Verstappen resists Norris for seventh win of the season in Spain

Max Verstappen won the Spanish Grand Prix from second on the grid after pole-getter Lando Norris lost time embroiled in a battle with the Mercedes drivers for a spot on the podium.

Norris’s afternoon began to unravel from lights out, when a slow start dropped him behind Verstappen, who went down his inside at the first turn.

But both were caught off-guard by George Russell, who had picked up a significant slipstream from the second row of the grid to slingshot his way into the lead around the outside of the first turn.

The Mercedes driver wasn’t long in the lead, however. Needing to push significantly harder than the rest just to stay ahead, he succumbed to Verstappen sweeping around his outside at the first turn with the assistance of DRS beforehand.


The Dutchman was rapid in clear air and quickly moved beyond DRS range. Norris, unable to find a way past Russell, was stuck in a difficult position and needed to make a decision.

The Briton goaded his team into making an ambitious strategy choice. Russell stopped on lap 15, Lewis Hamilton behind him pitted on the following lap and Verstappen took new tire on lap 17.

Norris, however, stayed out, gambling on a deep tire offset to regain him the lead rather than playing it safe to secure second.

The McLaren driver waited until lap 23 to pit. He dropped to sixth on the road behind Carlos Sainz, Hamilton, and then Russell, his gap to Verstappen more than 11s. Sainz proved relatively easily picking, but Hamilton was more obstinate, with Norris unable to barge past him until lap 32.

Russell put up an even greater fight, forcing Norris into a long duel through the first sector. Norris first got around Russell’s outside at Turn 3, with Russell responding around the outside of Turn 4.

Norris eventually go the final word with a switchback at Turn 5 to win the inside line at Turn 7. But the time it had taken him to return to second had been too costly. He made up around only 3s on the leader in those 12 laps, leaving him with 9s still to close on tires now past their best.

The margin shrank to less than 5s by the time Verstappen stopped again on lap 45, but the damage had been done.

Norris was left out for only two more laps before making his final tire change. It ensured he kept ahead of Russell and Hamilton, who had stopped on earlier laps, but left him without a meaningful tire offset with which to pursue the lead.

It was an effective declaration of defeat, and though he pushed Verstappen hard in the final stint, the Dutchman was easily equal to the challenge, taking the flag with a margin of 2.2s.

“I think what made the race was the beginning,” he said. “I took the lead on [lap 3], and that’s where I had my buffer, then in the first stint I could eke out the gap a bit. After that I had to drive a defensive race.

“Once I was in the lead, I could look after my tires a bit better. That definitely made my race today.”

Norris was disappointed not to convert pole to victory, believing his McLaren was the quickest car of the day.

“Not could (have won), should have done,” he said. “I got a bad start, simple as that.

“The car was incredible today. I think we were for sure the quickest. I just lost it at the beginning. A lot of positive, one negative, and that ruined everything.”

Lewis Hamilton won the intrateam Mercedes battle by finishing third for his first podium of the season. Hamilton benefitted from Russell being lumbered with the uncompetitive hard tire in this final stint, exaggerating his pace on his race-ending set of softs, but said the result was more important for the team’s progress than for either individual driver.

“It’s been a good day – a good weekend a solid weekend,” he said. “I have to say a bit thank you to the team. The strategy and the pit stops were really on point.”

Russell held off a late charge from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, the Ferrari driver using his softs in the final stint to menace the Mercedes to the flag.

Sainz followed Leclerc home after suffering the hard tire in the final stint, undoing a robust move he put on his teammate at the start of the race that saw the two scarlet cars make light contact at the first turn.

Oscar Piastri executed a quiet race from ninth to seventh, a long way ahead of the three-stopping Sergio Perez, who made up three places from his penalized 11th on the grid.

Pierre Gasly led home teammate Esteban Ocon in ninth and 10th for Alpine’s second consecutive double points finish.

Nico Hulkenberg led home Fernando Alonso, Zhou Guanyu and Lance Stroll.

Daniel Ricciardo led the way for RB, but the upgraded VCARB-01 was good enough for only 15th ahead of Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen and Alex Albon, the Williams driver having started from pit lane to take a new power unit.

Yuki Tsunoda finished 19th ahead of Logan Sargeant at the back of a field featuring no retirements.

Story originally appeared on Racer