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As rivals close in, Verstappen finds way to win in Montreal

As rivals close in, Verstappen finds way to win in Montreal

MONTREAL — If Max Verstappen secures his fourth Formula One world championship with multiple races remaining at the end of this year, it might be easy to forget just how hard he had to fight for it at races like the Canadian Grand Prix. Sunday’s result may have looked routinely predictable to anyone glancing at the results after the chequered flag, but the reality was that it was among the most hard fought of Verstappen’s 60 career wins.

The key to results like Sunday’s — and a Verstappen trait that is so easily overlooked — is his ability to avoid mistakes on an afternoon when tripwires seem to lurk around every corner. Even a rogue groundhog — the likes of which have been known to destroy a front wing at previous Canadian Grands Prix — couldn’t put Verstappen off his stride as he deftly swerved past the startled critter under braking at the end of Lap 31.

As always, credit has to be shared with his Red Bull team, who helped Verstappen negotiate the changing conditions and safety car periods Sunday, but on a weekend when at least six drivers had a car capable of winning, it was once again the runaway championship leader who came out on top.

Did McLaren throw away victory?

In the immediate aftermath of the race, Lando Norris was happy to accept his second-place finish. Just before the first safety car period, he had led the race by more than 10 seconds, only to be shuffled back to third when he missed the opportunity to pit on the first lap under the safety car period.

At first it seemed like simple bad luck. Just as Norris had benefited in Miami when Verstappen had missed the chance to pit under a safety car and the McLaren driver had gone on to win, it seemed like the racing gods had dealt out a remarkably even level of karma to favour the Red Bull driver in Montreal.

As it transpired, though, Norris had not yet passed the pit lane entrance at the moment the safety car period was announced, meaning he had a narrow but sufficient window of 1.5 seconds in which a call could have been made for him to pit and retain the lead of the race.

“We should have won the race today and we didn’t, so frustrating,” Norris said in the postrace news conference. “We had the pace, probably not in the dry at the end, but it turned out it didn’t really matter too much.

“But yeah, we should have won today. Simple as that. We…

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