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AUTO-PRIX-F1-ESP Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen (L) and Ferrari's Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr (R) take the start of the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix race at the Circuit de Catalunya on June 4, 2023 in Montmelo, on the outskirts of Barcelona. Formula 1

Verstappen secures back-to-back F1 Spanish Grand Prix victories ahead of both Mercedes drivers

A much anticipated Spanish Grand Prix was to take place with many drivers out of their usual grid positions

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Red Bull driver Max Verstappen made it back-to-back Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix victories ahead of Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren, Formula 1, Spanish Grand Prix
Norris made contact with Hamilton on the opening lap, damaging his front wing (Image Credit: @F1 on Twitter)

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc and Williams driver Logan Sargeant would both start the race from the pitlane. Leclerc had his gearbox changed after a strange qualifying session, whereas Sargeant had his brake cooling system replaced.

Some drivers were promoted up a place after Alpine driver Pierre Gasly received two three-place grid penalties for two impeding incidents on Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen in qualifying.

The cars went out of the pitlane, which saw Mercedes driver George Russell veer off into the gravel at Turn Five. More concern struck before the race with fellow Briton Lando Norris. The 23-year-old’s car suddenly had a lot of work done on the right rear of his McLaren MCL60.

An interesting choice from polesitter Max Verstappen as the Dutchman starts on the medium tyre, along with teammate Sergio Perez in eleventh. However, the rest of the top 10 opted for the soft compound tyre.

Lights out

The five lights went out an Verstappen managed to equal Sainz’s start, despite the Dutchman being on a harder compound. The pair would go side-by-side into Turn One, but Verstappen managed to squeeze out Sainz to maintain the lead.

Some chaos just behind between two Britons Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton as the pair came together. The collision would force Norris to pit, as the 23-year-old suffered a damaged front wing. On the other hand, Hamilton managed to get out of the collision unscathed.

However, the seven-time world champion would lose a place to Lance Stroll, as the Canadian went down the inside of the Briton into Turn Five for the final podium place.

Norris would pit at the end of lap one for a new front wing and for hard compound tyres. However, some troubles in the pitstop saw the 23-year-old stay stationary for 17.6 seconds and dropping to the back of the pack.

Perez Red Bull charge and Mercedes flying

Perez opted for the same strategy as Verstappen, starting on the medium compound tyre. The Mexican got past Oscar Piastri to get inside the points scoring positions.

The Red Bull driver would also gain another position, passing Zhou Guanyu for ninth on lap nine at Turn One. Meanwhile, Hamilton was able to repass Stroll to take back third, passing the Canadian into Turn One on lap eight.

Hamilton’s teammate Russell also showed good pace, passing Fernando Alonso on lap seven into Turn One. The Briton also made a move on Esteban Ocon, diving down the inside of the Frenchman into Turn One on lap 11.

First rounds of pitstops

As many drivers started on the soft compound tyre, early stops were predicted. Lance Stroll was the first of the ‘frontrunners’ to pit on lap 14. The Canadian bolted on the hard compound tyre, coming back out into P12 – just behind Logan Sargeant. However, the Aston Martin driver got past the Williams driver with ease into Turn Six.

A lap later would see Sainz pit for Ferrari. The home hero had Hamilton on his gearbox. Therefore, he pitted for medium tyres, despite the 28-year-old asking the team why. The Ferrari driver would enter back out with teammate Leclerc, who let him past with ease in ninth.

Despite Sainz pitting, Hamilton opted against covering the undercut. Instead, the 38-year-old reported to his team via radio: “Tyres still really good mate”.

After pitting, Sainz would make his first move on Pierre Gasly, passing the Frenchman into Turn One on lap 19. The same lap would see Alonso make his first pitstop of the race, pitting for the hard compound tyre.

Despite their rivals pitting, both Mercedes cars still haven’t pitted, with Russell asking the team if the one-stop is possible with the soft tyres working really well on the Mercedes cars.

