Spain GP: Max Verstappen takes another step towards the title, double podium for Mercedes

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen celebrates, cameraman in the shot. Spain June 2023

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen celebrates, cameraman in the shot. Spain June 2023

Max Verstappen romped unchallenged to win number five of this season, the Red Bull driver P1 at the Spanish Grand Prix ahead of the much-improved Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

The pole-sitter led from start to finish as he claimed the victory and the 25 points, extending his advantage over his team-mate Sergio Perez to 53 points with the Mexican driver off the podium.

Verstappen started on pole position ahead of Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris and Hamilton while Charles Leclerc, his SF-23 having undergone set-up changes over night, lined up in the pit lane.

Sainz challenged Verstappen as they went through Turn 1 but wasn’t quite able to draw level while Hamilton and Norris collided with the McLaren driver forced to pit for a new front wing, a long stop with a slow get-away. He fell to the back of the field while Hamilton was in fourth having lost a position to Lance Stroll. As for the other Mercedes, George Russell made up five places in a move the stewards noted as he left the track to do so but no penalty they declared.

As Verstappen began to pull away from Sainz, Hamilton took third off Stroll with the help of DRS, Russell overtook Fernando Alonso for sixth, Yuki Tsunoda passed Nico Hulkenberg for 10th and Leclerc was up to 16th having easily pulled ahead of the Williams of Alex Albon.

Ten laps into the 66-lap race Verstappen had built up an advantage of 4.8s while his team-mate Sergio Perez had made his way up to eighth place, passing Tsunoda and beginning to chase down Alonso in seventh. Just ahead of them Russell nipped passed Ocon for fifth with the Mercedes driver using DRS into the final corner to get the straight-line speed needed.

As Verstappen continued to stretch his legs at the front, up by eight seconds after 15 laps, Ferrari debated pit stops with Sainz saying it wasn’t yet time. But with Aston Martin bringing Stroll in, Sainz was told to “box, box” and in he came for the medium tyres. Hamilton stayed out.

Meanwhile the midfield offered the early race excitement with passes from Nico Hulkenberg, Tsunoda, Oscar Piastri and others with Pierre Gasly making short work of his rivals after his pit stop. Alonso was the next of the top 10 to pit, Russell telling Mercedes he “needed to stay out” as his tyres were “good”. recommends

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Hamilton came in lap 25, the Briton just over 11 seconds down on race leader Verstappen when he stopped, and swapped onto the mediums. He came out about two seconds down on Sainz, unable to leapfrog the Ferrari driver with his longer first stint.

Russell then pitted, dropping to sixth place and coming out just ahead of Esteban Ocon, with Verstappen following the Mercedes drivers in. He pitted from P1 and came out P1 with only his team-mate Perez yet to come in for his mandatory stop. And then he too stopped, everyone in by lap 29.

Hamilton caught and overtook Sainz down into Turn 1 at the start of lap 28 while the other Ferrari of Leclerc wasn’t exactly setting the stage alight either, the Monégasque driver struggling to make up positions with his pass on Nyck de Vries putting him P13 midway through the race.

Russell began to report rain only to ask if it was just him or “sweat” dripping into his visor. It was the latter with the Briton up to fourth place and chasing down Sainz for third. Another driver on the move was Perez, P7 after a pass on Tsunoda. Russell made short work of the Ferrari with DRS down into Turn 1 to run P3 behind Hamilton on lap 36. “Solid work” the Briton was told. “Just solid?” being his reply.

The first of the two-stoppers, including Stroll, Tsunoda and Ocon, made their stops and dropped to the back half of the field while Verstappen, Hamilton and Russell ran 1-2-3 with the Red Bull driver 15s ahead of the leading Mercedes. Sainz came in on lap 42 for hard tyres, the Spaniard dropping behind Alonso into sixth place with Leclerc following him in and falling to 14th.

The top five stayed out with Verstappen telling Red Bull his tyres weren’t “amazing” but still he didn’t seem too keen to stop. He was up by 16s ahead of Hamilton with Russell third ahead of Perez and Alonso. And then the Aston Martin pitted followed by Russell, the latter down to fourth place with Alonso dropping from fifth to 10th.

With fresh soft tyres on his Mercedes, Russell began to lay down fastest lap after fastest lap as he tried to chase down Perez. But as Verstappen complained about a lack of grip, Hamilton and Perez pitted for new soft tyres, coming out P2 and P4 respectively, with the reigning World Champion in a lap later.

With 14 to go the top four were all on new softs, Verstappen 17s up on Hamilton, who in turn was five ahead of Russell with Perez a further eight back. Sainz on the hard tyres was P5 ahead of Stroll while behind them Ocon and Alonso had a moment as the Spaniard took P7 off his former team-mate with a somewhat over-aggressive defence from Ocon.

Seemingly cruising towards his fifth win of this season Verstappen came close to tripping himself up as he was shown the black-and-white flag for exceeding track limits for the third time. One more incident and he’d get a five-second time penalty. Asking about his fastest lap, Red Bull made it clear he was closing in on penalty and not to try anything. He promptly set the fastest lap of the race.

The Dutchman avoided any more track limit infringements and won the race by 24s ahead of Hamilton with Russell making it Mercedes first podium double of this season as he crossed the line ahead of Perez.

Sainz, Stroll and Alonso were next in line with Ocon, Zhou Guanyu and Gasly completing the points-scoring positions. Tsunoda was P9 across the line but was hit with a five-second time penalty for forcing Zhou off track.


1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:27:57.940
2 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +24.090
3 George RUSSELL Mercedes +32.389
4 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +35.812
5 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +45.698
6 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +63.320
7 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +64.127
8 Esteban OCON Alpine +69.242
9 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +71.878
10 Pierre GASLY Alpine +73.530
11 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +74.419
12 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +75.416
13 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +1 lap
14 Nyck DE VRIES AlphaTauri +1 lap
15 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +1 lap
16 Alexander ALBON Williams +1 lap
17 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1 lap
18 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +1 lap
19 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1 lap
20 Logan SARGEANT Williams +1 lap