Verstappen equals Senna's win record with Red Bull's 100th F1 victory at Canadian GP


Max Verstappen didn't have it all his way at the 2023 Canadian Grand Prix, but still delivered a lights-to-flag win to equal Ayrton Senna's tally of 41, and hand Red Bull its 100th F1 victory

Max Verstappen and Ayrton Senna celebrate their 41st F1 victories

Two different eras, 41 wins apiece

A familiar name on the trophy and a familiar headline to the race but major milestones were achieved in Montreal that deserve that bit more recognition on a weekend that could have tripped Red Bull and Max Verstappen up.

From the CCTV-related loss of FP1 to the wet running on Saturday and an upgraded Aston Martin in the hands of Fernando Alonso on the front row alongside him, Verstappen headed into the race starting from pole position but with unknowns.

“To be honest I didn’t really know what to expect from the track or whatever – nothing to do with competitors, just for myself as well – because we changed the car quite a bit compared to Friday so I didn’t really know how it would feel today,” the championship leader said. “But luckily it went in the right direction.”

It’s probably not fair to call it luck, given the tallies that Verstappen and Red Bull are amassing.

Alonso had said he hoped to put pressure on Verstappen at a track he expected would suit Aston Martin, even if it also hadn’t learned as much as it would have wanted about its updates earlier in the weekend. But any hopes of putting on pressure early on in cool conditions were scuppered by Lewis Hamilton getting a better start from third to beat his old rival into Turn 1.

Max Verstappen leads at the start of the 2023 Canadian GP

Verstappen led into Turn 1, with Hamilton already past Alonso

Getty Images via Red Bull

Verstappen edged away, but not at a rate seen in other races, with Hamilton just failing to stay within DRS range while also trying to keep Alonso at bay. George Russell was adding pressure from fourth, with Esteban Ocon taking fifth from Nico Hülkenberg and Alex Albon slipping to tenth behind Charles Leclerc.

The other Ferrari of Carlos Sainz scrapped with Sergio Perez on the opening lap and bounced over the Turn 8 kerb before overtaking the Red Bull on the run to the final chicane, and then the race settled down even if the pace didn’t, with Alonso tapping the wall at Turn 4 in pursuit of Hamilton.

Logan Sargeant was told to park his Williams with an oil leak on Lap 7 and while the virtual safety car didn’t last long enough to give a realistic chance of the frontrunners pitting, another opportunity was soon to follow.

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Verstappen had already warned the medium tyre was appearing more fragile than on Friday – suggesting a two-stop race was more likely than one-stop – and Russell then provided the chance to make the first change when he clouted the wall at Turn 9. Like Sainz, he took too much kerb but didn’t gather it up, and suffered heavy damage.

“I don’t know if it was obvious from the TV, I just went a bit wide into Turn 8,” Russell said. “I knew I was going to hit the kerb, but I wasn’t expecting the sausage kerb to have such a violent response, and next thing I’m in the air, I landed and lost the rear, and I’m in the wall.

“It all happened really quite suddenly. Sorry to the team, for sure there was P3, P4 on the cards for us both, but positives to take away that the car was reasonably competitive.”

Damaged Mercedes of George Russell in 2023 Canadian GP

Russell heads back to the pits after hitting the wall

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

With debris on track the safety car was deployed and most drivers headed to the pits – leading to close calls as Hamilton was released in front of Alonso and Lando Norris in front of Albon – but Ferrari left Leclerc and Sainz out to gain positions while Perez was already on hards and similarly continued to circulate.

Russell was remarkably sent back out with the car able to continue and took the restart on lap 16 at the back of the field, and while Norris had escaped penalty for his pitstop release he was given a five-second time penalty for “unsportsmanlike behaviour” for backing up the field under the safety car at Turn 10 to create a gap to team-mate Oscar Piastri before he’d originally come in.

Five laps after the resumption and Alonso found his way past Hamilton using DRS into the final chicane, setting off after Verstappen who was only 2.7 seconds up the road and complaining about his tyres.

Lewis Hamilton behind Fernando Alonso in 20233 Canadian Grand Prix

Alonso found a way past Hamilton — and blocked the Mercedes driver’s attempt to fight back

Aston Martin

A number of drivers were already committing to two stops at that stage, and it became clear Hamilton would do the same as he was told to use any rubber remaining. Russell meanwhile was trying to nurse his tyres but still managed to sweep past the squabbling Nyck de Vries and Kevin Magnussen in one go at Turn 2, before the AlphaTauri tried to re-pass the Haas into Turn 3 but locked up and the pair made light contact before ending up in the run-off area.

