No rain, no tension
Verstappen wins, Mercedes celebrates and Ferrari suffers
06/04/2023, 4:35 p.m
Max Verstappen wins the Spanish Grand Prix, but Mercedes can also celebrate: both drivers make it onto the podium. A record that Ferrari can only dream of: The Scuderia is experiencing a debacle. Curious: For the first time this season, all cars make it to the finish.
On the way to the title hat-trick, Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen simply doesn’t give the competition a chance. The flawless Red Bull driver also dominated the action in Barcelona and took the next step towards successfully defending his title with his fifth win of the season in seven races. With a large gap of 24.0 seconds behind the 25-year-old Dutchman, record world champion Lewis Hamilton from Great Britain made it into second place in a Mercedes. Behind him, George Russell finished third in the second Silver Arrow. In the World Championship classification, Verstappen extended his lead to 53 points with the next start-finish victory over team-mate Sergio Perez.
Although the pursuers from Mercedes, Ferrari and Aston Martin improved their cars in Catalonia with technical upgrades, nobody came closer to Verstappen’s frighteningly superior Red Bull. On the contrary: the two-time champion raced in a controlled manner to his 40th career triumph at the place where he first won Formula 1 seven years ago as an 18-year-old. To the disappointment of the more than 100,000 fans, neither Fernando Alonso, who was so strong recently, nor Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz were able to ensure a Spanish podium finish at the home race. Veteran Alonso finished seventh in the Aston Martin for his worst result of the season so far. Sainz finished fifth behind Perez. Nico Hülkenberg finished 15th in the Haas and was again without points.
As in qualifying the day before, people in the paddock were staring at the sky again and again before the start. Would the weather become unstable again and provide variety as in the hunt for the starting place? Given the crushing dominance of champion Verstappen, the only chance for the pursuers seemed to be in the rain.
Under dark clouds, the Red Bull star had to fight until the first corner to defend his first pole position in Barcelona. Sainz harassed him in the Ferrari, but Verstappen maintained his lead and then quickly extended his lead. Lando Norris was unlucky, losing third place to Lewis Hamilton and then demolishing the front wing of the McLaren in a collision with his compatriot’s Mercedes. Norris had to turn to the pits a little later. Hamilton was passed by Lance Stroll in the Aston Martin after the brief skirmish. There were also some position changes behind them. As feared, Haas driver Hülkenberg was unable to hold on to seventh place on the grid, the best since his comeback at the beginning of the year, and was quickly passed on. After just eight laps, the Rhinelander was the first to change tires. With the fresh rubber rollers, the 35-year-old was able to do a few quick laps, but soon fell deep in midfield without a chance.
At the front, Verstappen effortlessly controlled the race. Behind this, the expected strategy competition developed. Sainz and Stroll opted for an early pit stop, allowing the Mercedes duo Hamilton and Russell to move up to second and third place for the time being. The Silver Arrows’ tactics worked. After Hamilton finally got new tires, he only fell behind Sainz for a short time, but was soon able to overtake the Spaniard. Red Bull driver Perez and Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari were busy catching up. Perez had failed to qualify and had to work his way up from eleventh place.
It was even worse for Leclerc on Saturday. Due to a mechanical defect, Ferrari had to replace the rear of the Monegasque’s car. The 25-year-old started the race from the pit lane and slowly made his way towards points. It’s another disappointing season for Ferrari early on. Vice world champion Leclerc is not really getting going, as is teammate Sainz, who also lost the fight for a podium place against Mercedes driver Russell in Barcelona.
The only concern for the outstanding Verstappen, however, were the edges of the track. The world championship leader robbed too far over the curbs several times, which is why he was threatened with a time penalty from the race stewards. However, Verstappen did not let it get that far. He managed his enormous lead coolly and once again crossed the finish line as the winner – also because the rain that many had hoped for didn’t materialize.