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Spanish Grand Prix: F1 Race Results

Could Lando Norris and McLaren convert pole position to victory in Barcelona?

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The battle for victory in the Spanish Grand Prix came down to raw speed and strategic genius. 

Spanish Grand Prix: F1 Race Results (Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images)
Spanish Grand Prix: F1 Race Results (Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images)
Pre-race

Barcelona is a circuit where teams and drivers are laid bare, their strengths and weaknesses exposed. Its mix of high-speed corners and slow chicanes makes the Spanish Grand Prix a true test for the competitive order.

Red Bull initially struggled in practice and the early stages of qualifying. Max Verstappen found pace in Q3, moving three-tenths clear of Carlos Sainz. However, an outstanding lap from Lando Norris saw the British driver steal pole position by 0.020s.

As the clock counted to the race start, the question of whether McLaren had a car to challenge Red Bull across a full race on a track as important as Barcelona would shortly be answered. The long run down to the first corner had the risk of dragging rivals within striking distance.

The two Mercedes cars out-qualified both Ferraris. Lewis Hamilton aimed to break his and Mercedes’ podium-less season to date, while George Russell said the team now had confidence for the rest of 2024. Charles Leclerc and teammate Sainz would need to push hard to move ahead of the Silver Arrows, particularly after the Scuderia’s double DNF in Canada.

Further down the order, the beleaguered Alpine team pulled off a surprise with a double Q3 appearance: Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly sandwiched Sergio Perez’s second Red Bull on the timesheets.

Perez made a welcome return to Q3 but had his work cut out to move up the order in Barcelona following his three-place grid penalty for his misdemeanour in Canada, which dropped him to P11 on the grid. Alex Albon opted to change his power unit, resulting in a pit lane start. Both Williams would now start at the back of the grid, with a long afternoon ahead.

After a classy orchestral national anthem, it was time for the duel between Red Bull and McLaren to commence. Who would emerge victorious?

Lights out and Max on the move

Norris started slowly, with Verstappen mirroring his every move. Russell pulled off a dramatic move around the outside of Verstappen and Norris to dramatically take the lead into turn one.

The second Mercedes of Hamilton lost a place and was demoted to P4. Norris was just ahead in P3, and Verstappen’s Red Bull was already beginning to close the gap on the McLaren.

Verstappen swooped past Russell’s Mercedes on lap three into turn one, and all of his rivals were seemingly vanquished in less than five laps. The Dutchman pulled a second clear of the Mercedes in just five corners.

In the intra-team Ferrari battle, Sainz was now ahead of Charles Leclerc, with Leclerc unhappy with light contact between himself and the Spaniard. Both continued and pushed the other hard.

Further back, Flavio Briatore’s return had a positive effect on Alpine. Both remained in the top ten, Pierre Gasly in P7 and Esteban Ocon in the second McLaren of Oscar Piastri sandwiched between the two.

Piastri closed on Gasly for P7 as the Alpine’s tyres began to suffer from excessive tyre wear.

With the race beginning to settle and the pit window opening, the teams waited to see who would blink first and attempt an undercut on their rivals. Norris was told Plan B plus ten laps, indicating a heavily extended stint. Zhou Guanyu and Yuki Tsunoda pitted early, rejoining on mediums at the back of the field. After his stop, Magnussen received a five-second penalty for a false start to be taken at his next visit to the pits.

Perez pitted from P10 on lap 14, opting for used soft tyres. Emerging ahead of Hulkenberg, he still had much ground to make up. Gasly suffered a slow pit stop.

Releasing the cork in the bottle

Russell’s lack of pace caused a DRS train to form behind the Mercedes. Norris, Hamilton, Sainz, and Leclerc all followed in close formation. McLaren asking if Norris should stop triggered Mercedes and Ferrari to act. Russell and Sainz pulled into the pits on lap 16, with Russell enduring an agonisingly slow stop and almost losing position to Sainz.

With the cork in the bottle released, Norris unleashed pace as Hamilton pitted on the next lap. He emerged behind Fernando Alonso, but the British driver passed on the first lap out of the pits.

