Norris and Russell gave Verstappen the victory

“Football is a simple game: 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes, and in the end the Germans always win.” This quote from former British footballer Gary Lineker is legendary. Formula 1 has also become a simple game in recent years: 20 drivers drive 305 kilometers in circles and in the end Max Verstappen always wins. It seems as if whatever happens, Max Verstappen wins. This was also the case at the Canadian GP.

Both McLaren and Mercedes seemed to have been faster in the race. George Russell and Lando Norris each dreamed of their second F1 victory, but in the end it was Max Verstappen who celebrated his 60th GP victory. explains how the Red Bull driver achieved his sixth victory in the 2024 Formula 1 season in Montreal.

On a wet track, the Grand Prix began quite unspectacularly at the front: Russell converted pole position into the lead, followed by Verstappen and Norris, as in qualifying. While the world champion stayed close to Russell, Norris had to let go from lap five onwards.

Norris flies to the lead on old intermediates

By lap ten, Norris was already over ten seconds behind Russell and was just under nine seconds behind Verstappen. But then Norris turned on the turbo. Russell and Verstappen’s lap times did not drop, the intermediates still allowed faster times from lap to lap as the track continued to dry out – but Norris was able to make much more progress.

At times, Norris was three seconds faster than Russell and two seconds faster than Verstappen. On lap 20, the McLaren driver finally overtook Verstappen, and one lap later he took the lead by overtaking Russell. He was helped by the fact that race control had released DRS immediately beforehand.

In a failed attempt to defend the lead against Norris, Russell also lost second place to Verstappen. The Dutchman seemed a little faster before, but was unable to overtake Russell.

But even when driving freely, the world champion could not even come close to keeping up with Norris’ lap times. The McLaren driver had a full eight-second lead up to the safety car phase on lap 25. “It wasn’t magic, we were just saving the tires at the beginning,” said McLaren team boss Andrea Stella, explaining the enormous pace. Oscar Piastri was also able to drive similar lap times.

Norris becomes a victim of his own pace

Bitter: The strong pace was a double downfall for Norris. The race management sent the safety car onto the track when the Brit was just before the pit entrance – but he was not yet past. “We had about 1.5 seconds to decide,” explained Stella. McLaren initially decided to stay out.

One lap later, Norris did come and lost his place to Verstappen and Russell due to the delayed decision. While Norris ran into the safety car and had to follow Bernd Mayländer’s pace, his competitors were able to drive at VSC speed until they in turn caught up with Mayländer. Stella does not accept the unfortunate timing as an excuse, however: “We could have told the driver beforehand what would happen in the event of a safety car.” The race neutralization after the Sargeant accident was not entirely surprising.

The second disastrous part of Norris’ pace was that his tires were obviously still in good condition before the safety car. This made a pit stop seem less lucrative. After the race, the Briton was obviously wiser: “The tires were almost slicks. We would have had to change tires even without the safety car.” However, shortly before the safety car, he speculated about changing to dry tires. This did not make the decision any easier for his strategists.

Norris cannot use pace behind Russell

After the restart, Verstappen’s track position helped. Because the pace differences were no longer so great, overtaking became more difficult. After a short shower, the track dried out again – and Norris again seemed to have the best pace – but he was stuck behind Russell.

When the track was dry enough for slicks, Norris waited. As at the end of the first stint, he was able to set by far the best pace on the worn-out intermediates. On lap 40, Pierre Gasly was the first driver to switch to slicks at a sensible time, setting off a wave of changes. Lewis Hamilton was the first top driver to arrive on lap 43. Oscar Piastri followed on lap 44, Max Verstappen and George Russell on lap 45. Norris only arrived on lap 47.

“It was crucial that he didn’t come directly after Max,” said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner happily. When Norris came out of the pits, he was almost level with Verstappen. “But his tires were cold, Max’s slicks were already warm. That meant he lost three seconds in one sector,” Horner explained his joy.

Norris did not see the late change as a mistake: “It enabled us to overcut Russell.” But the Mercedes driver also had warm tires and overtook Norris immediately. Shortly after the pit stops, Norris was one second behind Verstappen than before the stops – even though he was the fastest car in the field at the time. An earlier stop could actually have brought him closer to Verstappen or even overtaken him.

Mercedes fastest on slicks

However, a mistake by Russell allowed Norris to regain second place – which he ultimately held until the finish. “We stayed ahead of the Mercedes, even though they had the fastest car in the dry,” said McLaren man Stella, who was able to take something positive from the race.

In fact, Mercedes showed the best pace on the dry track. This is why both Mercedes drivers were annoyed after the race, because neither George Russell nor Lewis Hamilton were able to implement the strong pace. In the first stint, Hamilton was still stuck behind Fernando Alonso, but later he was able to keep up with the pace at the front.

The early switch to slicks almost paid off, as Hamilton was suddenly the fastest driver in the field. But first, lapping Zhou Guanyu cost him five seconds, and later, a trip into the botany cost him valuable seconds.

When the safety car was deployed again on lap 54, Mercedes reacted quickly: Hamilton in fifth place was able to put on fresh tyres without losing any position. Russell only lost one position to Piastri, but was given fresh mediums.

In the final sprint, it was once again clear that Mercedes had the fastest car in the dry. Russell, however, lost all chances in the duel with Piastri, which initially caused him to fall behind Hamilton. When Russell had fought his way past Piastri and Hamilton again, the race was already over. While Norris and McLaren strategically lost control of the race, Russell first lost track position to Verstappen due to a mistake and then in the final sprint lost his last chance of victory due to a mistake in the duel with Piastri.

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