Max Verstappen aces huge Canadian GP test as Red Bull and Perez falter

The Dutchman took the checkered flag for the sixth time this season in Canada, which proved to be one of his toughest victories in recent memory

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While Lando Norris was frustrated with his team, George Russell committed a litany of errors and Lewis Hamilton lamented the “worst race I’ve driven” at Formula 1‘s 2024 Canadian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen knuckled down to keep his rivals at an arm’s length to record his sixth race victory of the season. Some may suggest it’s just a continuation of Red Bull’s 2023 dominance, but the Dutchman knows it’s not.

Verstappen told the team they have a “number of issues” to resolve after saying on the radio he couldn’t go on the kerbs due to the suspension, while he struggled with bottoming – a bouncing effort created through aerodynamic flow – in Miami and Imola.

It wasn’t a straightforward victory in Canada, either. Verstappen had to pass Russell and Norris for the lead, and he conceded Mercedes “had the faster car” on the day. Indeed, the challenge for him to win a race with two safety car restarts and multiple weather changes – whilst managing issues with the car – was not lost on Red Bull boss Christian Horner.

“It was a well-earned victory today for Max. Just look at him on the restarts, look at how he was able to really make use of the conditions,” Horner told the written press in Canada, including Total-Motorsport.com. “I think he was at the top of his game, working well with the pit wall.”

Max Verstappen leads Lando Norris of McLaren during the 2024 Canadian Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Max Verstappen leads Lando Norris of McLaren during the 2024 Canadian Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Many use Verstappen as an example of a driver can simply be propelled into dominating a sport simply by having the best car. But it’s clearly reductive and inaccurate to suggest that’s the only reason why the 26-year-old is a three-time world champion and now, a 60-time race winner.

This season is proving to be an adequate litmus test for that theory. It is widely believed Red Bull no longer have the quickest car on the grid, with Ferrari and McLaren hot on their heels.

That is reflected by his team-mate Sergio Perez’s recent slump, as he failed to make Q3 in each of the last three qualifying sessions. Verstappen, meanwhile, was on pole in Imola, sixth in Monaco and second only to a dead heat with Russell in qualifying in Montreal. It often feels like he has a different car, given his confidence on the brakes and bravery in high-speed corners, but he doesn’t.

How Verstappen gains the edge

It doesn’t happen by magic; Verstappen is obsessed with simulator work. He’ll spend hours trying to perfect corners and finding every spare inch of the track he can to maximise his performance. When people wonder how he somehow identifies two or three tenths in qualifying to improve his time that other drivers can’t, these are the small gains that help him stay on top.

Race winner Max Verstappen and Second placed Sergio Perez celebrate after the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Race winner Max Verstappen and Second placed Sergio Perez celebrate after the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Then there’s his consistency. Verstappen hasn’t finished a race outside the points since the 2016 Belgian GP. To put that into context, Spa 2016 was his 32nd race in F1 while Canada 2024 was his 194th race weekend. That includes races where he qualified 10th, 14th and 15th, and from those three weekends, he still managed to take away two victories and a P2 finish. That requires a mix of composure, desire and skill.

Not forgetting that in 2023, he won 19 of the 22 races, won the most points in a single season in F1 history and finished on the podium 21 times. His team-mate, Perez, collected only two race wins in the same machinery. At some points in the season, Verstappen was half a second quicker than Perez over one lap, and even faster during the race.

So, is it merely case of the car being the quickest, or is Verstappen giving clear evidence that he is a generational talent and one of the best ever to grace the F1 grid?

Horner has veered between both camps. On the one hand, he hailed Verstappen as a “racing machine” after guiding Red Bull to victory at the Emilia Romagna GP and hours later, contributed to Team Redline’s virtual success in the 24 Hours of Nurburgring endurance event. But when his future was in serious doubt, Horner suggested Verstappen was not the main ingredient behind Red Bull’s success from 2022 onwards.

That statement is becoming harder to support with every time Verstappen finishes at the top in the RB20, while Perez languishes in the midfield or, worse, crashes out like he did in Montreal. At some point, F1 fans will take a step back and appreciate his outstanding achievements. For now, Verstappen is intent on keep proving his doubters wrong.

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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