behind Mercedes driver George Russell of the UK.
After securing his 16th pole position in earlier trials, Verstappen started out the race first, as F1 returned to Montreal after a three-year hiatus.
Sergio Perez and Mick Schumacher had to drop out of the race, and virtual safety cars came out, with drivers then making a number of pit stops but Verstappen emerging in the lead after the commotion and confusion.
“The last few laps were a lot of fun,” he said after the race, adding that “I think … (Ferrari) were very quick in the race so it would have been really tough for me to close that gap to the end, even on fresher tires. But it was really exciting at the end.”
“I was giving it everything I had,” he said, adding, “Of course, (Sainz) was doing the same. … I could see he was pushing, charging.”
Meanwhile, Sainz, who had pressured Verstappen hard at the end but could not get around him to take the lead, said, “I was pushing flat out, I wasn’t leaving an inch. … I tried everything to pass Max. Today we didn’t have the pace.”
But the Spaniard added that Sunday’s performance was “the best” of the nine races he’s driven this year, saying “I’m particularly happy with the race pace, with the way we put pressure on Max. … We tried everything, we were close to winning today.”
With the result, Verstappen – who won the F1 title last year – will go into the Silverstone race in the UK nicely ahead of his nearest challenger, with Mexico’s Perez still in second place, despite having to withdraw on Sunday, albeit after winning in Monaco in May.