Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2022

Verstappen must beware as Alonso promises “maximum attack” from the start

2022 Canadian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Max Verstappen dominated a rain-hit qualifying session for the Canadian Grand Prix, leading all three segments and taking pole position by a comfortable margin of more than half a second.

He goes into today’s race knowing he has a vital opportunity to extend his championship lead over his closest rivals even further. Sergio Perez who crashed in Q2 languishes down in 13th while Charles Leclerc will start from 19th after changing his power unit.

With that pair out of the picture in the early running it should have fallen to Carlos Sainz Jnr to lead the attack against Verstappen. But for the second weekend running he let himself down on the final lap of Q3. Having been fractionally quicker than Verstappen through the first sector and only lost a small amount of time in the second he chanced too much in the final chicane and ended up not only behind Verstappen but also the surprise occupant of the front row.

That is Fernando Alonso who has been competitive from the off in his Alpine and sprang ahead of Sainz by claiming a place alongside Verstappen. And he left no one in any doubt what he intends to do at the start of the race.

“The goal is to lead the race in lap one,” he said. “So that’s turn one, maximum attack. Then after that they can go and they can fight. But it will be nice and sweet to lead the race.”

But despite his keenness to take the lead of the race – something he’s only done once in the past five seasons, Alonso admits “to think about winning is completely unrealistic” for Alpine.

From his second-place grid spot Alonso has a clear opportunity to throw it down the inside of Verstappen at the quick left-hander which opens the lap. No doubt the Alpine driver will have made the calculation that Verstappen, with a title fight on his hands, is not going to risk a collision with him.

Alonso has made some strong starts this year, gaining five places from the back of the grid in Spain and four in Miami. “I know he starts very well,” Verstappen acknowledged, “so I have to be ready.”

Verstappen should also be wary of the possibility Alonso will reprise his start tactics from Sochi last year. He made significant gains by driving through the run-off area at the first true corner.

Today he can risk breaking heroically late for turn one in the expectation that he will be able to rejoin the track, likely in the lead of the race. The stewards may give him a five-second time penalty but that could be a price worth paying in order to have clear track ahead of him while the cars he is most focused on beating – Mercedes, Haas and the rest – lose ground as the field spreads out behind.

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Alonso could put himself in an even stronger position to attack Verstappen if he opts to start the race on soft tyres. However which compounds will be best suited to the race is something of an unknown. That wasn’t much graining on the soft tyre on Friday, particularly in second practice once the track had rubbered in, but since then the surface has been washed clean by heavy rain.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Canadian Grand Prix qualifying day in pictures
Sainz believes that whether Alonso ends the first lap in front of Verstappen or behind him could make or break his race. “It will all depend on the start,” said the Ferrari driver. “If we can get a good start and get the straight behind Max, then I think we just can try and follow and put some pressure.

“But if you lose a bit of time in the first five or 10 laps, maybe Fernando does a good start, then the gap could be big enough that then you’re just a bit too far behind for the rest of the of the race.”

Ferrari’s lap times in practise gave Sainz encouragement that they will be quick enough to race Red Bull if they aren’t compromised by Alonso: “Will we have the pace to fight Max? According to Friday, it should be close.

“Obviously we know in the race, they’re always very strong on tyre management. But I think we can still be there.”

What Perez and Leclerc can salvage from today’s race is going to be strongly influenced by how easy they are able to overtake. Despite its ample straights, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is not always the easiest track to pass on, especially when queues of drivers form DRS trains.

The drivers did well to keep their cars out of the walls in practice as many of them found the new generation of Formula 1 cars do not ride the kerbs well. The threat of a Safety Car deployment at this track is significant as there are several places where an error can lead to a crash.

The smart move for a driver in Leclerc’s position may be to start on hards and run as long as possible in the hope that a late Safety Car allows a low-cost pitstop, a tactic which paid off handsomely for Daniel Ricciardo last weekend. But unless Verstappen trips over Alonso, the best Leclerc can realistically hope for is to limit the ongoing damage to his championship lead.

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Qualifying times in full

PositionNumberDriverTeamQ1 timeQ2 time (vs Q1)Q3 time (vs Q2)
11Max VerstappenRed Bull1’32.2191’23.746 (-8.473s)1’21.299 (-2.447s)
214Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’32.2771’24.848 (-7.429s)1’21.944 (-2.904s)
355Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’32.7811’25.197 (-7.584s)1’22.096 (-3.101s)
444Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’33.8411’25.543 (-8.298s)1’22.891 (-2.652s)
520Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’32.9571’26.254 (-6.703s)1’22.960 (-3.294s)
647Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’33.7071’25.684 (-8.023s)1’23.356 (-2.328s)
731Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’33.0121’26.135 (-6.877s)1’23.529 (-2.606s)
863George RussellMercedes1’33.1601’24.950 (-8.210s)1’23.557 (-1.393s)
93Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’33.6361’26.375 (-7.261s)1’23.749 (-2.626s)
1024Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’33.6921’26.116 (-7.576s)1’24.030 (-2.086s)
1177Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’33.6891’26.788 (-6.901s)Missed by 0.413s
1223Alexander AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1’34.0471’26.858 (-7.189s)Missed by 0.483s
1311Sergio PerezRed Bull1’33.9291’33.127 (-0.802s)Missed by 6.752s
144Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’34.066
1516Charles LeclercFerrari1’33.008
1610Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Red Bull1’34.492Missed by 0.426s
175Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’34.512Missed by 0.446s
1818Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’35.532Missed by 1.466s
196Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’35.660Missed by 1.594s
2022Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Red Bull1’36.575Missed by 2.509s

