Norris and Russell’s missed chances for second win hand Verstappen his 60th

2024 Canadian GP report

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The Canadian Grand Prix could have been the story of how George Russell or Lando Norris mastered tricky conditions to claim the second victories of their careers.

But on a day when three teams were in the hunt for victory, Max Verstappen produced the cleanest and quickest drive to take the 60th win of his career.

Arriving at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on race day having taken pole position on a tie-breaker, Russell could be forgiven for feeling fortuitous. He’d managed to upset Verstappen, Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari by putting his Mercedes on pole for only the third time in his career. Now, his goal was to end his team’s second-longest wait between wins in its history.

But while Mercedes was in drought, Montreal had been anything but over the weekend. Frequent rain over the two prior days of running returned on race day afternoon, leaving the track completely wet as drivers headed out on their reconnaissance laps in the hour before the start. Although it stopped, there was still a copious amount of standing water all around the circuit. Poor grip and poor visibility were now guaranteed for the opening phase of the race.

Start, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2024
The race began on a very wet track
Having learned on Friday how quickly the newly resurfaced Montreal track can dry out, Russell, Verstappen, Norris, Oscar Piastri, Daniel Ricciardo, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and 10 other drivers all opted for intermediates for the start of the race. Only the Haas pair – Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg – decided to test their luck on full wets.

Despite the soaked track, race director Niels Wittich entrusted the world’s best drivers to line up on the grid for a standing start. As the fourth start light illuminated, Ricciardo’s RB began creeping oh-so-slightly in his grid box, which would earn him a penalty later in the race, but soon all five had come on and gone out, sending 18 cars rushing into turn one.

Although the circumstances were primed for chaos to ensue, the drivers proved Wittich’s faith on them were not misplaced as they navigated the Virage Senna sequence with no major problems. Russell emerged out of the right hander first, two car lengths ahead of Verstappen with Norris, Piastri, Alonso and a Hamilton up from seventh to sixth.

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From the first lap, it was evident that the ‘full’ wet tyres were best suited to the conditions, with Magnussen gaining six places and Hulkenberg five through the first 14 corners. However the rain had stopped and with all 20 cars circulating the conventional wisdom was that the track would soon come to the field.

George Russell, Mercedes, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2024
Russell soaked up pressure from Verstappen early on
Russell was over two seconds ahead after two laps, but missed the final chicane at the end of the second. Magnussen and Hulkenberg were still charging, the former climbing as high as fourth place between the McLarens. Despite how skilfully all drivers had avoided carnage in the opening laps, Logan Sargeant showed just how little margin for error there was when he slid off the track at six, then resumed.

By the eighth lap, Russell was two seconds out front having just posted a new fastest lap, while Norris was now free from Magnussen, who had pitted for intermediates, and was starting to close on the leading pair. Red Bull were anxious about what Norris might be capable of and urged Verstappen to try and relieve Russell of the lead.

But the world champion was soon looking for the assistance of DRS, which was yet to be activated. Red Bull advised him they were lobbying the stewards for it to be activated, but by the time it was switched on they might have been wishing it wasn’t.

Verstappen’s wish was granted on lap 18, but a mistake through the opening corners the previous lap meant he was no longer attacked Russel and instead under pressure from Norris. Two laps later, Norris was through on the world champion with a simple DRS pass along the back straight and into second place. On the next lap, the McLaren did the same to the leader. Russell compounded the loss of position with a costly error, missing the chicane and losing another place to Verstappen.

Norris now led from Verstappen with Russell third, but the rain was now forecast to be returning in a matter of laps. The leader was concerned that his well-used intermediates could not deal with a significant shower if the forecast rain came, but as he was pulling seconds out of the pair behind in clear air, he could afford to be cautious when it did.

Verstappen grabbed his opportunity to pit under the Safety Car
But the advantage Norris built up left McLaren with little time to react when Sargeant made his second mistake of the day, triggering the appearance of the Safety Car. The Williams swiped the outside wall at turn four and spun to a stop facing the wrong way on the exit, just off the racing line. Norris had already lapped the Williams, with Verstappen and Hamilton two of the first cars on the scene.

When the Safety Car was called Norris had enough time for a quick exchange with race engineer Will Joseph about what to do. They decided to stay out, but his pursuers 11 seconds behind all chose differently. Verstappen, Russell and Piastri had just over 20 seconds at reduced speeds to consider their options and all three dived into the pits for fresh intermediates, rejoining in order.

