MONTREAL, June 10 — Max Verstappen survived another intense test of his and Red Bull’s credentials in a thrilling, closely-fought Canada Grand Prix on Sunday that will boost their optimism ahead of a return to Europe and circuits better suited to his car.

By winning an open race in changing wet-and-dry conditions that produced two Safety Car interventions and saw five cars fail to finish, the three-time champion showed he and Red Bull retain the competitive edge required for more success.

Sunday’s contest ended with five cars in contention to win over the closing laps before the Dutchman secured victory ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Mercedes’ George Russell.

He conceded afterwards that his was not the fastest car and improvements are needed if he is stay in front in a bid for a fourth consecutive title.

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AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from Sunday’s drama at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Verstappen needs Perez support

Red Bull need Sergio Perez, who crashed and failed to score a point for the second consecutive race, to recover his mojo and deliver solid drives in the points to back up the series leader who called for more upgrades and performance from the team after Sunday’s race.

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“The damage was done yesterday (Saturday),” said Verstappen.

“Starting at the back, it’s very hard in these conditions. And then, of course, he retired with the damage. So, I knew I had to score big and not let other teams catch up.”

“As long as you keep winning, even if the others finish P2 and P3, you don’t lose out too much and you can kind of afford to have these one-offs. But we really want two cars up there and I have no doubt it will change soon.”

Sunday’s win was Verstappen’s sixth in nine races this year and helped extend his lead in the title race, thanks in part to the conditions and Ferrari’s failure to finish with either car.

But for Red Bull it was nothing like the one-two triumphs they delivered at the opening four races before McLaren and Ferrari’s upgrades enabled them to compete with and beat them.

Perez, who signed a contract extension before the Canadian event, has flopped in qualifying in three successive events and badly needs a return to form in Spain.

His exit on Sunday left him 87 points adrift of Verstappen in the drivers’ championship, in fifth place.

“I am very sorry for my team,” he said. “I let them down, but we will come back and there’s a long way to go.”

Internal strife at Alpine

Two weeks after crashing into his team-mate and out on the opening lap of the Monaco Grand Prix, Esteban Ocon again inflamed emotions by bickering about team orders and reducing his appeal to rival teams when he leaves Alpine this year.

Ocon was ordered to allow Pierre Gasly to pass in the closing laps and only complied after a graceless argument on team radio, too late for his compatriot to have a real chance of passing RB’s Daniel Ricciardo.

He then claimed that the order should be reversed to give him ninth place again and criticised the team. “I have done my job, but not the team,” he said.

“It is very sad. I started last and we took the right decisions but it’s a bitter end.”

Ocon received his order with three laps to go, but responded saying ‘forget it’ before letting Gasly pass on the penultimate lap.

Ricciardo responds to needle

A fighting drive to eighth by RB’s Daniel Ricciardo on the track where he claimed his maiden victory a decade earlier showed his talent remains undimmed, when motivated.

Sharp criticism on Friday from 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, working as a pundit for Sky Sports F1, suggested he was not worth his seat and would be dropped for next year.

He hit back on and off the track, claiming the Canadian had hit his head too often playing ice hockey.

“I got under his skin,” said Villeneuve. “It got better for his driving, but it’s not enough. He needs to do more.” — AFP