SPANISH GP – Max Verstappen dominates to take his fifth win of 2023 twenty-four seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton
Max Verstappen has dominated the Spanish Grand Prix to take his fifth win of the season after finishing twenty-four seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton. The Red Bull driver looked to drive a race where nothing looked like it would stop him, as has been the case all season Red Bulls winning pace.
The big question is going to Montreal is can Red Bull be beaten anywhere, while the leading pack of Mercedes, Ferrari and Aston Martin all look to be able to fight amongst themselves they still need to find answers to beat Red Bull. Verstappen at the start did fend off an attack from Carlos Sainz who joined him on the front row, before he looked very comfortable in a car as it cruised to victory.
George Russell was third after fighting his way from twelfth to finish third in a strong drive for Mercedes who have started to emerge as the closest challengers to Red Bull. Verstappen looked to control the race from the start and as he has done all season soon opened the gap to around about five seconds in the first ten laps, allowing him to take a fortieth career win.
A decent result for Russell who struggled the most to get to grips with the upgrades and was knocked out in Q2 yesterday, despite his reputation for qualifying. He is slowly becoming Mr. Sunday, a perfect start saw him gain five places and avoid a penalty for going wide at the opening corners.
From there, his pace was similarly strong to Hamilton’s, and he made passes on Alonso, Ocon, and Sainz to move behind his team-mate.
The only possible threat to Verstappen was Verstappen himself, he had been given a black and white flag for exceeding track limits on three separate occasions, but the five-second penalty he would have got for doing it again would not have made any difference.
It had been said if Red Bull couldn’t be beaten in Monaco, where could they be? That proved terribly accurate for its rivals Verstappen has won five of the first seven races and their could be questions now about another record breaking season. He is now a quarter of the way towards his record of fifteen wins in a year.
Verstappen said, “It’s a big pleasure to drive with a car like this and it showed again today. We had quite a lot of different tyre strategies today. I knew the start was going to be a bit tricky going into Turn One but luckily nothing happened. We had another strong weekend and that’s what I like to see for myself in the weekend and hopefully we keep that up for the year.”
Mercedes once again proving they are heading in the right direction towards the front, Russell managing to fend off Sergio Perez in the closing stages and take his first podium of the season. That was despite Hamilton making contact with Lando Norris at the start.
Hamilton tracked Sainz in the first stint before running longer to his first stop, coming out behind the Ferrari and then using his fresher tyres to overtake it, after which he had a comfortable run to the flag.
It was the McLaren who came off the worst with all his hard work in qualifying dropping him to last, then only recovering to seventeenth. Hamilton momentarily unsettled and was overtaken by Stroll behind him, but reassured there was no damage to his car, retook the place and set about catching chasing Sainz.
Hamilton said, “What a result for our team, we definitely didn’t expect the result we had today. Hats off to my team, a big thank you to the team back at the factory to continue to push and bring us a bit close to the Red Bulls. They’re still a bit ahead.”
Red Bull had tried to use a late switch to soft tyres to try and pass Russell, though Perez was faster he was unable to close the gap and pass the Mercedes, who finished three seconds ahead.
Russell said he hopped it was “sign of things to come hopefully for us and the team.” Saying, that the car, “feels better but you are putting in those lap times and comparing them what the Ferraris and the Astons are doing and we were quicker and quicker.”
While they were no match for Verstappen, Mercedes showed massive improvements in their heavily upgraded car, with the W14 clearly the second fastest on the track as they pulled comfortably clear of Ferrari’s Sainz, who finished fifth. The step forwards expected by the team.
The team brought a major upgrade in Monaco which they expected to show full potential this weekend, their will be renewed questions and speculation from Ferrari and Aston Martin saying they have been leapfrogged by Mercedes. The Hamilton was about ten seconds ahead of Perez in fourth, Russell had a similar margin over Sainz in sixth.
Carlos Sainz was fifth he failed to hold off the Mercedes and Perez who appeared to have better race pace despite Ferrari’s upgrades, he failed to regain the position he lost when he stopped on lap fourth-one. He had asked Ferrari to “Find the best way to beat” Perez, but the superior pace saw him fight from eleventh to fourth.
Sainz gave Verstappen the only challenge he would face in the race but the Red Bull driver advantage allowed Verstappen to keep the lead at the start, from then on he cruised into the distance.
Meanwhile, Sainz’s teammate Charles Leclerc, made little progress following a pit lane start finishing just outside the points. Following his shock Q1 knock out Ferrari broke parc ferme to understand why the Monacan had struggled so much in qualifying, then Ferrari took a different direction on strategy.
Lance Stroll finished sixth eight tenths ahead of Aston Martin teammate Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard looked to have the pace to challenge his teammate by chose not to challenge. Aston Martin have appeared to slip backwards this weekend and not be Red Bull’s closest challengers both drivers over a minute behind Verstappen, and eight tenths between them.
But the team had been on the back foot from Q1 onwards, Alonso had damaged his floor ahead of his home race and the team opted not to change the floor and incur a pit lane start like Leclerc. Alonso’s performance is likely to raise pressure on Lance Stroll, the son of the teams owner heading to his home race in Montreal.
Esteban Ocon continued Alpine’s strong upturn in form but in the increasingly tight midfield could only manage eighth, five seconds behind his former teammate Alonso. Guanyu Zhou spilt the Frenchmen finishing two seconds ahead of Ocon’s teammate Pierre Gasly.
Zhou and Gasly moving up two places after Yuki Tsunoda received a five-second penalty for impeding Zhou, who claimed an impressive ninth. That moved the Alpha Tauri down to twelfth.
Leclerc’s failure to make progress into the top ten partly thanks to the strange strategy left him eleventh nearly a second behind Gasly after making up eight places in the race. Ferrari are becoming perhaps aware that the competitive midfield doesn’t guarantee they can fight through the midfield like Red Bull despite them going into this season as the closest challenger.
Inspections from the team found nothing wrong with the SF-23, which was also debuting significant upgrades, and changes to his setup – along with a new gearbox – appeared to make little difference on Sunday.
The race was one which saw no retirements, no yellow flags, safety cars with all the drivers finishing not surprising given the thousands of laps drivers have done around Barcelona.
Oscar Piastri was thirteenth the McLaren driver leading the lapped cars ahead of Nyck de Vries, Nico Hulkenberg and Alex Albon. Norris’s first lap contact saw him finish seventeenth ahead of Kevin Magnussen, Valterri Bottas and Logan Sargeant.