At the Miami Grand Prix last month, luck played into Norris’ hands when the Safety Car was deployed, as he passed the pit lane exit before it reached the track. But this time he caught it in the opening sector and had to spend most of a lap confined to its reduced speed.

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Although he had been 31 seconds ahead of the trio as they left the pit lane, Norris’ lead almost halved to just 17 by the time he entered the pit lane. When he rejoined, he could not beat Verstappen or Russell to the Safety Car line, and rejoined third ahead of his team mate.

Verstappen led the field away for the restart at the start of lap 30 with Russell and the two McLarens in pursuit. Rain had been falling again, but only with mild intensity – no concern for those on new intermediates. What was a concern, however, was the local wildlife. On the second green flag lap, Verstappen only just missed a marmot attempting to cross the track on the approach to the chicane.

“He was almost dead,” he later explained. “I thought it was debris, initially. So I started to close in and then I’m like, ‘oh my god, it’s an animal!’. So I swerved right at the last moment.”

Having earned the appreciation of animal lovers everywhere, Verstappen established a small lead over Russell as the sun began to break through for the first time. Norris made an error at the first corner and was forced to cut turn two to rejoin the track, coming back onto the circuit just in front of his team mate, retaining his position. The stewards looked into the incident but ruled he hadn’t gained an advantage.

Hamilton was the fifth car in the running but became the first to make the switch onto hard tyres at the end of lap 43. That led to both Verstappen and Russell pitting in unison two laps later for mediums, but Norris had strong pace on his used intermediates and decided to stay out.

“Lando, you’re currently the fastest car on track,” Norris’s engineer Will Joseph informed him. “Is this that overcut thing we talked about?”

Norris made it out of the pits ahead of Verstappen – briefly
“I can do one more, maybe,” Norris replied, before being told “yes please – stay out.”

Norris eventually made his way into the pits at the end of the next lap, cutting the pit exit line as Verstappen was flying down the pit straight. Norris rounded the second turn ahead of the Red Bull and would have held the lead on a dry track, but the damp outer line robbed him of the ability to put the power down through the exit of the right hander and Verstappen slipped up the inside on the dry line on his much warmer tyres back into the lead.

Despite missing out on the lead, Norris had jumped Russell for second. But it would not be long before the Mercedes was putting pressure on him, with Russell slipstreaming the McLaren along the back straight with the aid of DRS to reclaim second place. However, a mistake at turn nine just a couple of laps later led to Russell bouncing awkwardly over the kerbs and opening the door back to Norris, who did not require further invitation to reclaim second place.

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There was plenty of grip available on the dry racing line for the field having switched to slicks, but straying onto the darker damp patches of road was potentially a race-ending mistake. Sergio Perez found out when he made a similar mistake to Sargeant at turn six.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2024
Red Bull told Perez not to stop to avoid triggering a Safety Car
Red Bull urged their driver to drag his damaged car back to the pits, his mangled RB20 discarding parts as he went, as they were eager to avoid triggering a Safety Car period which might jeopardise Verstappen’s lead. The stewards were unimpressed and later fined the team and handed Perez a grid penalty for his actions.

The Safety Car was seemingly fated to reappear anyway. Carlos Sainz Jnr lost control of his Ferrari rounding the same corner and collected Alexander Albon’s Williams, leaving another wrecked Williams for the marshals to collect.

With no concerns about getting to the end of the race on their mediums, Verstappen and the two McLarens stayed out, but Mercedes pitted Russell from third and Hamilton in fifth for hards. Hamilton retained fifth, while Russell dropped just one place to Piastri, but now Mercedes’ tools would be sharper than their three rivals ahead over the final ten laps or so of the race.

Verstappen held onto his lead when the race resumed on lap 59, Norris unable to put the Red Bull under pressure. With his fresh mediums, Russell was quickly up on the rear of Piastri ahead. With a run on the McLaren with DRS along the back straight on lap 63, Russell opted to take the outside line into the final chicane. The two Formula 2 champions ran side-by-side and made contact, forcing Russell to miss the chicane where he lost position to his team mate Hamilton on exit. The stewards would later determine no action was necessary for the clash.

Soon after, Hamilton demonstrated how it should be done when he picked off Piastri into the chicane on lap 65 to take third place, before Russell was able to finally get the move done himself the next time by. Mercedes were now looking set for their first podium of the season, but who would claim it was not decided. The team warned their duo to keep it clean and Russell managed to catch Hamilton out but moving onto the damp inside line on the run into the chicane and take away the final podium position from his team mate.

