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Max Verstappen boosts championship lead with win in Canadian Grand Prix

Max Verstappen celebrates victory in Montreal (Graham Hughes/AP)
Max Verstappen celebrates victory in Montreal (Graham Hughes/AP)

Max Verstappen held off a late challenge from Carlos Sainz to take victory at the Canadian Grand Prix and further extend his championship lead.

With Formula One returning to Montreal for the first time in three years, it was the Red Bull of Verstappen which took the chequered flag to move 46 points clear at the top of the standings.

Sainz was fast in the closing stages following a period behind the safety car but could not find a way past Verstappen and had to settle for second place, the pair joined on the podium by Lewis Hamilton – the seven-time world champion taking third for Mercedes.

His team-mate George Russell continued his record of top-five finishes all season as he took fourth ahead of Charles Leclerc, who recovered from starting 19th to claim a decent haul of points for Ferrari.

The Alpines were sixth and seventh, Esteban Ocon managing to finish ahead of Fernando Alonso, while Valtteri Bottas, Guanyu Zhou and local favourite Lance Stroll rounded out the points.

Verstappen cantered off the line and into the first corner well ahead of Alonso, who had impressed in qualifying to take his first front-row start in a decade.

Hamilton had started an impressive fourth and held off a challenge from the Haas of Kevin Magnussen, with Alonso passed by Sainz on lap three.

An early virtual safety car for the retirement of the sister Red Bull of Sergio Perez, seemingly with an engine issue, allowed a spate of pit stops with Verstappen and Hamilton among those to put on fresh tyres.

A similar situation occurred on lap 19 as Mick Schumacher was forced to retire, this time the VSC allowing Russell to pit as Sainz also stopped and Verstappen retook the lead.

With Perez out, another of Verstappen’s title rivals was cutting his way through the field as Leclerc overcame a 10-place grid penalty after replacing engine parts on Saturday.

The Monegasque, however, ended up stuck behind Ocon to check his progress, a slow pit stop then forcing him back down into the pack.

The sell-out crowd on Ile Notre-Dame was treated to a rare example of a Hamilton and Verstappen battle, with last year’s title protagonists neck and neck as the Dutchman left the pits.

Sainz stayed out to take the lead and was able to pit under a safety car on lap 49 after Yuki Tsunoda crashed out in the AlphaTauri, getting right onto the gearbox of Verstappen at the restart.

There was no drama as the safety car peeled away but Sainz was keeping Verstappen honest, closing to within a second and pushing for an overtake in the closing stages.

But, while Leclerc cut past the two Alpines to improve his position, Sainz had no answer up front as Verstappen took the 26th win of his career and his fifth in the last six races.

There had been doubts as to whether Hamilton would even drive in Canada after he suffered from a bad back due to the amount of porpoising he suffered at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix last weekend.

But a mixture of acupuncture and cryotherapy had him ready for the race and he took third place, just his second podium of the season.

“It is feeling good, I’m back to feeling young,” he replied when asked about his back at the end of the grand prix.

“It is quite overwhelming to get this third pace, it has been such a battle this year as a team – I’m so proud and inspired by my crew.

“They are a little bit too quick for us at the moment, I gave everything and we are getting closer and closer.

“I could just about see (the leaders) at the end thanks to the safety car, our pace was quite good so honestly I’m ecstatic, I didn’t expect it coming into the weekend.”