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Spanish Grand Prix Race Review: Mercedes impress as Max Verstappen marches on

Max Verstappen stretched his lead in the Drivers' Championship to 53 points with his fifth win of the season in Spain, but the Dutchman's victory was a sub-plot in an intriguing seventh round of the F1 season.

Verstappen was untouchable all weekend, qualifying on pole by over half second and barely had to break sweat after seeing off Carlo Sainz’s Ferrari at the first corner, leading for every lap as he took the chequered flag for a third time at the Spanish Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver also picked up the bonus point for fastest lap and is now 1/50 to chalk up a third successive world title.

Verstappen admits he would like more of a challenge and, with his team mate Sergio Perez’s title ambitions fast fading after another poor showing, it may fall to an old and improving rival to put the world champion to the test, with the Canadian Grand Prix next on the agenda.

What2023 Canadian Grand Prix
WhereCircuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal
When19:00, Sunday, June 18th
How to watchSky Sports 
OddsMax Verstappen 4/11, Sergio Perez 9/2, Lewis Hamilton 12/1, Fernando Alonso 16/1

Mercedes leap to top of chasing pack

Trying to chase down Verstappen at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Sunday wasn’t his team-mate Perez, who could only manage fourth after qualifying 11th, but his former adversary Lewis Hamilton. 

For the 35th time in F1, Verstappen and Hamilton finished one-two, with the Brit leading home his Mercedes colleague George Russell in a double podium finish for the Silver Arrows.

It was easily Mercedes’ best result of the year and shows they are moving in the right direction after introducing a large package of upgrades for Monaco.

At a circuit which often is a good gauge of how a car will perform at most tracks on the F1 calendar, Mercedes enjoyed a very strong race and were far quicker than both Ferrari and Aston Martin.

Russell drove a tremendous race as he equalled the record for the lowest starting position to finish on the podium in Spain, having begun the race in 12th.

The Brit was able to hold off Red Bull’s Perez late on in the race when both were on soft tyres and, while Hamilton was still over 24 seconds adrift of Verstappen, the day held plenty of positives for Mercedes to build upon.

No end in sight for Ferrari's issues

Mercedes’ evolution is bad news for Ferrari, whose own package of upgrades failed to have the desired effect.

Once again, the Scuderia had decent one-lap speed as Carlos Sainz qualified in second but struggled when it came to race pace. Not for the first time, tyre wear was a major issue for the Italians and quickly saw Sainz drop out of the podium conversation.

Further back, Charles Leclerc struggled to make up ground from starting in the pitlane after asking his team to make major changes overnight following his shock Q1 exit. The Monegasque wasn’t helped by another bungled strategy call from the pit wall.

Leclerc eventually finished 11th but neither he nor Sainz had much positive to say about their cars after the race, as the team continue to wrestle with the same issues that proved so costly last season.

Alonso and Aston caught out

Fernando Alonso had the misfortune of enduring his worst result of the season in his home race, coming home in seventh, one place behind his Aston Martin team-mate Lance Stroll.

The two-time world champion has enjoyed a strong start to the campaign, never previously finishing lower than fourth, but was largely uncompetitive all weekend in an Aston that lacked race pace and struggled on the straights.

Having previously looked like the team who might stop Red Bull from completing a perfect season, Aston are now in danger of being usurped by Mercedes.

More McLaren misfortune

Consistently challenging for points, let alone wins, would satisfy McLaren right now as their frustrating season continued.

Having impressively qualified in third, Lando Norris bumped into the back of Hamilton on lap one, requiring a new front wing and dropping him to the back of the grid.

The McLaren driver never recovered, finishing 17th, with his team-mate Oscar Piastri 13th.

McLaren have just 17 points so far this year and currently trail Alpine by 23 points in the Constructors’ standings.

Unless some dramatic improvements are made, McLaren could slip further behind, with Alpine enjoying a third successive strong weekend as both Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly scored points.