But for all the fighting behind them, Verstappen and Norris were a picture of calm out front. Despite being so much faster than anyone else before the initial Safety Car, Norris could not keep up with Verstappen, who was on course for a sixth victory of the season. The world champion checked off the final laps of the race and despite a light brush with the Wall of Champions in the closing tours, took the chequered flag to secure the hardest fought of his 2024 wins so far and one of the better victories of the 60 in his career.

“It’s very rewarding,” Verstappen said after the race, “It’s easy to make mistakes, especially on the inters when they were almost becoming slicks.

“It’s a lot of fun to drive these kind of races now and then. You don’t want it all the time because that’s too stressful, but I had a lot of fun out there today.”

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Norris was just under four seconds back at the flag. There was no doubt in his mind that this had been a victory that had eluded him and that it wasn’t cosmic justice for his good fortune in Miami.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2024
Norris knew he should have won
We should have won today. Simple as that,” he said.

“We didn’t do a good enough job as a team to box when we should have done and not get stuck behind the Safety Car. So I don’t think it was a luck or unlucky kind of thing. I don’t think it was the same as Miami. This was just making a wrong call.”

Russell claimed Mercedes’ first podium of the season in third, but after starting from pole and leading the opening 20 laps, he could never be truly satisfied. However, he was more than happy with what the performance could mean for his team’s prospects of fighting their rivals ahead heading back to Europe.

“This pace increase that we’ve seen from us this weekend, it hasn’t been a surprise to us because all the numbers back at the factory told us we’re going to be finding a big chunk of performance with these upgrades,” he explained. “So Barcelona is going to be interesting for everybody, but I’m confident we can be in the fight.”

Hamilton finished fourth, deeply dissatisfied with his performance, while Piastri came home in fifth. The two Aston Martins of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll had plenty of reason for renewed confidence with sixth and seventh in Stroll’s home race.

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Ricciardo took a badly needed strong result in eighth the same weekend Canada’s only world champion had questioned why he was still in the sport at all. His race engineer apologised to him after he took the chequered flag, blaming a car fault for the start-line creep which triggered his penalty.

With Leclerc not scoring, Verstappen now has a 56-point lead
Pierre Gasly took ninth after his Alpine team mate Esteban Ocon reluctantly followed an order to let him past. Alpine’s double points finish of the season therefore came amid more bad blood between their team mates who are no doubt counting down the races until they go their separate ways.

Two weeks from the joy of victory in Monaco, Ferrari tasted bitter defeat. Neither driver reached Q3 and they never figured in the fight at the front. While Sainz crashed out, Leclerc endured a day ruined by power unit problems, followed by a gamble on slick tyres as Ferrari hoped the mid-race shower would prove milder than it looked. It didn’t.

Just like in Imola two rounds prior, Verstappen and Red Bull had prevailed despite not looking like the quickest overall package in the weekend. They had been forced to fight harder than usual for this victory and with a long season still ahead and their three biggest rivals looking closer to them than they had all year long, Verstappen was now very aware of the challenge his team face on the return to Europe and grateful that they had managed to pull out a result despite so much pressure.

“It definitely keeps us on our toes,” he said. “We cannot afford to make mistakes or tiny mistakes any more. So every little detail matters now.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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34 comments on “Norris and Russell’s missed chances for second win hand Verstappen his 60th”

  1. Hamilton needs to qualify better at this point. Also, anyone heard of the news that the FIA asked Mclaren and Mercedes to provide a sample of their fuel pump? I heard of a small news a few days ago related to that.

    1. @krichelle That was in the round-up a few days ago – Norris’ car was chosen for an in-depth physical inspection after Monaco and passed.

    2. Yeah, well warmer tires would help.

      Its interesting that Q3/2nd run. So many other cars improved, whilst Mercedes could not do it for either driver. Russell of course was sitting on his provisional pole. Whilst Hamilton darent force the car with the tires he had, and was eventually found himself in 7th.

      As for the race, one of them dropped 2 places, the other made up 3. Meanwhile, Ferrari was magically and mysteriously out of it. Absent to gift this non-event, another Max win.

  2. José Lopes da Silva
    10th June 2024, 11:14

    Verstappen is fighting for the championship, can’t afford no-points finishes and can make good use of a 2nd place. That’s why he does not take unnecessary risks or drives at 101%, like before Canada 2018. He just drives at 100% and keeps maximizing chances.

    The next step is for people to acknowledge him as one of the very best wet weather F1 drivers of all time. His stats should start to be measured, alongside Senna’s and Button’s.