It would take until the end of lap 24 for Hamilton to make his first pitstop of the race. The seven-time world champion pit for medium tyres, entering back on to the track behind Sainz in fifth.

A lap later saw Russell also pit for the medium compound tyre, coming back out on track sixth behind Lance Stroll. Verstappen pitted from the lead of the race a lap later on to the hard compound tyre, maintaining the lead as the Dutchman came out of the pits.

Lewis Hamilton, Carlos Sainz, Formula 1, Mercedes, Ferrari, Spanish Grand Prix
Hamilton had too much pace for Sainz (Image Credit: @F1 on Twitter)
Rain on the way?

Lap 28 had Russell on the team radio reporting rain at Turn Five with grey clouds looming over the circuit. Meanwhile, both Mercedes drivers would make progress. Hamilton got past Sainz into Turn One, going down the inside of the Spaniard on lap 28.

The same lap would see Russell get back past Stroll again for fourth place. The Briton was also the fastest man on the track, setting multiple fastest laps.

After reporting rain, Russell asked if anyone else reported about the weather. However, no one else did with his engineer suggesting that it might be sweat on his visor.

Sergio Perez was still on the charge, passing Alonso, going down the inside of the Spaniard into Turn One on lap 31. The Mexican wasn’t done there as he would get past Ocon at the same corner on lap 34 also.

A lap later saw Russell get past Sainz for the final podium position. The Briton overtook the Spaniard down the inside going into Turn One.

George Russell, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, Mercedes, Formula 1, Spanish Grand Prix
Russell made easy work of passing Sainz into Turn One (Image Credit: @F1 on Twitter)
Ferrari pit again

Sainz told his team on the radio to do everything possible to beat Perez for fourth place. Therefore, the Spaniard pit off the medium tyres at the end of lap 41 to go on to hard tyre, entering back out into sixth. The Spaniard’s teammate Leclerc would also pit for the hard tyre.

Verstappen was asked about the state of his hard tyre by his team on lap 43. The Dutchman responded, complaining about “struggling under braking” and his front tyres “overheating”.

The end of lap 45 saw Russell make his second stop of the race, pitting on to the soft compound tyre. The Briton re-emerged back out in fourth place.

Meanwhile, Verstappen was shown his second track limits warning – both infringements for going wide on the exit of Turn Five.

Russell would start the hunt on Perez, setting the fastest lap of the race with a time of a 1:18.057. The Briton would further improve the fastest lap to a 1:17.875.

Mercedes and Red Bull also pit again

His teammate Hamilton would pit for soft tyres at the end of lap 50, entering back out on track second. Meanwhile, Perez also pitted for soft tyres – this made Russell from being the hunter to the hunted.

Verstappen would also take the opportunity to pit for soft tyres, going back out on track 16 seconds ahead of Hamilton in second.

Despite trying to prioritise beating Perez, Sainz would be overtaken by the Mexican on lap 53 into Turn One – a dismal display for Ferrari with their updated car.

Lap 58 saw Verstappen receive a black and white flag for exceeding track limits – one more would see the Dutchman receive a five-second time penalty. However, the reigning world champion is 18 seconds ahead of Hamilton in second.

Despite closing the hap considerably, Perez did not have enough laps to overtake Russell for the final podium place. Meanwhile, Verstappen comfortably won the Spanish Grand Prix by over 20 seconds from Lewis Hamilton.

Results
  1. Max Verstappen
  2. Lewis Hamilton
  3. George Russell
  4. Sergio Perez
  5. Carlos Sainz
  6. Fernando Alonso
  7. Lance Stroll
  8. Esteban Ocon
  9. Zhou Guanyu
  10. Pierre Gasly
  11. Charles Leclerc
  12. Yuki Tsunoda
  13. Oscar Piastri
  14. Nyck de Vries
  15. Nico Hulkenburg
  16. Alex Albon
  17. Lando Norris
  18. Kevin Magnussen
  19. Valtteri Bottas
  20. Logan Sargeant

Feature Image Credit: LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images

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