Lap 69/70: Verstappen goes slightly wide on the hairpin, offering Sainz an inch or two of leeway, but it’s not enough. He’s right on his gearbox going into the final lap.
Lap 68/70: Verstappen’s lead still hovers at around 0.7sec. Time is running out for Sainz.
Lap 66/70: Alonso is told not to pass his teammate Ocon into P6 and responds grumpily: “I’m 100 times faster this weekend!”
Lap 64/70: Still no joy for Sainz against the unflappable Verstappen. Behind them, Hamilton and Russell look nailed on for third and fourth, with Leclerc out on his own in fifth.
Lap 62/70: Verstappen is opening up the gap ever so slightly: it’s now up to eight tenths. But that sliver of time could be everything. Stroll makes it into the points on home turf.
Lap 60/70: The Ferrari team seem to think Alonso has an engine problem. A mistake from Leclerc sees him lose a place to Ocon, which he quickly regains to re-enter the top five. Sainz still half a second behind Verstappen and desperate to have a nibble.
Lap 59/70: He cannot. Verstappen just keeps enough daylight between them, getting out of every corner perfectly.
Lap 58/70: The gap is now half a second and Verstappen does well to hold Sainz off going around turn one. Can Sainz pick him off after the hairpin…?
Lap 55/70: Less than 7secs separates the top 10. Alonso has slipped to P5 and is fully in the sights of Leclerc, who is awaiting DRS. Sainz sets a fastest lap to stay within a second of Verstappen.
Lap 55/70: Green flag. Verstappen races ahead and Sainz trails his gearbox diligently. Sainz won’t get DRS for another two laps so this is a massive few minutes for him. He’ll need to stick tight.
Lap 52/70: Verstappen’s tyres are seven laps older than those of Carlos Sainz, who has never won a GP before. Could today be the way…? Tsunoda’s car has been craned off the track, so the race will restart any moment.
Lap 50/70: Tsunoda’s goose is cooked, his car going straight on as he came out of the pits with cold tyres. The yellow flag is out – and this plays into the hands of Sainz, who can use this interruption to get himself some fresh tyres and hunt down Verstappen. Game on!
Lap 48/70: How they stand
- 1 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari
- 2 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull
- 3 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes
- 4 George RUSSELL Mercedes
- 5 Esteban OCON Alpine
- 6 Fernando ALONSO Alpine
- 7 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo
- 8 Lance STROLL Aston Martin
- 9 Charles LECLERC Ferrari
- 10 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo
Lap 46/70: Hamilton pits, leaving Verstappen to move into P2, 9secs behind Sainz. Leclerc has clambered back up to P10, and now eats up Ricciardo for P9. Russell pits, leaving Hamilton with a 6sec lead over his teammate.
Lap 44/70: Verstappen pits and 2.5secs later is back out on track with hard tyres. He re-enters wheel-to-wheel with Hamilton, who nudges him off to hold on to P2. Verstappen swears at his team down the radio. Lovely stuff.
Lap 42/70: Leclerc gets himself out of his private duel with a pitstop, which is a maddeningly slow one and sends him out shaking his head as he enters behind Ricciardo and Tsunoda in P12. Oh dear.
Lap 40/70: Ocon, in P5, continues to hold off Leclerc, who has been looming behind him for some time now. Yet his attempts at overtaking have been quashed every time at this one is no different.
Lap 38/50: It’s spread out at the front, with Verstappen, Sainz, Hamilton, Russell and Ocon all at least 7secs away from each other. Gasly hits the pits again, coming out with fresh hard compounds.
Lap 35/70: Now it’s Verstappen’s turn to have a moan. “I’m really losing tyre grip,” he tells his team. Leclerc and Stroll are the only drivers yet to pit at the halfway mark.
Lap 32/70: Sainz clocks up a fastest lap to trim Verstappen’s lead to 8secs. Behind him, Hamilton and Russell look like they could end up scrapping for the final podium place, which would be fun.
