Formula 1

Mika Hakkinen: Verstappen further extends lead despite strong challenge from Sainz

June 21, 2022

MAX Verstappen tightened his grip on the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship with a controlled performance which saw him convert pole position into victory despite a late race challenge from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

After a Safety Car period gave Sainz a ‘free’ pit stop the Spanish driver was able to mount a sustained challenge on Verstappen’s lead, remaining less than one second behind, but the Red Bull driver remained firmly in control.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell gave Mercedes Benz a boost with 3rd and 4th, both drivers happier with their car’s race performance after a difficult start to the weekend which saw them suffering from the ‘porpoising’ which has afflicted them all season.

There was another solid result from Finland’s Valtteri Bottas, 7th for Alfa Romeo ahead of team mate Guanyu Zhou, both drivers benefitting from a post-race 5-second penalty for weaving which dropped Fernando Alonso drop to 9th in his Alpine.

“We did not have any doubt that Max is in control of the championship before the weekend and the result in Montreal confirms that Red Bull’s package is simply too strong at the moment,” said Mika Hakkinen, winner of the Canadian Grand Prix in 1999.  “They have straight line speed, good balance and a car that Max can clearly work with on every type of circuit. Montreal is the kind of circuit where you need a little bit of everything – good confidence under braking and low speed performance, but strong traction for the straights where you can overtake – and Max’s car looked brilliant everywhere.”

“The only problem for Red Bull appears to be reliability. Once again we saw an issue in the race for Checo Perez.  That must have made the team nervous on a day when Max really needed to take advantage of title rival Charles Leclerc starting from the back of the grid, so the great result will have been a relief for them. Reliability seems to be the only thing Max, Checo and the team need to worry about.”

Leclerc started at the back of the grid after taking an engine penalty, the result of the recent failures in Spain and Azerbaijan.

“Ferrari has a quick car but it’s fragile,” says Hakkinen. “Team boss Mattia Binotto is right to say that it’s better to have a fast car with some reliability issues than a slow car which finishes.  If the team can get on top of their reliability problems Charles and Carlos can definitely challenge Red Bull again, although that 49 point gap between Max and Charles is not going to be easy to close down.  Not only do Ferrari need to win some races, they also need Max to hit trouble.”

Lewis Hamilton’s podium finish – only his second of the season – put a smile back on the face of the 7-times World Champion.

“Mercedes has the one thing both red Bull and Ferrari lack – reliability!” says Hakkinen.  “But they are also quick enough to be consistently the third fastest car on the track and able to pick up good points whenever Red Bull or Ferrari have any issues.  This looked like a step forward in terms of race set-up.  The team have been trying new things on the car, sometimes making it very difficult for both drivers, but Sunday looked positive.”

“The porpoising problem on this year’s F1 cars has clearly been a significant issue – affecting some teams much more than others.  It is good to see the FIA listening to concerns about driver safety and – as usual – the best way to get to sort it out is to measure what’s happening and then make some decisions based on what the data shows.  Of course some teams want to see changes, especially if the porpoising is making their cars uncompetitive, but once the FIA, teams and drivers can get an accurate picture of what’s really happening the right steps can be taken.”

Two-times Fernando Alonso started Sunday’s race from the front row of the grid, the first time the Spanish driver has been on the front row since 2012.

“Fernando started racing in Formula 1 during my final season so it’s incredible to see him on the front row of the grid more than twenty years later!” said Hakkinen. “He still loves racing in F1 and he made the most of Saturday’s challenging weather conditions to grab P2 on the grid. It takes a huge amount of mental and physical strength and stamina to remain competitive at this level, so it’s no small achievement for Fernando to have been pushing for pole position!”

 

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