MONTREAL — For the final 16 laps of the Montreal Grand Prix, Max Verstappen had nothing but open road ahead. And Carlos Sainz on fresh tires, eager for his first Formula One victory, in his rearview mirror.
Verstappen held on for the victory Sunday. With his sixth win in nine races this season, the Dutch driver built his lead in the championship standings to 46 points over Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, who retired Sunday with gearbox trouble.
"The last 15, 16 laps we were flat out, pushing to the limit. I knew, of course, that I couldn't make a mistake. But it was good racing," said Verstappen, who also won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix a week earlier.
"It was super close all the time. (Sainz) was constantly in my DRS (drag reduction system). I think not once he dropped out of it, so the pressure is always on."
The 24-year-old Verstappen finished just 0.993 seconds ahead of Sainz, who faded over the final trip of the 70-lap race.
"When I gave it all, I was risking everything,'' the Spaniard said. "I can tell you I was pushing. I left everything out there. For the first time this season I can say I was fastest man on track, which gives me confidence and some hope for the next races."
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes was third for his first podium since racing to third in the season-opener in Bahrain.
"Really great pace today," said Hamilton, who ranks sixth in the standings. "And it's so nice to see. It's not always been the case I've had with this car. So it's nice to have like a bit of a good battle with her today . . . her or him, whatever you call a car.
"I just want to be in a battle with these guys."
Hamilton climbed out of his car to a huge roar from a sun-soaked crowd of about 100,000 as Formula One made its triumphant return to Montreal after a three-year hiatus.
It was a very different image from a week earlier, when Hamilton felt what he called excruciating back pain in Azerbaijan because of the bouncing — or "porpoising" — of his car.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said they'd raised his car's ride height to reduce bouncing.
Montreal's Lance Stroll started 17th and finished 10th for Aston Martin racing in the helmet he had made for the event — white with the Maple Leaf and map of Montreal.
Stroll's race strategy was to go long on his first set of tires so he'd only have to pit once. For numerous laps before finally pitting, half a dozen cars were on his tail. Broadcasters called it the "Stroll train."
"We had a great strategy for this race and I am super-pleased to have been able to score a point," Stroll said. "We did a great job . . . to make a one-stop race work, managing to keep a string of cars behind me.
"Things are certainly a lot more challenging this year, but I am pleased to have had a successful race today."
Toronto driver Nicholas Latifi finished 16th for Williams.
Since the race fell on Father's Day, the top three finishers reflected on theirs. Verstappen's dad Jos was an F1 driver who raced in Montreal several times. He dedicated his time after retirement to Max's career.
"I hope he enjoyed today," Verstappen said. "I'm sure he was very nervous out there. He's always nervous. So yeah, at least we made it stick. So that was a good present, I think."
Hamilton said his dad Anthony would have given anything to be a racing driver.
"But coming from the humble beginnings, and just with the dream of creating a better opportunity for his kids than he had, I'm forever grateful for my dad," the 37-year-old said.
"To be in (Montreal) in our first Grand Prix win in 2007, knowing everything he did to raise money and to almost selling the shirt off his back to keep us racing, I hope that he's proud today."
Hamilton's Mercedes teammate George Russell placed fourth. Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who started from the back of the grid due to a penalty for changing his engine, was fifth.
Alpine's Fernando Alonso started on the front row for the first time in 10 years. A five-second penalty for weaving dropped the 40-year-old from seventh to ninth.
A day after Perez crashed in qualifying, the Mexican driver's day ended on Lap 9 when he lost power.
"I've lost the engine," he said frantically. "I'm stuck in gear."
Mick Schumacher of Haas retired on Lap 20, while the day ended for Alpha Tauri's Yuki Tsunoda on Lap 50.
Montreal's F-1 races were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.
"It has been incredible to race at home after such a long time away," Stroll said.
The three-day event drew a record 338,000 spectators, partly due to the construction of two new grandstands.
Sunday's sunny skies for race day were a welcome relief after three days of rain.
F1's return to Montreal also coincided with the 40th anniversary of the death of Gilles Villeneuve for whom the track on the banks of the Saint Lawrence river is named.
The series heads to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix on July 3.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 19, 2022.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press