Verstappen ready to maintain winning run, stretch his lead

The Red Bull driver, who won in Montreal last year, has reeled off successive victories in Miami, Monte Carlo and Barcelona to move 53 points clear of nearest rival and team-mate Sergio Perez in the drivers’ championship.

Third place winner Aston Martin’s Spanish driver Fernando Alonso (R) sprays with non-alcoholic champagne (rosewater) race winner Red Bull Racing’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen on the podium after the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on 5 March 2023. Picture: Giuseppe CACACE/AFP

MONTREAL – Refreshed by a Mediterranean break since winning in Spain, defending world champion Max Verstappen will be seeking to continue his dominant run and stretch his title-race lead in this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver, who won in Montreal last year, has reeled off successive victories in Miami, Monte Carlo and Barcelona to move 53 points clear of nearest rival and team-mate Sergio Perez in the drivers’ championship.

He has also led every lap since lap 48 in Florida, a total of 154, the longest unbroken run since 2012 when four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was equally supreme for the Milton Keynes-based team.

Another win, in Sunday’s 70-lap contest on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a high-speed semi-street track on the Ile Notre-Dame in the St Lawrence River, would be the team’s 100th in Formula One – and 24th in 27 outings.

Only four other teams have scored a century of Grands Prix wins – Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Williams – and few individuals have relished such a coincidence of invincibility for man and machine.

Two-time champion Alberto Ascari of Italy led a record 305 laps between the 1952 Belgian Grand Prix and the Dutch event in 1953, a streak that three-time champion Ayrton Senna in 1988, with 264 consecutive laps in front, tried to match.

Briton Nigel Mansell, champion in 1987, and Vettel, are the only other drivers to have passed 200 laps as leader.

“This track is unique,” said the 25-year-old Verstappen. “You get to ride some old-school kerbs and the scenery is quite cool too. The car set-up has to be a balance between straight-line and running well over the kerbs well.”

Perez, recently regarded as the ‘king of street tracks’ before his qualifying accident in Monaco, said he has been working back at the team factory on rekindling the form that brought him early two early-season wins.

“As a team, we have worked well and know what we have to do to get the car into a window where I perform best,” he said. “In moments like this, it’s more important than ever to work as a team.”


After their disappointing form in Spain, Ferrari and Aston Martin will also hope for a recovery with the British team’s Canadian owner Lawrence Stroll keen to see both his son Lance and two-time champion Fernando Alonso, 41, on the podium at his home event.

Having won all seven races this year, Red Bull will be clear favourites, but resurgent Spaniard Alonso has claimed five top-three finishes already this year and is highly motivated to continue his successes.

For Stroll senior, the sight of a Canadian driver on the Montreal podium for the first time since Jacques Villeneuve in 1996 is a special dream and, after beating Alonso in Spain, his son may have a chance to realise it.

“That’s our plan,” said Stroll senior. “Hopefully, two cars on the podium.”

After a revival in Spain, where they enjoyed a double podium finish, Mercedes will hope their upgraded car can challenge again, but team chief Toto Wolff warned against unrealistic expectations.

“That result was a reward for everyone’s efforts to bring out the update package to the track and we we’re pleased with how it worked,” he said. “We have a new baseline to build from, but we must manage expectations.

“The circuit suited our car and we should expect our direct competitors to be stronger. The Red Bull is large and that will take a lot of work to bridge, but we’re up for the challenge.”

He added that the long straights and slow corners of Montreal’s barrier-lined track would not suit the revived ‘Silver Arrows’ as Barcelona did. “Whatever the result,” he added. “We are learning about our car.”

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