Spanish Grand Prix Race Preview: Big names suffer early exits but Verstappen remains imperious

Max Verstappen will start at the front of the grid for the fourth time this season after yet another dominant showing in Barcelona, and a fifth Grand Prix win of 2023 looks almost inevitable for the championship leader.

The Spanish Grand Prix was the scene of a record-breaking and potentially era-defining moment in Formula One history back in 2016 as a fresh-faced Max Verstappen came from fourth on the grid to win on his Red Bull debut, becoming the youngest ever driver to win a Grand Prix in the process. 

This is a record that is unlikely to ever be broken, with age restrictions having been introduced since, and possibly as a result of, Verstappen’s win meaning drivers must now be a minimum of 18 years old to drive in Formula One. 

That man, then aged 18 years and 228 days, has gone on to win two World Drivers’ Championships and is well on his way to a third successive title. 

He was a huge outsider for the win in 2016 but enters Sunday’s main event as 1/5 favourite after another dominant display in qualifying.

WhatSpanish Grand Prix
WhereCircuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona
When14:00, Sunday 4th June
How to watchSky Sports F1
OddsMax Verstappen 1/5, Carlos Sainz 7/1, Lewis Hamilton 14/1, Fernando Alonso 16/1, Sergio Perez 25/1

Verstappen set to run away with championship

Every weekend there seems to be just a hint that the Max Verstappen train could hit a speedbump but, come race-day, the reigning world champion simply does not put a foot wrong and this Sunday looks no different. 

Verstappen topped Free Practice 1 by a massive seven-tenths of a second over his teammate and, while the margin did reduce in the following two practice sessions, the Dutchman still topped the timing charts throughout. 

Qualifying unfolded in a similar vein and Red Bull’s main man laid down a gauntlet with an outrageous lap in the final session of qualifying, eventually securing pole position by almost half-a-second over Carlos Sainz without even needing a final push lap. 

His teammate, on the other hand, has looked out-of-sorts all weekend and his misery was compounded by a Qualifying 2 exit. 

Sergio Perez, who crashed in qualifying in Monaco last week, scraped through Qualifying 1 only to hit the gravel traps on his push lap in Qualifying 2, ruining his tyres and leading to a shock elimination. 

The Mexican is already 39 points behind his teammate in the standings and looks set to lose another chunk of ground this weekend. 

With every Grand Prix that goes by it seems more and more likely that Verstappen, who is 1/25 to retain his title, will run away with the World Drivers’ Championship.

Big names starting from the back

Mercedes introduced a host of new upgrades to the W14 in Monaco last weekend but, with the Monte Carlo streets being an outlier in terms of setup, the Spanish Grand Prix is the first representative glimpse at their capabilities. 

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell did not have the best start to the weekend as they struggled through Free Practice 1 but, while Hamilton seemed to find a suitable setup at the track where he has won a joint-record six times, George Russell did not. 

The young Briton was eliminated in Qualifying 2 after complaining of bouncing and tyre issues, and he isn’t the only big name to find himself out of position on the grid. 

Sergio Perez will start from 11th after his disastrous qualifying showing, while Charles Leclerc suffered an even earlier exit. 

The Monegasque struggled with rear grip from the outset and found himself out in Qualifying 1. He will start 19th on the grid, with teammate and home-hero Carlos Sainz qualifying on the front row.

McLaren continue to improve

After securing their second double-points finish of the season in Monaco, McLaren took another step forward on the familiar tarmac of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. 

Lando Norris put in a phenomenal showing to qualify fourth, while rookie teammate Oscar Piastri managed to go tenth-fastest. 

Norris has finished in the points in each of the last three Spanish Grands Prix and he and his team have every chance of another solid showing on Sunday.

Spanish Grand Prix Qualifying Preview: Rivals rolling out new weapons in Red Bull hunt

Red Bull maintained their 100% start to the season with Max Verstappen’s victory in Monaco last weekend and are expected to preserve the status quo when F1 heads to Spain.

