Verstappen: Track layout and Aston Martin’s upgrades explain why they were closer

2023 Canadian Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen drew encouragement from Red Bull’s latest victory at a track which he said does not play to the strengths of the team’s RB19.

Following a Safety Car period early in the race, Verstappen won by nine-and-a-half seconds from Fernando Alonso. The Aston Martin driver had to make his way past Lewis Hamilton, who finished 14 seconds off the winner in his Mercedes.

Verstappen said he went into the race not knowing what to expect from his car as heavy rain on Saturday had changed the track surface compared to Friday.

“We changed the car around quite a bit compared to Friday, so I didn’t really know how it would feel,” he said. “But luckily it went in the right direction.”

Unlike the previous venue, Circuit de Catalunya, where Verstappen won an uninterrupted race by 24s, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve features few long corners where drivers can build heat up in their tyres. That, plus the race day conditions, made it hard to extract performance from the medium and hard tyres, said Verstappen.

“It was quite tough to keep the tyres in the right window, they were always running quite cold so we had to push actually quite hard on the tyre,” he said. “With low grip, low rubber, it was not the easiest or most straightforward.”

After starting the race on the medium tyres Verstappen switched to the hard compound. “That stint was a bit of a limitation, because of the harder compound, it was even harder to keep the tyre temps,” he said.

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“We know that our car normally is very good when there’s high deg compared to other cars,” Verstappen explained. “Probably you would have needed a car which is a bit harder on the tyre to keep the temperatures in. So it’s probably not been our best race, but still, to win by nine seconds I think shows that we have a great car.”

Red Bull’s sub-10s winning margin is their lowest of the season so far, barring the Australian Grand Prix which finished under the Safety Car. Verstappen admitted he wasn’t pushing flat-out throughout the entire race, partly due to the behaviour of the tyres.

“It’s tough because normally it’s all about tyre management but today was definitely more about pushing,” he said. “But sometimes it was just going up and down a lot in lap time so then sometimes you couldn’t actually push to the limit, because you didn’t know what you were going to get.”

He increased his pace in his final stint when he switched back to the medium tyre compound. His team mate Sergio Perez was some way off his pace at this point on the same compound, but switched to softs at the end to claim the bonus point for fastest lap.

“For me, on the hard tyre, it was quite a bit of a struggle,” said Verstappen. “Then on the medium, I wanted to open up that gap a little bit more. So then, of course, at one point, you’re seeing like 10, 15 laps to go and you have a good gap, you don’t want to take too many risks.

“It’s probably not flat-out pushing, but you cannot relax too much because then you lose the [heat] in your tyres. So somewhere in the middle of that, I don’t know what the percentage is.”

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Verstappen suspects Alonso ended the race closer to him partly because the Red Bull was less competitive in Montreal and partly due to the upgrades Aston Martin brought last weekend.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2023
The Red Bull wasn’t as strong on the hard tyres
“I don’t think it was our best day because of the tyre temps and stuff, so that doesn’t help. But I also know that with their updates, they naturally of course improved. So, for sure, they got closer to us.”

He said he was “not worried” about being caught by Alonso during the race.

“But you are alert because you keep checking: is he catching or not? What do I need to do?

“At the beginning of the race when he passed Lewis [I thought] ‘okay, let’s see what his pace is’ and then initially it was quick and then I could manage my pace around it.

“Then on the hard tyres, I think the beginning was good, I was creating a bit of a gap but then I started to struggle with my tyres a little bit. So it’s constantly just talking to your engineers, seeing on the pit board what’s happening.

“You can’t relax too much, and especially today with the tyres being so cold, you have to be on it all the time, especially also here a street circuit. A tiny mistake is big lap time lost or you’re in the wall.”

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2023 Canadian Grand Prix

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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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9 comments on “Verstappen: Track layout and Aston Martin’s upgrades explain why they were closer”

  1. With Max’s and Checo’s present state of form we may as well witness a string of Max’s wins until the end of the seasons. Anyway it would have been a more interesting race without Fred’s lift-and-coast which took a few seconds from him. Would he have been able to challenge Max? Unlikely but enticing.

    1. I don’t think he will keep winning races until the end of the season. Maybe until summer break, maybe until 4-5 races to the end of the season. It’s quite obvious Red Bull aren’t developing their car much, upgrade here, upgrade there, but nothing significant. They thought it’s done this season and they will take both titles and considering their punishment in wind tunnel, they started developing their car very early to keep their advantage. And what they find usefull while developing their next year’s car, they will add onto this year’s car without using too much extra wind tunnel time. That’s how they do it efficiently.

      1. Bad luck will almost certainly prevent, at minimum, one or two Max wins. Unless we get a crazy rain race somewhere where RBR’s straight line advantage is nullified and they just seem to be a little off their normal pace, I can’t see them losing on straight merit at anytime this season.

        It’s most reminiscent of 2004, the only season when Schumacher really should have been winning every race strictly down to speed and almost did win every race. Between having the only car reliable enough to complete every race and a massive tire advantage combined with a chassis/engine combo that was at least equal to the next best car, there was really no opportunity for the other teams. The Ferrari was so fast that year that even Barrichello could have won the WDC and he definitely isn’t as good as Perez.

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  2. If Max broke a leg and had to miss the next 4 races, it would become quite exciting, both in the championship and especially in the races.

    1. I dont think that he is even allowed to play football.

  3. And the bird made him also slower …..

  4. Red Bull are so dominant that if Max got a 10 place grid penalty in all the remaking races, he would still probably be WDC and the team WCC.

  5. So he had to push hard to keep tyre temps and only finished 9 seconds of Alonso who was lift and coasting. We need more of these tracks without long corners then, when is the next one?

  6. Why would anyone think AM are closer? Redbull just turn the engine down and manage the races. The will never have to show the full potential of the car unless Max has to start from the back. That race in Canada was total domination. Redbull doesn’t even have to worry about having a terrible #2 driver.

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