Verstappen was next, pitting in 1.9 seconds, rejoining in P4, while Norris continued. Hamilton closed on Carlos Sainz and passed him into turn one around the outside, with light contact between the two cars.

Norris continued in P1, but the question remained whether McLaren was targeting a one- or two-stop race. Verstappen moved past Oscar Piastri to move into P3, his pace still quicker than McLaren’s.

The McLaren pulled into the pits on lap 23, fitting mediums mirroring Verstappen. He rejoined in P6, in free air. The remaining car to pit, Leclerc made his stop one lap later. Further back, home hero Fernando Alonso passed Magnussen for P16 in what was fast becoming a problematic afternoon for Aston Martin.

A tactical battle bubbled away. If Norris could extend his second stint, he still had a chance of victory, provided he could pass his rivals quickly. He closed on the Ferrari of Sainz on lap 27, passing the Ferrari on lap 28. Leclerc passed Gasly on, moving into P6, but a long way behind his teammate.

Piastri relieved P9 from Sergio Perez, as the Mexican’s underwhelming race showed no sign of abating. Remaining on the fringes of the points, Perez struggled to make moves up the order,

Lewis Hamilton became the next obstacle for Norris in his bold strategy. After a failed attempt, he swept through on lap 32. Norris now needed to clear George Russell, passing the Mercedes in turn three, and retake the position after Russell came steaming back through in a fantastic scrap.

Battle for the win

The stage was now set for a tactical battle royale between the top six. Russell and Sainz pitted on lap 37, both opting for hard tyres for a longer final stint. Russell took P6 from Gasly on his first lap out of the pits, remaining in contention to pass Norris. Setting the fastest lap of the race threw the gauntlet down.

The top five drivers now had tyres at different stages of lifespan. Verstappen still comfortably led, but his lead began to erode slowly. Hamilton remained on track, choosing to continue despite his teammate pitting. Russell complained of a lack of grip on the hard tyres while the top two began to lap backmarkers. Hamilton pitted on lap 44, choosing the soft tyres.

Recognising the danger of Norris, Verstappen pitted on lap 45, as Norris closed to within four seconds of the Red Bull. With free air, the McLaren set the fastest lap and worked hard to close on the Red Bull for when he eventually pitted. With sixteen seconds between Norris and Verstappen, Norris opted to pit on lap 48 after Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race.

A 3.6-second stop was far from ideal, but he still emerged ahead of Russell. With 18 laps to go, Verstappen led the race by 7 seconds on new soft tyres, with Norris chasing used softs.

The two Mercedes cars were involved in their own Titanic battle, with Hamilton much faster on the soft tyres. Although the battle was short and sweet, it gave Hamilton the potential to achieve his first podium in 2024. The Ferrari’s pace disappeared in the final stint, with Sainz five seconds ahead of Leclerc in a disappointing day for the Scuderia.

The lower order saw fast and frenetic racing. The battle between Alpine, Haas, Sauber, RB, and Aston Martin saw position changes all afternoon. With 12 laps to go, Gasly found himself in prime position in P8, with Perez’s Red Bull a long way behind in P9. Ocon comfortably held P10, with Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas closing in on Alpine.

Daniel Ricciardo took P16 from Magnussen in a disappointing weekend for RB. The team’s new upgrades did not transform its performance. Ricciardo continued his move up the order, moving into P15, but he was still a long way off the pace.

With ten laps to go, the gap at the front stabilised at just over five seconds. Alex Albon had a strange moment, running wide into the gravel, his team not informing him of the cause. Leclerc’s pace on the soft tyre saw him close on Russell. With just three laps to go, Leclerc moved to within 1.6 seconds of the Mercedes.

Norris took almost a full second out of Max Verstappen with only a lap and a half left. The gap shrunk to just 2.5 seconds as the top two started their final tour. Ultimately., Verstappen held off the attempt, as did Russell, seeing off Leclerc.

Max Verstappen took a hard earned victory at the Spanish Grand Prix, Norris taking P2. Hamilton and Russell finished P3 and P4. Leclerc was P5, Sainz P6, Piastri P7, Perez took P8 from Gasly, with Ocon completing the top ten.

 

Final classification

 

Feature Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images 

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