Max Verstappen claimed the 40th win of his Formula 1 career in comfortable fashion as Mercedes captured a double podium finish.
The win total is good for sixth on the F1 all-time list—just one win shy of Ayrton Senna. Senna made 161 starts in his career, while Verstappen notched his 40th in start No. 171,
Autoweek rounds up the talking points from the Spanish Grand Prix. \
Verstappen’s Total Domination
Max Verstappen has dominated the season so far and at a high-speed circuit that suited both his and the Red Bull RB19’s strengths he was at his most emphatic.
Verstappen topped all three practice sessions before sweeping to pole position by half a second, a margin that he could have comfortably increased had he not abandoned his final push lap once it was clear no-one would beat his time.
On race day, Verstappen kept Carlos Sainz at bay into Turn 1, and from there wasn’t seen again, securely executing a two-stop strategy at the high-energy Barcelona track, while leading every single lap to win over runner-up Lewis Hamilton by 24 seconds.
The margin of victory could probably have been greater if Verstappen had any need to properly push. Allied to fastest lap it marked a weekend sweep for Verstappen, who grabbed each point up for grabs to extend his championship lead to 53 points. That’s a two-race buffer over Sergio Perez after just seven rounds of the season.
“I’m happy in the car and I think the last few weekends have been definitely a lot more positive for me,” said Verstappen. “This is one weekend where I think it went really well, but we also know that maybe at some other tracks it’s not like this.”
It was another challenging weekend for Perez. He struggled in qualifying, dropping out in Q2 and therefore lining up only 11th, and recovered to fourth. Given second was on a plate, due to the pace of the RB19, it was another six points dropped.
“I am disappointed, we have ultimately paid the price for a bad qualifying,” said Perez.”
Mercedes Overtakes Aston Martin
Mercedes introduced its updated W14 upgrades in Monaco, but Barcelona marked a first true test of the refined package.
It was a positive outcome for the Silver Arrows as the updates gave the team a stronger baseline moving forwards. Red Bull remains in another zip code—at least in the hands of Verstappen—but Lewis Hamilton worked his way from fourth to second, while George Russell surged from outside of the top 10 to join his distinguished compatriot on the podium.
The result elevated Mercedes above Aston Martin and into second place in the Constructors’ Championship.
“I didn't expect us to come here this weekend and finish second,” said Hamilton. “I was able to keep everything under control today. We are learning more and more about the car. I am hoping that the car continues to be like it was this weekend. I am hoping from here onwards we are in a good place. For sure, there will be some circuits where the car isn't quite in the right window but hopefully the next few races should suit us.”
Russell echoed Hamilton’s sentiments in hoping the W14 can perform as well at upcoming circuits: “We had a strong race here last year, so the next couple of races will be key to see if we can consistently produce results like this and close the gap to Red Bull.”
Boss Toto Wolff was also encouraged by the performance of the car.
“We took a decision to go in another direction early in the season,” he said. “It was a risky move, but everyone has just pushed forward and we've got a good race car. We now need to just keep chipping away. We've got a long way to go to catch Red Bull but it's good to see we are moving in the right direction.”
Aston Martin, meanwhile, had its least competitive Sunday display of the season, with Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso coming home sixth and seventh respectively. The pair were line astern after 66 laps but were over a minute behind victor Verstappen, and half a minute behind the Mercedes drivers.
“We should not be disappointed with this result – even though we did not quite have the pace to fight for the podium today,” urged boss Mike Krack. The team has still made sizeable year-on-year progress and will be a podium contender again soon.
Leclerc’s Horrible Weekend
For the first time in two years Charles Leclerc finished a race outside of the points on merit, a day after equaling the worst qualifying result of his career.
In a season which has been characterized by setbacks, operational errors and mistakes, this was another dismal outcome for a driver who harbored title ambitions before the season began.
Leclerc was in the mix during practice, but failed to make it out of Q1 in qualifying. Believing there was something amiss at the rear of the car, Ferrari made changes to the back end of the SF-23, along with the suspension, and Leclerc was forced to start from the pit lane as a result.
Leclerc made his way into the midfield , which became 11th when a time penalty was issued to Yuki Tsunoda. Leclerc is now a scarcely believable 128 points behind Verstappen.
“I mean we’ve got so much work to do,” said Leclerc. “It’s very strange, and very difficult to understand, because on the first set of Hard (tires) it’s so bad, no grip at all, especially on the front. Then on the second stint on Hard (tires) everything feels fine—you do exactly the same as a driver and [the car] feels in a different place.”
Carlos Sainz dropped from the front row to fifth in the sister Ferrari, behind the Mercedes drivers, but ahead of the Aston Martin pair.
The result came on a weekend in which Ferrari brought a raft of updates to the SF-23. They were primarily aimed at improving race pace and widening the operating window of the car. It didn’t look like much progress was made on either department, but team principal Frederic Vasseur retained an optimistic outlook.