    1. I still would like to see Verstappen vs Hamilton in wet weather. We haven’t seen many of thise

      1. José Lopes da Silva
        10th June 2024, 17:37

        Historically, master wet weather drives do not include direct duels. The driver that aims to dominate the given conditions (and/or changing conditions) in any day usualyy has no rival in that day.

        We never had a direct duel in the wet between Schumacher and Senna, although no one disputes their place among the very best wet weather drivers. Schumacher’s astounding wet drives started only in Spain 1996. His first win, though, came in changing conditions and included a master drive by Senna, but they did not duel – and Senna failed the tyre call in that day.

      2. Agreed.

        But it won’t happen at Mercedes who seem to be on a mission to bolster the ego of their young Padawan.

        Sith lord Toto : “Focus” Use the ‘Focus’ George.

        Conditions were right for the wet weather specialists, they just needed to supply the master with tires worthy of the challenge.

    2. An Sionnach
      10th June 2024, 12:18

      Let’s see. Max is technically one of the best, if not the best drivers that has been in F1. Now that he doesn’t have a clearly better car he will have to keep out of contact with drivers and scrounge as many points as he can get, then hope for the best. This might apply more to next year, but he can’t afford not to finish even now. Drive like Prost. Ignore those who insult him for not being the fastest. To be a truly great all-around driver he has to be able to swallow his pride and go for the best points finish possible, while keeping away from contact with others. What is especially galling about this is that the drivers he might have to yield to are those who he will not want to give up positions to. The likes of Russell and Hamilton. That’s not too much to ask, though. The other more unyielding drivers like Perez, Magnussen, Ocon, Gasly, Tsunoda should not be a problem for him.

    3. Verstappen is one of the best drivers, period, whatever conditions. What we are finally seeing is Verstappen pushed to prove his worth rather than beating a driver in the same car more likely now, like much of last season, to be bothering the bottom half of the grid. Max shouldn’t have won this race but found a way to do so when those around him failed. Really any of 5 drivers could have won it. But it was Verstappen.

      1. An Sionnach
        10th June 2024, 17:33

        He’s incredible. I haven’t seen anyone like him since Schumacher. The two of them may have flattened the next best driver (Prost), but Prost had a way to win or almost win championships he had no business being a contender for. He might have learned that from Lauda, but he could learn from anyone and come up with new ideas himself. Max is developing nicely. I’m eager to see more.

        I’m a bit of a Prost fan so I’d like to see Prime Prost overcome Schumacher and Max. I don’t want to deceive myself about the likelihood of this happening, though!

      2. José Lopes da Silva
        10th June 2024, 17:45

        …maybe I cordially disagree regarding the “finally” part, because the story of 2021 was very much neither Verstappen nor Hamilton having a dominant car. The difference is clear between a championship-winning car and a dominant one. This is not new from Verstappen.

        And yes: “shouldn’t have won this race but found a way to do so” – he is the champion of the era, or of the winning cycle. Like Hamilton winning Turkey 2020 and asserting that, in that era, you could never disregard the Champion because he would be in the mix and be effective. All this was predictable before Canada 2018, though.

        Almost 8 years have passed since Brazil 2016 and I think the wet weather abilities of Verstappen aren’t being praised as they should.

        1. The story of 21?

          Does anyone remember when Max’s tires blew out in Azerbaijan, and then on the restart Hamilton pressed his magic button to put himself out of the race? That’s when the championship was decided.

          In retrospect it seems Hamilton thought he was in control of the narrative, the story then was for the closest championship of that era. Little did he know…

  3. Funny how not many years ago most people were complaining how crazy and dangerous Max was.
    Now he is winning in difficult conditions by driving a calm and mature race, whilst his opponents make risky moves and bad decisions.
    You can’t claim it’s all the car anymore either. He earned this one.

    Let’s hope the other teams can stay with him for the rest of the season and give us more races like this one.
    Imagine how brilliant it would have been if Ferrari had been up there in the mix at the front as well :)

    1. An Sionnach
      10th June 2024, 12:32

      Yes, well done, Max. That was quite a race from him. I worry a little going into the first corner that he might try and hold position. It’s at least worth thinking that a George or a Lewis may not back off where a Charles or Lando will. It would be best for him to survive the start and hang on. His consistency might help him prevail if the others make mistakes. McLaren and Mercedes looked noticeably better this time. Things might get very tight. I think the supremacy of last year’s Red Bull might have been partially an illusion. Yes, it had the trump card of doing well on the tyres during the races and this was hugely important. Getting the setup right for each race, doing the work during the practice sessions and then Max playing a blinder might have plastered over some of its deficiencies, making it seem invincible.