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Max Verstappen23.220 (2)25.951 (1)32.128 (1)
Fernando Alonso23.464 (3)26.288 (3)32.192 (2)
Carlos Sainz Jnr23.149 (1)26.092 (2)32.573 (4)
Lewis Hamilton23.547 (5)26.303 (4)32.936 (7)
Kevin Magnussen23.812 (8)26.518 (6)32.563 (3)
Mick Schumacher23.913 (10)26.500 (5)32.708 (5)
Esteban Ocon23.855 (9)26.627 (7)33.007 (8)
George Russell23.696 (7)26.628 (8)32.854 (6)
Daniel Ricciardo23.609 (6)26.735 (9)33.306 (10)
Zhou Guanyu23.535 (4)27.067 (10)33.170 (9)
Valtteri Bottas25.138 (11)27.654 (11)33.692 (12)
Alexander Albon25.193 (12)28.015 (12)33.394 (11)
Sergio Perez27.049 (15)29.570 (14)35.723 (14)
Lando Norris26.156 (13)28.962 (13)35.496 (13)
Pierre Gasly27.408 (16)30.633 (17)36.339 (16)
Sebastian Vettel27.469 (17)30.436 (16)36.607 (18)
Lance Stroll27.833 (18)30.753 (18)36.722 (19)
Nicholas Latifi28.092 (20)31.003 (19)36.565 (17)
Charles Leclerc26.783 (14)30.309 (15)35.846 (15)
Yuki Tsunoda28.055 (19)31.193 (20)37.098 (20)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Alexander AlbonWilliamsMercedes309.7 (192.4)
2Nicholas LatifiWilliamsMercedes306.8 (190.6)-2.9
3Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes306.2 (190.3)-3.5
4Max VerstappenRed BullRed Bull306.0 (190.1)-3.7
5Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariFerrari305.8 (190.0)-3.9
6Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari303.9 (188.8)-5.8
7Esteban OconAlpineRenault303.3 (188.5)-6.4
8Fernando AlonsoAlpineRenault303.2 (188.4)-6.5
9Mick SchumacherHaasFerrari302.9 (188.2)-6.8
10Sergio PerezRed BullRed Bull302.7 (188.1)-7.0
11Charles LeclercFerrariFerrari299.1 (185.9)-10.6
12Zhou GuanyuAlfa RomeoFerrari299.1 (185.9)-10.6
13Daniel RicciardoMcLarenMercedes298.9 (185.7)-10.8
14Sebastian VettelAston MartinMercedes297.7 (185.0)-12.0
15Valtteri BottasAlfa RomeoFerrari297.3 (184.7)-12.4
16Pierre GaslyAlphaTauriRed Bull297.1 (184.6)-12.6
17George RussellMercedesMercedes297.0 (184.5)-12.7
18Lance StrollAston MartinMercedes296.7 (184.4)-13.0
19Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauriRed Bull295.5 (183.6)-14.2
20Lando NorrisMcLarenMercedes295.4 (183.6)-14.3

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Over to you

Will Alonso make good on his promise to take the lead at the start? Can Sainz take the fight to Verstappen? And where will Perez and Leclerc finish?

Share your views on the Canadian Grand Prix in the comments.

Browse all 2022 Canadian Grand Prix articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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10 comments on “Verstappen must beware as Alonso promises “maximum attack” from the start”

  1. Wouldn’t it make sense for Red Bull to change the Engine parts on perez car, now that he is out of position? Or would he then start from the pitlane and therefore behind leclerc?

    1. He is so off-form this weekend that a race-ending crash is fully on the cards. So probably would not make much sense to change anything right now.

    2. @tungdil12 Probably not, although he’d still start on the grid & ahead of Leclerc, as pit lane start for a PU component change under Parc Ferme conditions happens only when changing to a different spec copy.

  2. Will Alonso make good on his promise to take the lead at the start? – No, unless Max gets a bad getaway.
    Can Sainz take the fight to Verstappen? And where will Perez and Leclerc finish? – Unlikely & I reckon P3 & 4, respectively.

    1. If what you say is true about perez and leclerc, and it’s imo believable, really shows how meaningless those grid penalties are for top teams, I read some people who said it’s a chance for a podium for some minor team, but unless something happens to leclerc and perez doesn’t seem realistic.

  3. BLS (@brightlampshade)
    19th June 2022, 13:11

    Alonso is smart, he won’t challenge Verstappen unless he absolutely has to. Better to fall in behind and run your own race.

    Unfortunately for us.

    1. Alonso is one of the old time greats with an ego bigger than earth. It’s personal for him to be in the lead in the first laps and put himself in that position to give a slap to his detractors who doubted him over the years and also to those teams who refused to hire him. He is not stupid to destroy Max’s race, but if he’ll have the slight chance to take the lead he’ll go for it.

    2. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      19th June 2022, 17:39

      it has already been foretold (I think on here). Alonso will hold up Carlos until the first round of pitstops. Verstappen will be so far in the distance there will be no competition for the race win. Alonso will be praised for his race craft.

  4. Swap Sainz for Leclerc and we would have had the five drivers with the biggest elbows in the top5 starting grid. Could make for an interesting start if it wasn’t for the Red Bull being so superior in the hands of Verstappen.

    Such a shame it isn’t raining in Montreal today… what a race that could have made it. Guess Alonso and Haas doesn’t do the raindance quite well enough.

  5. What has impressed me most about Alonso this season and last – is his opening lap. Not in the way that Lance used to make up a couple of places each race, but in that Fernando is fantastic at avoiding trouble when he so often is right in the midst of where trouble starts. Watching his onboards he is very good at reading what other drivers are likely to do and then staying well clear of them. Imola this year he took a hit, but other than that I can’t remember the last time he got in trouble.

    I think this however means he’ll probably be quite conservative with Max on the run into the left hander, knowing it isn’t likely to be his biggest fight of the day.

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