Max Verstappen claimed a lights-to-flag victory at the 33rd running of the Spanish Grand Prix at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya today, Round 7 of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship, in another dominant masterclass that sees him extend his lead in his quest for a third title.
In fact, Verstappen ‘owned’ Barcelona this weekend, fastest in FP sessions, claiming his first pole at the venue on Saturday and today, making mincemeat of his rivals. Untouchable, incredible, masterful, amazing. We’ve run out of superlatives to describe the incredible talents and antics of the Dutch ace.
All afternoon he dominated, controlled and added more incredible numbers to his illustrious CV. His 49th victory, his third in Barcelona having scored his first so famously at the venue back in 2016. It is also his fifth win of the season and now has 170 points and lads the 2023 F1 Drivers’ standings by 53 points over Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.
Interviewed by Nico Rosberg in parc ferme, the Dutchman summed up: “It’s a big pleasure to drive with a car like this. I think it showed again today. We had quite a lot of different strategies out there. For most of the race we were on the right one but a win here, it’s incredible.
Verstappen: Hopefully we can keep that up throughout the year
“I had the harder compound so I knew the start would be a bit tricky. Going around the outside at Turn One is always quite difficult but luckily nothing happened. We had another strong weekend and that’s what I like to see from myself and the team, so hopefully we can keep that up throughout the year,” added Verstappen.
It was also a day in which Mercedes found their mojo, certainly the best of the rest on race pace today, which resulted in a double podium finish with Hamilton second and teammate George Russell third. Their best result in ages, it seems so long.
It was Hamilton in Hammertime mode all race long, second always his with what he was able to extract from the revitalised and heavily modified W14 package.
Hamilton: We’ll keep chasing them down
The seven-time F1 World Champion, a six-time winner in Barcelona, told Rosberg in Parc Ferme: “What a result for our team. We definitely didn’t expect to have the result we had today, so I just really want to take my hat off to my team and say a big, big thank you to everyone back at the factory for continuing to push and bring us a little bit closer to the Bulls.
“They are still a bit ahead, but we’ll keep chasing them down. This is an amazing result and George did a great job as well. “I think they are a little bit too quick at the moment, but we are working at it, one step at a time. If we can get close by the end of the year, that would be awesome. If not, next year,” added Hamilton.
Fellow Briton and teammate, Russell was also in fine form but had to be more aggressive starting so much further back. The younger Merc driver provided some of the more entertaining moments of a compelling race, including mistaking his own sweat for rain. But he was inspired today, the Mercedes working well gave us another glimpse of how good Russell really is, the nine-place climb to the final step of the podium was special.
Russell: Hopefully a sign of things to come for us and the team
Ahead of his 10th F1 podium celebration, Russell said: “A little bit surprised for sure. Kudos to the team for giving me a great car today. That was a fun race for us – starting from P12 and coming to P3. Hopefully a sign of things to come for us and the team.”
“It definitely feels better. You are just putting in those lap times and comparing it to the guys around you – the Ferraris and Astons and you are going quicker and quicker. We know we brought some more downforce to the car and are in a better window, so just happy to be on the podium,” concluded Russell.
Carlos Sainz carried the hopes of Spain after Aston Martin veteran and local hero Fernando Alonso messed up his Grand Prix with a rookie mistake in Q1 on Saturday. The popular veteran was never in it to win it despite the pre-race hype.
Ditto Sainz who took Spain’s baton with a potent second place in qualy, but on race day he faded throughout the afternoon; the Ferrari was no match for Max, gobbled up with ease by the resurgent Mercedes duo, and humbled (embarrassed?) by the second Red Bull.
Strong recovery by Perez after his Monaco shenanigans and poor Qualy
Perez was fourth after his below-par Qualifying, the result was a welcome respite but not enough to not lose substantial ground in the 2023 F1 Drivers’ points standings to his teammate. Max is waving bye-bye on that front, after three comprehensive results, stunted Checo’s ambitions.