Lap 30/70: Alonso bites the bullet at last and goes into the pits for hard compounds, coming out in P7 behind Leclerc, who has made up 13 places now but isn’t a happy bunny. “I don’t have the grip!” he yelps into the radio. “I don’t have the grip on the exits. No traction at all.”
Lap 28/70: How they stand:
- 1 Max VERSTAPPEN, Red Bull
- 2 Carlos SAINZ, Ferrari
- 3 Lewis HAMILTON, Mercedes
- 4 Fernando ALONSO, Alpine
- 5 George RUSSELL, Mercedes
- 6 Esteban OCON, Alpine
- 7 Charles LECLERC, Ferrari
- 8 Valtteri BOTTAS, Alfa Romeo
- 9 Lance STROLL, Aston Martin
- 10 Guanyu ZHOU, Alfa Romeo
Lap 26/60: Verstappen is sailing clear out front, almost 10secs ahead of Sainz, albeit with slightly older tyres. Impossible to see anyone catching him at this rate.
Lap 24/70: Pitting under VSC after Schumacher retired, Norris was let down by his team in hilarious style: they put the wrong tyres on, and had to scamper around correcting their error, leaving their man to re-enter in 17th. Honk.
Lap 22/70: Hamilton has overtaken Russell, his teammate going in for hards under the VSC, and hares around Alonso to take third. A wonderful bit of driving get Leclerc past Bottas for P7 – that’s 12 places he’s made up now, though he is yet to pit.
Another one bites the dust – and dismay for Schumacher, who was hoping for some points today. Again, his car appeared to lose power. Sainz pits and Verstappen returns to P1.
Lap 20/70: A problem for Schumacher, whose car has rolled meekly off track, brings back the virtual safety car. Ocon and Guanyu pit.
Lap 19/20: Leclerc climbs past Stroll for P11 and closes in on Bottas, half a second behind a points spot.
Lap 16/70: The Mercedes pair of Russell and Hamilton are in P4 and P5 respectively, sandwiched between the Alpines of Alonso and Ocon. “Keep it simple,” Russell tells his engineer over the radio, talking strategy.
Lap 14/70: Leclerc picks off Norris for P12, while Verstappen puts his foot down on the straight and cruises past Alonso – whose tyres look to be losing grip – to claim second place. He’s 5secs behind Sainz.
Lap 13/70: Christian Horner is deflated about Perez’s retirement, already his team’s fourth mechanical retirement of the season. “We’ve got to get our heads down now and do the best we can with Max,” he mutters. He reckons it’ll be two-stopper today.
Lap 11/70: As Verstappen warms up his new hard tyres, Hamilton does the same by roaring past Ocon for P5
Lap 9/70: Verstappen uses the opportunity to switch up his tyres, as does Hamilton. The rest opt to stay out. Sainz leads to race as the virtual safety car departs.
Disaster for Sergio Perez, whose weekend of misery is compounded by what looks to be an engine failure. He trundles off the track as the virtual safety car comes into action.
Lap 8/70: The top five is Verstappen, Sainz, Alonso, Hamilton, Russell.
Lap 6/70: Magnussen pits; his problem seems resolved but that extra stop will cost him. Gasly and Vettel have both pitted early to switch to the hard compound tyre.
Lap 4/70: And a technical problem for Gasly too. Leclerc creeps up to 16th. Perez has climbed two places to P11. Hamilton attacks Alonso, who holds him off with DRS.
Lap 3/70: Sainz gets DRS and goes past his compatriot for second. Magnussen has some damage to his front wing.
Lap 2/70: Leclerc has made up a couple of places already; Verstappen has opened up a second and a half lead. Schumacher is having a tough old time of it, now passed by Russell.
Lap 1/70: And we’re away! Verstappen steams away and keeps Alonso at arm’s length into turn one. Hamilton goes wheel to wheel with Magnussen in the first chicane but the Dane stands his ground. Ocon eases past Schumacher.
