Max Verstappen holds off Carlos Sainz to win Montreal; Lewis Hamilton back on podium

Verstappen Sainz Lewis Montreal
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MONTREAL — Max Verstappen scored his sixth Formula One win of the season, holding off a late challenge Sunday from Carlos Sainz Jr. while Lewis Hamilton returned to the podium in the Canadian Grand Prix.

Verstappen started from pole position at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and the Dutchman had no trouble clearing Fernando Alonso, who earned his first front-row start in a decade then joked he’d attack Verstappen in the first turn to steal the victory.

But there was no challenge and by the time Sainz cleared Alonso for second on Lap 2, Verstappen had already built a lead of 2.4 seconds in his Red Bull.

Sainz, who tied a career-best finish while remaining winless in F1, was able to close the gap over the final 10 laps and pressured the reigning Formula One champion but faded on the last lap and finished 0.993 seconds behind in the Ferrari.

“That was amazing,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner radioed Verstappen after his first Montreal victory. “Withstood all the pressure, brilliant, brilliant drive.”

Mercedes had a tremendous rebound from its season-long struggles, which included a terrible Friday practice, as seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton scored his first podium since the season opener.

George Russell was fourth as Hamilton beat his new teammate for just the second time in nine races this season.

“Great, great effort guys, thank you so much,” Hamilton radioed. “The car was a little bit better today. Let’s keep pushing.”

Hamilton, 37, received a rousing ovation after his finish and said he had no problems with back pain, which has plagued him all season because of how the new Mercedes has bounced all over the track. The FIA took steps to curtail “porpoising” this week.

“It’s good, I’m back to being young,” he said.

Verstappen, meanwhile, has won two consecutive and six of the first nine races this year in defense of his first Formula One title.

It was Verstappen’s best finish in Montreal, which F1 said hosted a record 338,000 spectators over the three-day weekend as the series returned to Canada after a two-year pause during the pandemic.

The Sunday crowd was treated to clear, sunny skies after two days of rain that upended qualifying and created the slick track that allowed Alonso – and other drivers, including Hamilton – to earn their top starting spots this year.

Charles Leclerc rallied from a 10-place grid penalty for changing the engine in his Ferrari to finish fifth from 19th. Estaban Ocon of Alpine finished sixth and teammate Alonso, who said he’d be pleased with a fifth-place finish, was seventh.

Valtteri Bottas of Alfa Romeo was eighth and followed by teammate Zhou Guanyu, who finished in the points for the second time this season. Canadian driver Lance Stroll of Aston Martin was 10th.

Sergio Perez exited the race after just nine laps with a gearbox issue, the fourth Red Bull mechanical failure this season between Perez and Verstappen. Eleven laps later, Mick Schumacher came to a stop on track – ending the Haas driver’s bid to score his first F1 points.

Haas had equaled its best qualifying effort in team history a day earlier when Kevin Magnussen and Schumacher qualified fifth and sixth, but the team failed to convert. Magnussen damaged his front wing on the opening lap racing Hamilton for position and had to make an early stop for repairs; he finished 17th.

Toronto native Nicholas Latifi, who has admitted his seat at Williams is not secure, was 16th in his first career home grand prix.

After a week off, Formula One will resume July 3 with the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, where Hamilton won last year in the Brit’s home race.