Lance Stroll finally had a half-decent race, finishing sixth ahead of Aston Martin teammate Fernando Alonso who mysteriously, and totally out of character, suggested he himself hold station, that Lance not worry about an attack. Strange from the notorious street-fighter who was substantially faster than the sister car at that stage. The veteran holstered his weapon and held station, settling for seventh. Wow!
Behind him, Alonso’s former teammate Esteban Ocon had a solid drive to eighth but showed his true (nasty) colours with an audacious and dangerous block on Alonso slipstreaming to take a position. Obviously no love lost between the pair. Alonso we know, but Ocon we tend to forget how vicious he can be.
Alfa Romeo driver Guanyu Zhou inherited ninth after he got the better of a duel with Yuki Tsunoda in the sense that the AlhaTauri made what seemed a perfectly legal move into Turn 1, but FIA Race Sewards saw it differently and gave the Japanese driver a harsh penalty that demoted him out of the points, to 12th.
Penalty was harsh and unfair for Tsunoda
At the same time a good showing by Zhou over the course of a challenging race. His veteran teammate, Valtteri Bottas toiled around to 19th, the Finn anonymous this weekend.
The final point went to Pierre Gasly, making it another double Alpine score. But, with the pace they had Saturday, the French team will look at the weekend as one of missed opportunities. They were better than today’s result suggested.
Out of the points were both McLarens who were only flattered to deceive in Qualifying, Lando Norris lining up third raised expectations but a clumsy first lap by the Briton, perhaps too desperate for a good result and attracting the wrong luck, compromised his day. Third best on Saturday, became 17th in the space of 24 hours.
In the other McLaren, rookie Oscar Piastri also started in the top ten, and looked good at some points in the 66-lap race, but in the end was only good for 13th. The car at times offers a good qualifying window, as witnessed on Saturday in Spain, but it’s appalling in race trim, where it matters and the points are dished out.
2023 Spanish Grand Prix Result
2023 Spanish Grand Prix as it happened:
The ‘action’ started even before the Red lights went out, Leclerc starting from pits on Hards, behind Logan Sargenat on Mediums while the Red Bulls revealed yellow band Mediums when the covers came off. The others were all on Softs. Game on already!
A frenetic first lap with Sainz thinking of going around the outside of Verstappen didn’t happen, as they all slithered behind the Red Bull with a clumsy Norris going backwards, even making contact with Hamilton in the early frenzy. He pitted early.
Stroll found his better self finally, picking off Hamilton for third with Verstappen well ahead setting fastest laps thereafter, Sainz chasing and then the unfamiliar Aston Martin.
The biggest climber was Russell in the Mercedes but the five paces gained were investigated. Zhou was also up five spots in eighth.
Hulkenberg was in freefall, dropping four positions, as was Piastri turning McLaren’s Sunday into misery after the heroics of Saturday. The McLaren clearly better with one lap pace but not sustainable in the race.
On Lap eight, Hamilton bravely pounced on Stroll into Turn 1 to claim thrid. Two seconds behind Sainz in second with the fastest lap setting Verstappen 4.3 seconds at the front.
Zhou was first to pit in the Alfa Romeo from eighth, exiting with Hards.
The out-of-place starters Leclerc and Perez were making it towards the front, the Ferrari in 11th and Perez in eighth.
Lap 10 VER-SAI-HAM-STR-RUS-OCO-ALO-PER-PIA-GAS were in a top ten stalemate, with leader Verstappen now 5.6 ahead of Sainz, with Hamilton edging closer to the Ferrari in second.
Notably, at this point the Mercedes duo were finding fancy pace, closing in on the cars ahead, Hamilton for second and a charging Russell in fifth.
Ocon was the next in the top ten to stop. The Alpine emerging ahead of HUL-TSU-ZHO slugging it out just shy of the points. Fierce stuff.
Stroll was next in on lap 15. Teammate Alonso was up to fifth, behind the two Mercedes the solo Ferrari chasing the leading Red Bull eight seconds ahead.
Sainz boxed on Lap 16. Asked “Why?” but obliged emerging eighth behind teammate Leclerc running a separate race, the latter pitting on the next lap.
Hamilton in second was keen to attack, with Russell in the second Mercedes enjoying one of the best race Sundays in ages.
