The ninth round of this year’s Formula 1 season is the 2023 Canadian Grand Prix. While Red Bull is the undisputed top team, the competition seems to be getting more exciting with the rest of the pack, as more teams are showing signs of improvement. So, here are five things we learned from the race.
1. A lot of drivers found themselves out of position in qualifying. Pierre Gasly (Alpine) was unable to make it out of Q1 after being blocked by Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) in the final chicane, leaving the Frenchman in P17 (P15 after applying the penalties). While the Spaniard was able to qualify for P8, he was handed a three-place grid penalty along with Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) and Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)—all guilty of impeding other drivers throughout qualifying.
Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) and Sergio Perez (Red Bull) were caught off-guard by the changing conditions in Q2, leaving them only in P11 and P12 (P10 and P11 after applying the penalties), respectively. Meanwhile, Alex Albon (Williams) gambled with slick tires and landed on provisional pole for that session.
The biggest surprise was in Q3 when Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) qualified in P2 right before the red flag was brought out due to the crash of Oscar Piastri (McLaren). However, the German dropped to P5 after being handed a grid penalty for speeding under red-flag conditions.
2. George Russell’s race went from bad to worse. The Mercedes-AMG driver was behind the tail of Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) when the former hit the wall on Lap 12, forcing the safety car to come out. In spite of the damage to Russell’s car, he was able to pit to change the affected parts and even to charge up the field to P8. But he had to retire on Lap 55 due to brake issues.
3. The battle for second place was tight. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes-AMG) and Alonso had quite an intense rivalry the moment the former made his rookie debut all the way back in 2007. And 16 years later, the two drivers are still at it. Because of Hulkenberg’s penalty, Alonso was promoted to the front row behind Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and ahead of Hamilton, who was in P3.
Alonso didn’t hold on to P2 for long as Hamilton passed him right after the lights went out. In spite of having the better start, Hamilton never left Alonso in the dust. By Lap 22, the Spaniard was able to get the place back from the Mercedes-AMG driver. And although the former had to nurse his brakes, especially toward the end of the race, he held off the seven-time world champion for a P2 finish.
4. Ferrari actually got the race strategy right. When Russell’s crash in Lap 12 brought out the safety car, the Scuderia opted to leave both its drivers out for a one-stop strategy. Since Sainz and Leclerc managed their tires well, they finished in P5 and P4, respectively. Although neither of them landed on the podium, they were able to score good points for the team considering the setbacks in qualifying.
5. Alex Albon defended like a lion. While his teammate Logan Sargeant (Williams) retired due to an oil leak, the Thai drove valiantly holding off drivers in much faster cars after pitting only once on Lap 23. Even if Esteban Ocon (Alpine) was within range of the Drag Reduction System, he was unable to overtake Albon, who concluded the race in P7.
In the end, Max Verstappen finished first—to no one’s surprise. With this, not only did Red Bull achieve its 100th victory, but Verstappen also matched Ayrton Senna’s record of 41 race wins. The next race will be at the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix on July 2.