The drivers zip away for the formation lap. Not long now. All eyes on turn one.
Steve Carbert writes in on the endangerment of F1’s European leg: “Looks like the money men have got a death grip on the sport, they’ll be taking the show on the road to wherever the highest bidder resides. Sad days ahead I fear.”
Christian Horner speaks: “Fernando is going to be going for it, so we’ve just got to try to get clear of that as soon as we can. You’ve just got to get on with your own thing. We can’t spend time worrying about what Fernando is going to do. Hopefully he’s sensible we’ve just got to get stuck in, and for Checo likewise.”
Zhou Guanyu delivered the best qualifying performance of his career yesterday and wants to make good on that today.
“It was a good day yesterday. Especially considering the conditions. Here we are, best position for the start, and the target is still to get into the points with both cars today.
“There are a few cars ahead of us maybe who are a little bit slower than us, but of course there’s a Red Bull and Ferrari behind us who will be going through the pack pretty quick.”
Some pre-race reading, on the endangerment of F1’s European leg:
Another victim of yesterday’s conditions was Sergio Perez – second in the drivers’ standings – who crashed out in Q2 and will start back in 13th today. “I did a mistake from my side so I’m very sorry for my team,” he wailed afterwards. “I let them down today unfortunately.” With he and Leclerc starting down the field, and Mercedes still yet to overcome their aerodynamical headaches, could Alonso steal a rare podium finish? His last was in Qatar last year, which in turn was his first for 105 races. An outright triumph today would make him the oldest winner since Nigel Mansell in 1994.
Some positive meteorological news, too, in that yesterday’s deluges are nowhere to be seen. The rain has gone, so have the clouds and the cooler temperatures. Montreal is 18 degrees and sunny on race day.
The star of the show during yesterday’s qualifying was undoubtedly Fernando Alonso, who screeched around a tricky circuit to land his first front-row start for a decade – though he was careful to strike a modest note afterwards.
“It was not a normal qualifying or not a normal day,” he said. “FP1, we had a very dirty track. Very clean track. FP2, it was getting grippier and more normal. FP3 was wet and qualifying was just semi-dry. So we never had two consecutive sessions with the same conditions so you really had to adapt very fast to those new conditions that you are facing.
“So it seems that we had the right confidence in the car, and a good set-up. So I think it’s down to the team 50% and down to the driver that everything was OK today but it doesn’t mean anything because I said the race is tomorrow and you make a mistake and you have zero points.”
Here’s our report from yesterday’s qualifying:
A penny for the thoughts of Charles Leclerc. Two months ago the Monegasque was coasting away from the chasing pack, looking every bit the champion-in-waiting after two wins from the first three races took him 34 points clear in the drivers’ championship – and 46 clear of his most obvious title rival in Max Verstappen.
But two months is a long time in Formula One, as the saying doesn’t go, and poor Leclerc goes into today’s Canadian GP having to treat it as a damage-limitation exercise for his title hopes. A frankly ludicrous 80-point swing over the last five races has taken Verstappen to the top of the leaderboard, where he is joined by teammate Sergio Perez. And at the start line in Montreal, Leclerc will be watching Verstappen through a sea of traffic having been consigned to the back of the grid and penalised for using too many power-unit components. What’s Monegasque for sacré bleu?
Lewis Hamilton, who spent the week being treated for back injuries sustained from all that bouncing on the Baku straights, comes into the race after his best qualifying of the season so far – though his hopes of troubling Verstappen’s Red Bull from fourth are slim indeed.
Alongside Verstappen in the front row will be Fernando Alonso, 40 years young, who rolled back the years in qualifying, jinxing around a wet track and power-sliding his Alpine out of the last corner to cap a majestic lap. And the Spaniard has made no secret of disguising his plans for today. “The goal is to lead the race in lap one,” he says. “Turn one: maximum attack.”
It should be good. Strap in. Lights out at 19:00 BST.