On lap 20 the order was VER-HAM-RUS-ALO-PER-GAS-SAI-STR-OCO-TSU with the Red Bull leader pegged at eight seconds by Hamilton in second with Russell a further eight seconds behind and Perez remarkably recovering to fourth albeit eight seconds deficit to P3. The top four had yet to stop.
On Lap 25, Hamilton stopped emerging third, behind Sainz with much fresher tyres. Russell followed a lpa later leaving VER-PER in an RBR top two, the pair still to stop and ditch the Mediums.
Lap 25, Verstappen pits from the lead for Hards and 2.2 seconds testimony to a driver and his team in perfect harmony. Proper World Champion stuff. Bets of the best on all fronts. Respect.
At the same time the Haas crew made a hash of Magnussen’s stop, like clowns tripping around the stopped car in stark difference to the RBR boys.
Lap 28, Russell reports rain with dark skies approaching behind the final turn but eventually realised it was sweat, not raindrops. Funny moment at a serious time.
Lap 30 with everyone stopped the order was VER-HAM-SAI-RUS-STR-OCO-TSU-ALO-PER-SHO, with Verstappen ahead by a dozen seconds to Hamilton in pursuit, with Sainz dropping into the clutches of Russell in the battle for the final podium step; the Mercedes with the fastest lap at this point.
Perez was back in ninth and climbing, powering past Alonso on lap 31 who was having a subdued day relative to his stellar races so far this year. Perhaps the floor damage in Q1 was more substantial than they realised. It was a stange fall of form at his home race.
Verstappen’s lead on lap 33, the halfway mark, was nearly 14 seconds, despite the Hard tyres he was edging away from Hamilton on the Mediums followed by Sainz seven seconds adrift with Russell in his DRS until lap 35.
Side by side into Turn 1, Russell went on the inside and Sainz had no answer. The Mercs were flying, in second and third quite comfortably; the pair were separated by nine seconds.
Sainz on the other hand was fading, like his teammate, on hards Perez was reeling the Ferrari at almost a second per lap.
After another flurry of pitstops, some for drivers in the top ten, on Lap 40 the order was VER-HAM-RUS-SAI-PER-ALO-PIA-GAS-LEC-STR. More pitstops scrambled the order for the next few laps.
Totally in control, Verstappen’s lead over Hamilton was at 15 seconds who was ten seconds ahead of teammate Russell in third, with Perez eight seconds adrift in fourth.
The Russell pitted for Softs, allowing Perez into third but chasing the Red Bull and reeling it in with another fastest lap at that point. The gap four seconds on lap 48. But all eyes were on Alonso, who had kept his powder dry found another gear moving up to eighth.
Lap 50 the order was VER-HAM-PER-RUS-SAI-STR-OCO-ALO-TSU-ZHO with Verstappen 16 seconds ahead, as Hamilton pitted for fresh Softs; Perez was next to change to Softs, leaving Verstappen way ahead yet to stop.
The highlight of the race inevitably belonged to Alonso as he slipstreamed former teammate Ocon who aggressively blocked the Aston Martin, forcing him towards the wall, but the Spaniard kept it planted to roars of the main Grandstand. It was jaw-droppingly brave, and not nice by Ocon. Shades of Schumacher-Barrchello-Hungary.
Verstappen pitted a lap later, as on Lap 53 Perez blasted past Sainz to take fourth, the Prancing Horse limp, with no defence on another alarmingly forgettable afternoon for Ferrari. They’re going backwards no matter what Fred says.
Meanwhile, Perez popped the fastest as he chipped away at Russell’s about five seconds ahead.
Well ahead, Verstappen was on a third track limits warning, despite his massive lead which seemed to perplex him. One more wayward lap would mean a penalty. Typical Max though, that did not stop him from pushing the next lap and going purple, keen on the one point for the fastest lap, just to emphasise his supremacy in F1 right now
Lap 60 the order was VER-HAM-RUS-PER-SAI-STR-ALO-OCO-TSU-ZHO. The lead from Max to Lewis, 19 seconds and no big movements on the cards behind them. Stalemate.