Formula 1

Verstappen equals Senna’s tally, Red Bull gets 100th F1 win

by Ben Anderson
9 min read

Max Verstappen claimed Red Bull’s 100th victory in Formula 1 by dominating the 2023 Canadian Grand Prix from pole position, a victory that draws him level with Ayrton Senna’s win tally.

Hopes of a challenge from Fernando Alonso – perhaps the only driver consistently operating near Verstappen’s level in F1 right now – evaporated immediately when Alonso’s Aston Martin was beaten off the start line in a drag race with Lewis Hamilton’s improving Mercedes.

Verstappen led every one of the race’s 70 laps and extended his championship lead to 69 points after Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez laboured to sixth after yet again messing up qualifying. Verstappen has now won four straight races, and six of eight so far this season. A third world title already looks a formality.

Alonso recovered from that slow start and made good use of his upgraded Aston Martin to recover to second place. He always looked comfortable in Hamilton’s slipstream early on, eventually making an uncontested DRS-assisted pass into the final chicane at the end of lap 22 to get back ahead of the Mercedes.

Mercedes usually has stronger race pace than qualifying pace, and was easily the second fastest car last time out in Barcelona, but having expected a more challenging time through Canada’s long straights and bumpy chicanes ahead of this weekend it looked as though the W14 lacked a turn of speed compared to the updated Aston.

That was until the top three made a second round of pitstops. Having fitted fresh mediums with 30 laps to run, Hamilton made good use of a better rubbered-in track to exert serious pressure on Alonso’s hard-tyred Aston as the race neared its end.

An audibly frustrated Alonso was having to ‘lift and coast’ under instruction from his team, managing what Mercedes told Hamilton was a “rear brake issue” (most likely overheating). Alonso clouted the wall heavily with his rear-right wheel early in the race, so perhaps had to pay for that error later on.

Hamilton set the race’s fastest lap (until Perez eclipsed it after making a late ‘free’ pitstop solely for that purpose) and homed in on the Aston, but Hamilton couldn’t close to within DRS range and had to settle for third, eventually finishing 4.5 seconds behind as Alonso found some extra breathing space in the final laps.

George Russell should have probably finished fourth, having spent the early part of it following Alonso quite closely, but Russell clouted the wall heavily exiting Turn 9 having struck the raised ‘sausage kerb’ on the inside at an awkward angle.

Debris from the accident caused a safety car deployment and Russell was fortunate to return to the pits and for his Mercedes to be repairable. Having dropped to last after that stop, Russell recovered reasonably well until he was forced to retire his overheating car while running eighth and pressuring Alex Albon’s Williams for seventh.

Ferrari recovered from a disastrous qualifying session, in which Charles Leclerc failed to make Q3 and Carlos Sainz was penalised three grid places for impeding Pierre Gasly, to salvage fourth and fifth.

Most of the field utilised the Russell-induced safety car on lap 12 to make early pitstops for hard tyres, but having been frustratingly bottled up behind slower McLarens and Nico Hulkenberg’s tyre-eating Haas in the early laps, Ferrari elected to leave both its drivers out on their worn mediums to gain track position.

For once, Maranello’s opportunist and opposite strategy worked, and by the time Leclerc and Sainz were required to make their mandatory pit visits they were able to emerge with their positions intact – Ferrari at pains to impose ‘don’t race’ instructions on its drivers as Leclerc headed Sainz (who felt he was faster).

Sergio Perez utilised a mirror image of the same one-stop strategy (hard/medium rather than medium/hard) – until his late extra visit for fastest lap bonus point purposes – to salvage a top-six finish from 12th on the grid. Perez enjoyed some robust wheel-to-wheel battling with Sainz on the opening lap before settling into a DRS train behind the Ferrari.

Like the Ferraris, Perez also gained track position by staying out of the pits under the safety car, but he couldn’t find a way to exert any real pressure once they had all cleared the slower traffic – suggesting Ferrari’s promising Friday practice pace was genuine and that perhaps Leclerc and Sainz could have been podium contenders in this race had they secured better grid positions.

Albon was also able to make a one-stop strategy work, having been driving on the fringes of the top 10 in the first half of the race. He brilliantly held off the faster Mercedes of Russell (until its retirement with 16 laps to run) and then clung on against a DRS train of two-stopping cars to finish seventh in his slippery Williams.

Esteban Ocon’s Alpine had to make two pistops, so slumped to eighth having run comfortably inside the top six in the early laps. Lando Norris complained about the Alpine’s wobbly rear wing being dangerous, but the car remained intact and wasn’t flagged into the pits.

Norris finished ninth on the road, having produced some of this race’s most punchy overtakes – including lunging passes at the hairpin on McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri and Valtteri Bottas’s Alfa Romeo, as well as a round-the-outside move on Kevin Magnussen at Turn 1 – but a 5s penalty for unsportingly backing up the pack, so McLaren could perform a double-stack pitstop under the Russell safety car, dropped Norris out of the points.

Straightening the final chicane on the last lap while battling Ocon for track position was a pointless but entertaining exercise. Norris was classified 13th, as Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and Bottas were promoted by Norris’s penalty to round out the points scorers.

Race Results

Pos Name Car Laps Laps Led Total Time Fastest Lap Pitstops Pts
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 70 0 1h33m58.348s 1m15.594s 2 25
2 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes 70 0 +9.57s 1m15.779s 2 18
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 70 0 +14.168s 1m15.396s 2 15
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 70 0 +18.648s 1m15.907s 1 12
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 70 0 +21.54s 1m15.911s 1 10
6 Sergio Pérez Red Bull 70 0 +51.028s 1m14.481s 2 9
7 Alex Albon Williams-Mercedes 70 0 +1m0.813s 1m16.917s 1 6
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 70 0 +1m01.692s 1m16.782s 2 4
9 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 70 0 +1m04.402s 1m16.564s 2 2
10 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 70 0 +1m04.432s 1m16.625s 1 1
11 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes 70 0 +1m05.101s 1m16.598s 2 0
12 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault 70 0 +1m05.249s 1m16.425s 2 0
13 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 70 0 +1m08.363s 1m16.374s 2 0
14 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT 70 0 +1m13.423s 1m16.666s 2 0
15 Nico Hülkenberg Haas-Ferrari 69 0 +1 lap 1m17.232s 2 0
16 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 69 0 +1 lap 1m17.09s 2 0
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 69 0 +1 lap 1m16.126s 2 0
18 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT 69 0 +1 lap 1m16.656s 2 0
George Russell Mercedes 53 0 DNF 1m17.097s 2 0
Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes 6 0 DNF 1m18.437s 0 0
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