Max Verstappen holds off Carlos Sainz to win the Canadian Grand Prix

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CNN

Max Verstappen took on Carlos Sainz’s challenge to triumph at the Canadian Grand Prix for the first time in his career on Sunday, further extending his lead at the top of the Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship.

The reigning world champion came out on top in a bitter late-race battle with the Ferrari driver to take his sixth win of the season and his second in a row after claiming a win in Azerbaijan.

The win puts him 46 points clear in the championship ahead of Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, whose early retirement due to mechanical failure spoiled the team’s sixth consecutive victory.

After taking the lead from pole position, the Red Bull driver looked like another comfortable weekend before AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda hit the wall as he exited the pits on lap 49.

With the field tight exiting the safety car six laps later, a thrilling battle between Verstappen and Sainz ensued, with the gap just over half a second before the final lap.

Still, the Dutchman kept his composure to keep the Spaniard at bay, showcasing his defensive skills despite his preference for attacking.

« It was really exciting at the end. I was giving everything I had and of course Carlos was doing the same, » Verstappen said.

« He was pushing, charging, pushing, charging – naturally when you’re on the DRS it’s easier to charge. The last laps were great fun.

« I think I would have preferred to attack instead of defend, but luckily it worked out. »

Verstappen celebrates on the podium.

After a nightmarish double DNF in Azerbaijan, Sainz spearheaded a Ferrari rebound that saw Charles Leclerc cap an impressive comeback with a fifth-place finish.

Starting from the back of the grid following further engine changes, Leclerc cut through the field to close the gap on Perez to three points in the Drivers’ Championship.

Lewis Hamilton capped off another strong weekend for Mercedes with his first podium since the season-opening race in Bahrain, with team-mate George Russell following home to secure a second consecutive third-fourth for his team.

Severe back pain – exacerbated by the instability of the car – in Azerbaijan last week presented another challenge in what has been a difficult season for Hamilton, so used to competing at the top of the championship.

However, the seven-time world champion believes his team is heading in the right direction to close the gap with Ferrari and Red Bull.

Hamilton en route to a third-place finish.

« Honestly, it’s quite overwhelming to get that third place and it’s been such a battle this year with the car and as a team, » Hamilton said.

« We continued to stay alert and focused and never give up. It’s something I’m so proud of and I’m inspired by my crew.

« They are a bit too fast for us at the moment but we are getting closer. We have to keep pushing and hopefully we will fight with these guys.

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