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Verstappen wins Canadian GP for sixth title of the season

Max Verstappen Max Verstappen - The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — Max Verstappen tied late Brazilian great Ayrton Senna with 41 career wins on Sunday — and he has his sights set even higher.

The Red Bull driver led from start to finish and cruised to victory at Circuit Jacques Villeneuve to claim the Canadian Grand Prix for a second year in a row.

"When I was a little kid driving and go-karting, I was dreaming about being a Formula One driver and I would have never imagined winning 41 Grand Prix," said Verstappen, who tied Senna for fifth all-time. "I'm proud of that.

"But of course, I hope it's not stopping here and I hope that we can keep on winning more races."

The odds of that are high. Verstappen, the two-time reigning world champion, has won four races in a row and six of eight overall this season.

The 25-year-old Dutch driver now leads the Formula One drivers' standings with 195 points, 69 ahead of teammate Sergio Perez, who came in sixth on Sunday and missed the podium for a third straight race.

Not only did Verstappen set new marks individually, he also won Red Bull its 100th victory.

"I've won 41 of them, we'll talk about maybe a new contract because of that," he quipped.

Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes placed second and third to round out the podium, which could hardly be more decorated.

Verstappen, Alonso and Hamilton have 11 world championships and 176 race wins between them, something all three drivers recognized while sitting together after the race.

"It's a privilege to be up here with these two, who've done incredible in their careers, and this is quite an iconic top three," said Hamilton. "I don't know if there's been a top three like this ever before."

Only one of the three, however, was truly pleased with the order.

"I think of course they want to swap positions of course," said Verstappen. "I'm happy in the middle at the moment."

"I'm really hoping at some stage we have a more level playing field in our cars and then we'll have a much more exciting race," added Hamilton.

Alonso, a 41-year-old veteran, earned his sixth podium this season and moved within nine points of Perez for second to continue building on a resurgent season.

Asked if he thought he could catch Perez, Alonso didn't stutter: "Yes."

Alonso and Hamilton duelled for second from the very first turn when Hamilton blasted past Alonso to move up to P2. Alonso then retook his position on Lap 22 with an overtake into the final chicane.

When Aston Martin informed Alonso over the radio that Hamilton had closed the gap to within 1.4 seconds with 10 laps remaining, the Spaniard responded: "Copy. Leave it to me."

"He's a multi-world champion, so yeah, he knows what he's doing," said Hamilton.

Mercedes was looking for a second consecutive strong Grand Prix after Hamilton and teammate George Russell made the podium in Spain earlier this month.

Russell, however, had to retire early after hitting the wall and damaging the right side of his car 12 laps in. He carried on until Lap 55 but pulled out due to brake issues.

Montreal's Lance Stroll, Canada's lone F1 driver, started in 16th and finished ninth, tying his best result at home.

The 24-year-old Aston Martin driver is eighth in the standings and has yet to reach the podium this season despite his teammate Alonso being a consistent top-three finisher.

"With all the circumstances, it was better than nothing to get some points," said Stroll. "But it was still a difficult weekend after yesterday and bad luck today."

Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz began the race in 10th and 11th after some missteps during Saturday's qualifying session, but made ground to finish fourth and fifth.

Williams Driving's Alex Albon was named the F1 driver of the day after coming seventh, his best result in two years. Alpine's Estaban Ocon was eighth.

Red Bull remained perfect with eight wins in eight races this season and increased its already sizable lead in the constructors' standings with 321 points to Mercedes' 167.

With the race falling on Father's Day, the drivers took a moment to thank their old men for helping them reach these heights.

"After my dad's own career, he invested all his time in mine. It's hard to explain you know how much he has dedicated to me because I probably still don't even understand how much he did," said Verstappen of his father Jos, who drove professionally through the 1990s and early 2000s. "I don't need to buy him a present, I did this, so I think he's happy."

"Congratulations to my father," Alonso joked. "My father is different, he has no talent at all to drive.

"He was always very with his feet on the ground and teaching me other things and other values because it was difficult to believe that I was able to reach Formula One one day, and that's the beauty of our story."

The track stayed dry beneath a mix of sun and clouds throughout the race after showers impacted practice and qualifying sessions on Friday and Saturday.

A record number of 345,000 spectators — including celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey, NHL stars Mitch Marner and Carey Price, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell — made the trip to Ile Notre-Dame, on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, over the event's three days.

After missing two years due to COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021, the Canadian Grand Prix will return to Montreal for a third straight year in 2024. The circuit is under contract with Formula One until 2031.

Next up, the series moves across the Atlantic for the Austrian Grand Prix on July 2.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 18, 2023.