Max Verstappen reflects on challenging and rewarding F1 Canadian GP win amid groundhog save, as Christian Horner dissects the strategy.

It wasn’t a straightforward F1 Canadian GP at all. The weather played a key role and Red Bull’s Verstappen had to fight strong against McLaren’s Lando Norris and Mercedes’ George Russell to win an enthralling battle and stretch his drivers’ standings lead.

He was stuck behind Russell at the start and eventually lost to Norris too. But a timely pit stop allowed him back in the lead which was decisive in the end. The seemingly pit error from the McLaren pitwall allowed Verstappen to take the lead by just.

Despite the ailing issue of kerb riding, the Dutchman eventually had enough to see-through to win, where Norris was forced to be content with second after not being able to showcase the strong pace he showed at the onset of the grand prix.

It was a rewarding win which came under challenging conditions and Verstappen stamped his authority, especially after his showing in Monaco. “It’s for sure, it’s very rewarding,” he said. “I mean, it’s never an easy race. It’s easy to make mistakes, especially on the Inters when they were almost becoming slicks.

“It was very easy to go off because the track was drying in most places. But in some corners, it was still a bit too wet to go to slick tyres. And yeah, that made it just very, very difficult. Yeah, it’s a lot of fun to drive these kind of races now and then. You don’t want it all the time because that’s too stressful, but I had a lot of fun out there.

“It’s definitely more challenging. And I think also with, of course, how the race was, it was very exciting in general. And it definitely keeps us on our toes. We cannot afford to make mistakes or tiny mistakes anymore. So, yeah, every little detail matters now. I think, yeah, of course, you are very focused, but you try to remain as calm as you can be.

“And also, the communication to the pit wall and them to you, to ask what are the conditions. And I definitely think as a team, you know, we did make the right calls. And yeah, that, of course, is also very important. In terms of pit stop, Of course, it sometimes works for you and sometimes it works against you.

“So this time, yeah, it was working for us. So I guess in that sense, it’s 1-1 now this year. But that’s racing. It’s a part of it as well,” summed up Verstappen who had a groundhog to save en-route his win. The moment took place on Lap 32 when he was being chased by Russell, who also saw the animal on the back straight.

Verstappen: “He was almost dead. Yeah, I started to get to the last chicane and I thought it was debris initially. So I started to close in and then I’m like, ‘Oh my God, it’s an animal!’ So yeah, I swerved right at the last moment. I don’t know what happened after. Did any of you touch him or you ran off?”

Russell: “I saw him.”

Verstappen: “He ran off?”

Russell: “Yeah, he ran off.”

Verstappen: “Yeah, good. Luckily, I mean, if that hits your car…”

Russell: “I was quite happy because I caught you up by a couple of tenths!”

Verstappen: “Yeah, I really had to slow down for it because I was a bit off the dry line. Yeah, last year, of course, a bird flew into my car. So I didn’t want to have a groundhog stuck in my car as well. I call it a beaver, but it’s a groundhog. I didn’t know what it was exactly.”

Russell: “If you hit a beaver, you’ll have problems.”

Verstappen: “Yeah.”

From the team’s perspective, Horner felt the crucial aspect for their win was taking the right calls with the driver and the team working together. They were helped by the McLaren’s call to pit late, but Red Bull had to be certain about their task.

It did surprise them when McLaren took that call, but they still didn’t think the job was done in changing conditions. “Crucial thing in a victory is for the driver to do his part, the team to do their part, get the pit stop at the right time, the crossover at the right time,” said Horner. “Obviously in those conditions, you are driving on your senses and I think he did an incredible job. Working with the pitwall, we go it right.

“When you look at the race and break it down, in the first stint, we looked very competitive at the beginning of the race, pushing George very hard and pulled out seven seconds very quickly on the cars behind. So in the wetter conditions we were set-up pretty well for. Then unfortunately, we just dropped a little back from George as the DRS opened, which then allowed Lando to come back as the track was drying out.

“It looked like the Mercedes was in more trouble, but we were struggling to get past and that gave Lando a free pass. At that point, it looked like McLaren was the favourite to walk away and win the race. Then pit stops came and we went onto another new set of inters. There was a safety car that neutralised everything and the adjustments we made, we were then able to get ourselves into a better position.”

“Lando stayed out in that phase and he then dropped to third. The car, I thought we were in a much better window as the circuit dried out. We were able to hold a consistent gap and then it was all about getting the crossover at the right time, because the first sector was pretty damp.

“And when you drive out of the pitlane, you lose a huge amount of the temperature. So, I felt like we timed that about right, going onto the medium tyre. And whilst Lando was able to capitalise enough to hit the 20-second mark, and it hovered around that, with each lap we did, the tyres were getting warmer and I was surprised they didn’t cover after one lap.

“They left him for two and that was crucial as that gave Max another lap to generate the temperature. So when Lando did pit, Max had tyres that were in a window and was able to drive and pull out a three-second gap by sector one. So that timing was crucial. There was a fight going on behind us and the safety car with few laps to go and we were in a straight fight, where Lando had better tyres than us for two laps.

“George had taken the opportunity to pit, Lewis had taken the opportunity to pit and they essentially conceded only one place and we had good enough pace to pull away and create a three seconds gap. As the circuit dried out, we had good pace and good degradation. It was a fantastic race for Max to win,” summed up Horner, who noted that they would have pitted any which way when the safety car came out.

He had praise for Verstappen as well, who is often said to have the laurels due to the car. “We would have come in as the tyres were toast and we knew the rain was coming,” he said. “All the information was that the rain was coming so we were surprised that they didn’t prempt it to be honest, as it looked like it was going to be a safety car.

“But it is kind of payback, and I think Gianpiero Lambiase made the comment, which I felt was 40 laps too soon, that it was the way that safety cars go and it was pay back for Miami. That was a well earned victory, just look at the re-starts, look how he was he able to use the conditions, he was on top of the game working well with the pitwall strategically, he even made the right call, the right adjustments during the race and we reacted well to what was going around us, a very rewarding race to win.”

Here’s Max Verstappen after his win:

Here’s how F1 Canadian GP panned out

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