If anything, the Canadian Grand Prix of 2022 was a stark reminder of the fine racing craft possessed by a certain Max Verstappen of Red Bull.
Despite coming under intense attack by the Ferrari, which was really closing in the gap to the race leader with ten laps remaining, Max Verstappen was seen driving on another level; a man who proved untouchable for his Spanish pursuer and one driving on a very Senna-esque plane all together.
But the Red Bull win notwithstanding, which other key moments defined the Canadian GP of 2022 and became its talking points?
P3- Not too bad for perpetually porpoising Lewis
When Hamilton faced the media prior to the start of the 2022 Canadian GP, he didn’t mean to joke by saying that each time he drives that Mercedes W13, he feels as though he’s suffering from a minor concussion.
Add to that, the woeful condition of his lower back that did actually threaten his chances of participating at the very track where Lewis last won in 2019.
And yet, despite all of that, Lewis Hamilton, statically the most successful driver on the grid, captured a podium at Montreal despite his perpetually proposing Mercedes was just brilliant.
His bold overtakes on Kevin Magnussen early on in the contest and later, denying Verstappen (on significantly fresher tyres) to get ahead of his Mercedes when the Red Bull driver had just exited the pits for a second time were true indications of Hamilton still having the hunger and zeal to fight on; startling reminders to those naysayers to whom the seven-time world champion has been nothing more than a cry baby of late.
A second podium in 2022 and importantly, a P3 and P4 finish for Mercedes meant that Lewis was on the charge and in fine form this weekend. But can he maximise this race result and carry forward the impressive form in what lies ahead?
Carlos Sainz had a race to remember
Despite not being able to pass the staunch defences of Max Verstappen, who won his first ever Canadian Grand Prix, Sainz drove a fine race for his Scuderia stable.
In setting the fastest lap and hence, an extra point besides securing 18 more points courtesy his P2, the Spaniard took home 19 solid points and has hit back at critics who already waxed lyrical about how the 2022 fight was just out of hands of the Madrid born.
For starters, it took the Ferrari driver just 3 laps to pass his own racing idol, Alonso and get second.
No other driver apart from Sainz set as many fastest laps in the race at different junctures as the man currently contesting a season that finally seems to have hit the recovery mode. Early indications of blazing pace were evident when Carlos Sainz set the fastest laps on lap 6 and 7.
Sainz pitted lap 20 – for harder compounds and came just ahead of Lewis on third, who was then on 4th.
But Sainz still looked in good control and managed his tyre really well for the better part of the 70-lap contest.
When Tsunoda lost control of his Alpha Tauri and went into the barriers thus prompting the deployment of the safety car, Sainz was one of the first to pit; an excellently timed and judged second pit during the crucial period allowing him to press Verstappen later in the contest but importantly, at a crucial moment of the race.
From lap 60 until the very end, Sainz kept coming hard at Verstappen but Max simply didn’t budge. Not once. Though that doesn’t mean that Carlos didn’t give it everything, as he went about reducing a gap that was no more than a second on lap 61 to being under four tenths in the penultimate lap of the contest.
The Sainz versus Verstappen battle not only kept fans on the tenterhooks; it gave the inveterate F1 lover a taste of the true battle of the season: the Ferrari v Red Bull show, one that’s given us so much wide eyed entertainment so far.
Leclerc must take heart from his race
Having already superseded the number of components on his engine than what is stipulated by the rule book, Leclerc had to pay the price and resultantly, began his 2022 Canadian Grand Prix from the back of the grid or very nearly, the very back of the pack.
His P19 was never going to help him one bit or so one thought. But soon as the five red lights turned green and Leclerc spotted an opportunity to make amends for a superbly dull qualifying result, he turned into a man with an uncontrollable desire to get further up.
Thus began the process of making one ballsy move too many, much to the pleasure of the fans decked in red t-shirts and, of course, the Maranello ensemble at Montreal.
By lap two, Leclerc, who’d begun from nineteenth, was already on P17.
By lap 5, he was fighting on sixteenth and already chasing the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel.
He’d make more moves, each combining daring and the desire to race hard.
Leclerc later passed Norris at the beginning of lap 14 on the straights, making most of the Ferrari’s faster front line speed and by Lap 11, went on the outside of Williams’ Alex Albon on the straights of Albon, to take eleventh.
More moves would come with just fifteen laps remaining, this including the bold overtakes around the hairpin bend on Tsunoda and Ricciardo in that order.
A sensational move also saw the other Aston Martin of Lance Stroll being whisked past like the unstoppable gush of wind. By that time, Leclerc was on eighth.
The only trouble, however, was Ocon’s unrelenting form; the Alpine driver cutting no corners whatsoever and frustrating the Ferrari man embroiled in a brilliant recovery drive.
Disaster for Perez
Sergio Perez, who had been running such good form for the better part of the season, may surely have wanted to fare much better on Sunday than he did here at Montreal.
Although, he began from thirteenth on the grid, Perez, who most recently won the Grand Prix of Monaco, was running a fine race when he battled a sudden technical fault in his Red Bull.
Resultantly, the famous Mexican driver slowed down after turns 5 and 6 and brought his Red Bull to a slow winding halt at the end of lap eleven, which was such a shame.
It was thought to be a hydraulics issue, which was later conceived as a problem with his throttle before Team Principal Horner later clarified that there was a malfunction on Perez’ gearbox.
Ocon shows his might against Leclerc
Charles Leclerc of Ferrari drove a great and gritty race to collect a fighting fifth in the end having begun from nineteenth on the grid. But it was his confrontation with Frenchman Esteban Ocon of Alpine that turned out quite sour and not what the Monegasque had quite expected in a major scrap in the midfield.
From the onset of lap 29 until the completion of lap 41, the Alpine, strictly speaking, a midfielder, held tenaciously onto its own in a great tussle for supremacy against Ferrari of all cars.
While Leclerc had already passed one car too many despite driving a peculiarly long stint, it was the Alpine of Esteban Ocon that the Ferrari driver quite simply failed to get past.
Ocon, who exhibited fine car control all throughout his battle with Leclerc, found great exits particularly in the fast corners of the Montreal-bound track, which is precisely where Charles struggled in his Ferrari despite being the stronger contender on the straights.
You can defend from an attacking Ferrari for two to three laps and it’s considered job well done; but to defy the fastest running car on the grid for a good thirteen laps is demonstration of sublime race craft. Precisely the thing we perhaps still don’t give Ocon, who bagged a sixth in the end, enough credit for.