“I think we have made a step forward overall if you compare this weekend with Miami,” said Vasseur. “Clearly, we know it is still not enough. Our problem is not our outright performance, it is our lack of consistency.
"Charles’ first set of Hards was a sort of a nightmare but then on his last set of the same compound he was happy with the balance: we must assess this inconsistency. Now we will focus completely on this issue before Canada. For sure we will continue to develop the car but this is a matter of improving by tenths of a second, whereas in the race we are looking for seconds at the moment. There is something in the car that we must unlock if we want to move forward.”
Alpine Pockets More Points, But Misses Some, Too
Alpine hoped to validate the pace of its A523 at a more representative circuit, after Esteban Ocon’s Monaco podium, as it strives to join the best-of-the-rest battle behind Red Bull.
There were flashes of promise in Spain that were undone by a handful of costly operational errors. Pierre Gasly qualified fourth, just a tenth away from a front-row spot, but was handed two three-place grid penalties for separate blocking incidents in the session. He dropped from 10th to 14th in the midfield scrum on the opening lap and consequently spent the rest of the afternoon in damage limitation mode before finishing 10th.
Teammate Esteban Ocon missed the tire window in qualifying, though he managed to salvage a decent sixth-place starting position. Ocon finished eighth in the race, just within sight of the Aston Martin drivers.
Alpine has now established itself as the fifth-best squad—and it took its third double points finish—but it needs to be perfect if it is to mix it with the next group on a consistent basis.
“I don’t think there was much more we could have done today, with our race pace perhaps lacking a bit compared to our competitors who finished in front,” said Ocon.
Gasly added: “Another double points finish but we always strive for more. On my side, it’s frustrating after such a strong qualifying yesterday and also the fact we showed good race pace today capable of fighting in the top six. Unfortunately, the penalties and the poor start had a big impact on my race, and we’ll collectively review to see what we can improve for next time.”
Haas Stymied by Tire Degradation
Haas had a perplexing weekend in terms of one-lap pace, with Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen often divergent performance-wise.
In qualifying it was Hulkenberg who found the sweet spot with the tires—claiming his 2023 best of eighth—which became seventh after a penalty for Pierre Gasly. Magnussen was marooned down in 17th.
Hulkenberg regressed through the order on Sunday as Haas suffered with high tire degradation. Barcelona stresses the notoriously tricky Pirelli tires but while the field was able to stop twice Haas was forced into a three-stop strategy with both drivers.
That left Hulkenberg in 15th, with Magnussen 18th. An excellent display from Zhou Guanyu netted him ninth, giving Alfa Romeo two points, and in the process wiping out Haas’ buffer over its fellow Ferrari-powered outfit in the battle for seventh in the Constructors' Championship.
“It looks at first glance that over one lap we’re competitive but in the long runs we still have some homework to do and some pace to find,” said Hulkenberg.
Magnussen added: “At the beginning of every stint, it was quite competitive compared to everyone we were fighting, but our tires just fell off quickly and we had to three-stop which wasn’t optimal. Hopefully we can try and learn about what caused it to improve, but certainly it was a tough race. When you have a bad weekend like this, you tend to find some interesting answers and that’s what I’m hoping for now – onto the next one.”
Added team principal Guenther Steiner, "Quite a disappointing result today, we just couldn’t get the tires to stay alive. We did one more pit stop than everyone else, but even if we hadn’t stopped, we would’ve gone slower and ended up there anyway. We need to go back to the drawing board and try to find a solution to our tire degradation."
Spanish Grand Prix Results
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 66 laps
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +24.0 seconds
George Russell, Mercedes, +32.3
Carlos Perez, Red Bull, +35.8
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, +45.6
Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, +1:03.3
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, +1:04.1
Esteban Ocon, Alpine, +1:09.2
Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo, +1:11.8
Pierre Gasly, Alpine, +1:13.5
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, +1:14.4
Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, +1:15.4
Oscar Piastri, McLaren, +1 lap
Nyck De Vries, AlphaTauri, +1 lap
Nico Hulkenberg, Haas, +1 lap
Alexander Albon, Williams, +1 lap
Lando Norris, McLaren, +1 lap
Kevin Magnussen, Haas, +1 lap
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, +1 lap
Logan Sargeant, Williams, +1 lap
Max Versrtappen 170
Sergio Perez 117
Fernando Alonso 99
Lewis Hamilton 87
George Russell 65
Carlos Sainz 58
Charles Leclerc 42
Lance Stroll 35
Esteban Ocon 25
Lando Norris 12
Nico Hulkenberg 6
Oscar Piastri 5
Valtteri Bottas 4
Zhou Guanyu 4
Yuki Tsiunoda 2
Kevin Magnussen 2
Nyck De Vries 1
Nyck De Vries 0
Logan Sargeant 0
Red Bull 287
Aston Martin 134
Alfa Romeo 8