Verstappen leads the Drivers’ Championship standings by 39 points after avoiding any mistakes in a wet finish to the action in Monte Carlo, with Sergio Perez losing further ground on his team mate after only managing 16th. 

Perez’s title ambitions need a shot in the arm at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, a track which appears tailor-made for Red Bull, who enjoyed a one-two finish in Spain last year. 

However, Red Bull’s rivals are hopeful their advantage won’t be as great as it has been in previous races this season with Ferrari, Aston Martin and Mercedes among the teams planning to introduce upgrades this weekend.

What2023 Spanish Grand Prix - qualifying
WhereCircuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Spain
When15:00, Saturday, June 3rd
How to watchSky Sports F1
Fastest qualifier OddsMax Verstappen 8/15, Charles Leclerc 7/2, Sergio Perez 4/1, Fernando Alonso 15/2, Carlos Sainz 33/1

Can Verstappen be reeled in?

Verstappen claimed his third pole position of the season in Monaco last time out, albeit it was very close with Fernando Alonso just 0.084 seconds adrift and Charles Leclerc a further 0.022secs back. 

Monte Carlo’s unique layout was always going to be a challenge for Red Bull and the return to a traditional race circuit, one with an increased number of high-speed corners after alterations to the track, plays to the strengths of the RB19. 

Verstappen has been in a different league to the rest of the grid in the last two races and is 8/15 to claim his first-ever pole position in Spain having missed out on first place on the grid to Ferrari’s Leclerc last year.  

That didn’t affect the end result as Verstappen led home a Red Bull one-two, albeit only after Perez had been instructed to let him through. 

The Mexican was unhappy with that call and following his disappointing effort in Monaco, is not short of motivation to produce a strong showing. 

Perez is 4/1 to be the fastest qualifier for a fourth time this season and claim what would be his first pole in F1 at a traditional race circuit. 

Hold off Ferrari fightback talk 

Ferrari are likely to pose the biggest threat to Red Bull when it comes to qualifying, and the Italians will hope they can sustain that threat through into Sunday’s race. 

The Scuderia have brought a package of major upgrades with them to Spain in an attempt to kickstart a season which has featured just one podium finish in six races. 

However, Leclerc says he’s not expecting the updates to produce a “miracle” turnaround and until the effects of the new parts become clear, a Ferrari team with one pole position in 14 years in Spain should be treated with caution.

Aston and Mercedes saving themselves for Sunday 

Aston Martin and Mercedes are also bringing upgrades to Barcelona, with the Silver Arrows continuing to build on the massive redesign implemented for the last race in Monaco. 

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are expected to be in the podium conversation this weekend with Mercedes pleased with the initial results of the overhaul of the W14. 

The Silver Arrows’ one-lap pace looks likely to remain an issue though with Hamilton’s sixth-placed finish in qualifying in Monaco - nearly half a second off Verstappen - the best the Brackley-based team could manage. 

Aston Martin’s qualifying performances have improved of late with Fernando Alonso starting the last two races on the front row of the grid in second. 

Home favourite Alonso, seeking his first win in F1 since his success in Spain a decade ago, is an intriguing prospect at 15/2 to snatch pole if Aston’s upgrades improve their qualifying performance. 

Alpine the Barcelona wildcard 

Alpine arrive in Spain with their tails up after Esteban Ocon’s third-place finish in Monaco. The French outfit have really upped their game since introducing their own major upgrade package in April and they should, at the least, both make it through to Q3. 

The Renault works team had talked a good game pre-season when suggesting they could consistently challenge for top-six finishes and are now starting to back up their strong words following a rocky start. 

They’ve qualified well in the last two races and it would be a major surprise if one or both Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon had a Ferrari, Mercedes or Aston Martin behind them on the grid come race day.

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