Max Verstappen took a milestone victory at the 2023 Canadian Grand Prix to further extend both his championship lead and his Formula 1 legacy, ahead of two of the greatest to ever drive in the sport.
While not the watershed moment some made it out to be, the grand prix nonetheless marks a significant moment in the history of Verstappen, Red Bull and F1.
However, beyond the front there were plenty of standout performances for better or worse – just look at the other side of the Red Bull garage.
Lance Stroll was lucky to miss out of the losers, after he was once again comprehensively outshone by Fernando Alonso at his home race.
While Esteban Ocon had a good weekend qualifying sixth and finishing eighth but that was outweighed by the misfortune that befell Pierre Gasly who does feature in the ‘room to improve’ category.
Winner: Alex Albon
A wonderful moment for Albon, who denied the record-breaking Verstappen Driver of the Day at a race that perfectly encapsulated the fight – and speed – that’s defined his return to F1 following his failure as Verstappen‘s teammate at Red Bull.
Verstappen won’t care, make no mistake, but the narrative is there for the taking. By the end of 2020 Albon looked an empty shell of the driver that had shone for Toro Rosso less than two years earlier, but his rehabilitation at Williams has been a joy to watch.
He’s picked up George Russell‘s mantle as team leader, and Albon‘s seventh place in Canada was his highest finish yet for the team.
As an added bonus, Williams upgrades looked successful and they’ll hope to fight for points more consistently at least up until the summer break.
Loser: Pierre Gasly
A prime example of how a sliding-doors moment can change a weekend. Gasly got screwed by Sainz – who was actually pencilled in as a loser post-qualifying which is extremely rare – in qualifying and that just set the tone for another batch of raceday misfortune.
Ahead of the grand prix Gasly said Alpine would look to mix it up on strategy and still believed he could score points, but the F1 gods thought otherwise.
Caught in a DRS train, his decision to pit early looked a smart one for about two laps until Russell clouted the wall and brought out the safety car, relegating Gasly back to the back.
His 12th-placed finish still wasn’t bad, but Gasly definitely would’ve been in the top-10 fight had he made it out of Q1.
Still, Ocon performed fantastically in qualifying – enhancing his already-strong reputation in the wet – ensuring Alpine‘s four-race streak of points continues.
Winner: Max Verstappen
It’s very difficult to find new things to say about a driver who’s won four races on the spin, led literally the last 223 laps of F1 and has just equalled Ayrton Senna‘s win total aged 25.
Verstappen is F1 right now, he doesn’t have off-days and he can dominate in all weather – as Lewis Hamilton pointed out he’s going to be the favourite for every single race until Mercedes and Aston Martin can up their game.
After just celebrating their 100th race victory, it’s not unlikely Red Bull could overtake Mercedes‘ total of 125 before the end of 2024 unless things chance.
Loser: George Russell
It was the Canadian GP that marked the turning point in the intra-team Mercedes battle in 2022, after Russell had beaten Hamilton in the previous seven races, and once again the young pretender was outclassed by his champion teammate.
In a qualifying session where plenty at the team grumbled about the conditions, Hamilton was able to extract a quarter of a second more pace than Russell who then received a lifeline with Nico Hulkenberg‘s post-qualifying demotion.
But he struggled to keep pace with Hamilton and Alonso, pushing so hard he clouted the wall to end his charge for the podium.
He delivered a decent recovery drive to get back into the top 10 but that all proved fruitless when Mercedes called him in to retire the car.
Are Ferrari back?!? Under the watchful eye of newly crowned Le Mans winner Antonio Giovinazzi, Ferrari reverted to type on Saturday as Sainz crashed in FP3 before earning a qualifying grid penalty while Charles Leclerc missed Q3 after a tyre mix-up.
But that was banished come raceday, Sainz kept ahead of Perez at the start and was able to frustrate the Red Bull from there.
It looked like Ferrari had dropped a strategy clanger when they opted to stay out under the safety car but after taking track position, Leclerc and Sainz expertly built a gap to the rest of the field on medium tyres.
To record a double top-five finish – Ferrari‘s first of the season – from that starting position is the best they could’ve hoped for.
Loser: Sergio Perez
He’s not know as a rainmaster, and his Saturday performance – the third consecutive weekend he’s missed Q3 – set him on the back foot come raceday.
After briefly passing Sainz, Perez was jumped by the Ferrari at the end of the first lap, and that was pretty much all she wrote.
He couldn’t get past even with his devastating DRS and despite seemingly having the strategic advantage after the safety car, seemed to emerge further behind the Ferraris than before.
It marked his third grand prix on the bounce that he’s spent off the podium, a failure made all the more stark by Verstappen‘s storming win.
Valtteri Bottas – in a similar position to Perez – scored a podium in roughly two out of every three races he drove for Mercedes, a number Perez is way off right now for Red Bull. Is there any pressure to improve though? Horner backed his man post-race, time will tell if he stays that committed.
Winner: Lewis Hamilton
Another day, another podium in Mercedes‘ revolution. Despite Hamilton‘s insistence that this W14 car doesn’t feel particularly different to the car that broke cover at testing, Mercedes‘ Monaco upgrades continue to bear fruit.
Hamilton always looks good at Montreal – he’s only finished a race off the podium once there in 14 years – and though he didn’t have much pressure behind thanks to qualifying mishaps for Perez and the Ferraris, his third place still deserves credit.
His pace forced Russell into the wall and his race-long battle with Alonso – at a track Mercedes expected to struggle at – animated the grand prix.
And with another large package on its way for Silverstone plus one more between then and the summer break, Mercedes will look to put a stranglehold on the podium as F1 returns to Europe.
Loser: Nico Hulkenberg
All downhill after the euphoria of his front-row qualification, starting with his extremely unlucky penalty for going too slowly under red flags.
So far this season the Haas has struggled particularly at the start of races after some decent qualifying results, and Hulkenberg quickly became a bottleneck at the bottom of the top 10.
He then suffered the same fate as Gasly, pitting just before Russell brought the safety car out and didn’t make an impact on the rest of the race.