There seems to be a regular pattern emerging in Formula One after the Canadian Grand Prix saw Max Verstappen triumph while Ferrari couldn't quite get the most out of their strategy. However, Verstappen didn't have it all go his way this time out, but he drove a champion's drive to fend off a late charge from Sergio Perez after a Safety Car threatened to undo the Red Bull driver's hard work.
To make Verstappen's weekend even better, his nearest championship rivals, Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc, stumbled, with his teammate suffering from gearbox issues and the Ferrari driver starting from the back row after an engine change. As a result, there are now some 49 points between the top of the standings and P2 as F1 heads to a busy July, and it increasingly looks like Max could have an even wider gap by the summer break.
A topsy-turvy weekend saw Leclerc start at the back and Fernando Alonso at the front following a wet Qualifying session. The 41-year-old Spaniard mastered the slippery conditions at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Saturday to consistently be battling at the sharp end, ultimately rewarded with a front-row start alongside polesitter Verstappen for the race.
Unfortunately for Alonso, despite Alpine looking quick, he slid down the order as the race progressed but at least did well from the starting lights to retain P2. His compatriot and friend Sainz harried the blue and pink Alpine in the opening laps but had to wait for DRS before he could pass down the main straight, with Alonso simply powerless to fight back.
At the back, the whole field being well behaved on the opening lap meant Leclerc couldn't benefit from any crashes, spins, or other retirements to make his way forward, so he had to do things the old-fashioned way. Even with DRS trains forming, the Monegasque took a position per lap for the first five tours of the Montreal track to run in P5 by the fifth lap.
The race had its first of several slowdowns on Lap 7 when Sergio Perez retired from the race after his transmission couldn't change gear. The Mexican had started outside the top ten after a disappointing Qualifying session, and his miserable weekend came to an early end at the side of the circuit to give some drivers the chance to take a 'cheap' pit stop in the resulting Virtual Safety Car.
Perez's teammate and race leader Verstappen was one of the drivers to seize the opportunity. He took the early stop to take on Pirelli's hard tires, along with Lewis Hamilton, who was running behind Alonso in fourth place. However, they would need to nurse the rubber for a mammoth 61 laps for the predicted one-stop strategy to work, so those that didn't pit would've felt optimistic their newer tires would help them later in the race. With some other backmarkers also pitting, Leclerc found himself up to P12 by the time the VSC ended.