Max Verstappen was “not happy” when the Safety Car was deployed in the closing stages of the Canadian Grand Prix because he expected it would leave him vulnerable to Carlos Sainz Jnr.
The Red Bull driver was chasing down the race-leading Ferrari when the Safety Car was deployed with 21 laps to go. Verstappen had given up the lead to get onto fresher rubber, and knew the Safety Car would allow Sainz to do the same and restart immediately behind him.
“We did our strategy and I think for us it worked,” said Verstappen. “At that second stop, of course, I had the fresher tyres, I was closing in on Carlos, but I was not sure if I actually would fully close that gap to the end of the race.”
Sainz had slightly quicker pace in the opening stages of the race and Verstappen was concerned it would be difficult to contain the Ferrari driver once the Safety Car was deployed.
“The Safety Car came out and I was not very happy with that because then I knew, of course, that he would have fresh tyres behind me. And already with a little bit more pace compared to me, and it’s difficult to defend.”
Once the race restarted Sainz applied considerable pressure to Verstappen, opening his DRS on lap after lap in an effort to pass the Red Bull driver. But he wasn’t able to find a way past and Verstappen took the win.
“The last 15 or 16 laps we were flat-out, pushing to the limit,” said Verstappen. “I knew, of course, that I couldn’t make a mistake.
“But it was good racing. It’s always more enjoyable to be able to really push in a Formula 1 car instead of just saving your tyres.”
Verstappen said the race had been “a bit more difficult than I expected” and he “expected to have a little bit more pace, but we seemed to lack a little bit compared to Carlos.”
With his closest championship rivals faring less well – Sergio Perez failed to score and Charles Leclerc took fifth – Verstappen now holds a healthy 46-point lead at the top of the standings. However he remains wary that his advantage could quickly be reversed.
“It’s still a very long way,” he said. “I know the gap is quite big but I also know that it can switch around very quickly.
“I mean, race three I was 46 behind. So we just need to stay calm, we need to focus, we need to improve, because today we’re not the quickest.
“It swings a bit, like last weekend it looked good in the race, now it didn’t look as good but…
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