With a risk of a virtual safety car if neither rejoined, the pitstops continued and soon Perez came in for his one and only stop from sixth to swap hards for mediums. That allowed Sainz to respond for a set of hards and then Leclerc in time, ensuring all three retained their original slots as Ferrari nailed its strategy.

“We decided to stay on track during the first safety car, which I think was a good strategy,” Leclerc said. “I think we did a great race management today, all in all, tyre management, strategy, the feeling with the car was also better than in the first part of the season, at least for me. So, it’s positive, but fourth is not where we want to be, we want to be fighting for first position again. Of course, starting tenth we made our life more difficult for today, but we’re still lacking a bit of pace.”

Charles Leclerc leads Carlos Sainz in 2023 Canadian Grand Prix

One-stop strategy brought Ferraris into the top half of the points

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Those stops had also released the top three to do the same, Hamilton going first to trigger Alonso and then Verstappen following suit. At the time Alonso was edging closer to the race leader into the final 30 laps and he’d got the gap down below four seconds when he went wide at Turn 8, an incident that betrayed a rear brake issue that he was managing. Told to lift and coast as well, he had to call off the chase and focus on keeping Hamilton at bay.

“I think it was our most competitive race of the year in terms of pace, we were matching the Red Bulls most of the race,” Alonso said. “Sometimes we lost a little bit of pace. At one point I thought the race was over and second place was good.

“Then I saw Lewis coming so fast. The last driver you want to see in your mirrors is Lewis Hamilton when he comes fast! But I had a little bit more pace in hand and in the end he was never in the DRS gap so, it was good to finish second. It was like 70 laps of qualifying today.”

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Hamilton reduced the deficit to 1.4 seconds at one stage but got no closer, and had to be content with third and back-to-back podiums after his P2 in Spain.

“Quite an honour to be up there with two world champions,” Hamilton said. “I was really excited to be third and just trying to be in that mix. But unfortunately, we didn’t have the pace today. We knew that this weekend, this wouldn’t be our strongest circuit, as we struggle in the lower-speed corners particularly. And that’s really where I was losing to Fernando and to Max, just on traction out of Turn 2, out of pretty much every corner.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do just to add rear downforce to the car and a little bit more efficiency, but we’re chipping away and I do believe we will get there at some stage. Max was a little bit gone, but I think our pace is a little bit closer today, so we are going in the right direction.”

Alex Albon in 2023 Canadian GP

Albon was in defensive mode for most of the GP

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The strategies for the top six were made somewhat easier by Williams and Albon, who never made another stop after the safety car and ran 58 laps on a set of hard tyres. While those around made second stops, Albon rose to seventh and then held off Russell – until his retirement with a brake issue – and Ocon to the flag.

It backed up the field and meant Norris dropped out of the points from ninth with his penalty, while Lance Stroll dramatically pipped Valtteri Bottas to the line to secure two points instead of one.

But taking 25 points, Verstappen eased away to the tune of 9.5 seconds at the flag, securing a victory that moves him level with Ayrton Senna on 41 and makes Red Bull the fifth team to reach 100 after Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Williams.

Adrian Newey and Max Verstappen clink champagne bottles on 2023 Canadian GP podium

The architect and the driver: Max Verstappen toasts Adrian Newey on the Montreal podium

Getty Images via Red Bull

“Today probably you would have needed a car that is a little harder on the tyre to keep the temperatures in, so it’s probably not been our best race today but still to win by nine seconds shows that we’ve got a great car,” Verstappen said.

“When I was a little kid driving in go-karting, I was dreaming of being a Formula 1 driver. I would never have imagined I would win 41 grands prix. So of course, to tie with Ayrton is something incredible. I’m proud of that. But I hope it’s not stopping here. I hope that we can keep on winning more races.

“I’ve won 41 of them (for Red Bull)! We’ll talk about maybe a new contract because of that… No honestly it’s a great achievement for the team. We knew that this was the first opportunity of course to do so and I’m happy that that’s done, we’ve won 100 but again I hope we win more than 100, so the new target is 200.”

Given the way he and the team are executing right now, the partnership will definitely continue to make rapid inroads towards that next mark.