      Reply moderated
    2. Funny how not many years ago most people were complaining how crazy and dangerous Max was.

      Well, he was. Some of the antics he pulled were straight up dangerous. But he was also 18. He’s been performing at a very high level for many years now.

      Some proper challenge will be good to see in this sense, as that’s when even the very best start to slip up. Both Hamilton and Verstappen resorted to some questionable moves in 2021, something the former didn’t really have to do before, nor the latter since.

    3. Max has matured quite nicely.
      Red Bull always knew he was quick and that’s why he got an F1 drive as young as he did.
      With 60 wins and 3 WDC’s under his belt (and 8 years older) he has an understanding and patience that he didn’t have in those early years.
      I believe if Hamilton is to win another WDC it will be primarily because of his experience, I’m not sure he will have the raw speed against Leclerc. If the Ferrari offers a sniff of a championship he’ll make less mistakes and maximise more often than not.

      1. An Sionnach
        10th June 2024, 17:27

        I think Lewis can beat Leclerc on race pace. That’s something Leclerc seems to be improving on, though, so it will be interesting to see what really happens. Lewis might have trouble in qualifying against Leclerc, but Leclerc also has trouble in qualifying against Leclerc! Lewis is like a cat that often lands on its feet. He can often make up for missing out on a position or two in qualifying. Where would he have been if he’d started on pole this time? George left the goal open in qualifying and he failed to score.

        1. You should qualify this with, All things being equal..

  4. In F1 the car is more important than the driver.
    But in this race, Max would have probably also won in the Mclaren or the Mercedes.

    1. An Sionnach
      10th June 2024, 13:16

      He would have won by more in one of those. Unless the team messed it up enough for him!

    2. Verstappen definitely seemed a step above the rest, even in qualifying when he was apparently very relieved to put it 2nd.

      Speaking of, I was a bit puzzled to see how many drivers tried to cover the inside into the chicane when that was so much wetter than the normal racing line. Russell v Norris for example. Sure, Norris might have gotten past regardless, but Russell did himself no favours vacating the dry line to his rival.

      In a tight race only a few of such missteps are enough to cost a lot of time.

    3. That’s difficult to say.

      Mercedes wasnt the best car in the race in any moment.

      Verstappen kept Russell humble on the early stages not attacking when the track was wet. Then it dried and he went for it and Russell never had an answer.

      Russell lost because he failed to make full use of their strategy, not because Mercedes was as fast as Red Bull and mclaren on the race.

      Norris actually paced himself better through the early moments but the Safety Car and subsequent team choice ruined everything.

  5. after watching f1 for 30 years, this typical one driver dominating cycle feels close to coming to an end for verstappen, even though he will likely win this year again due to car advantage. Drivers behind, like Norris and Russell have higher stress levels than the guy winning, it is natural, but either of those 2 drivers, or Piastri can become the next dominant driver in a dominant car.

    1. José Lopes da Silva
      10th June 2024, 16:23

      Beware of “Schumacher 2003” feeling.
      His season was so clumsy, McLaren and Williams so close, and the Suzuka ending so lacklustre that the cycle had to be over. But it wasn’t.

    2. Let’s hear it for Max ‘sandbagger’ Verstappen.

      He is clearly the champion elect. but to keep things interesting he extends this hand of hope to the rest of the field. His only rival is his teammate Perez who has long since been humbled into playing that less than role. Every leading man needs his comic sidekick.

      Too cynical?

  6. Kudos to some who often get criticism:
    Race direction for allowing the race to get under way without a safety car (and surprise, surprise it didn’t wipe out half of the field) and Pirelli who brought 2 different tires that actually worked in wet and damp condition.

    1. I was surprised and pleased they even had a race. I expected them to cancel the race when I saw the rain. Good on them!

    2. I expected them to RF the race until it was so dry we’d have one lap on inters and a dash to the pits. I won’t give kudos to for them starting a race in the most moderate of wet conditions.

      Reply moderated
  7. Anaybody noticed Norris car had a high turbo sound wistle during the race? he seemed to be the only one who made that noise.

  8. notagrumpyfan
    10th June 2024, 14:45

    Verstappen only just missed a marmot attempting to cross the track

    I know Verstappen had to swerve to avoid Russell who missed the final chicane, but it’s unfair to call Russell a marmot.

    1. I luv chicken
      10th June 2024, 15:14

      Why was Verstappen crossing the track? ( punctuation matters).

      1. To get to the other side ….. BOOM BOOM.

        I’ll be here all week folks ;)

    2. He looks like a gray than a marmot anyway. Pretty sure he abducted me once.

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