Race Weekend Central

Max Verstappen Untouchable in Barcelona, Wins Spanish Grand Prix

Could it be anyone else?

After claiming pole at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the first time in his career, on Sunday (June 4), Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen led the AWS Spanish Grand Prix from lights to flag, claiming his third career Grand Chelem in Formula 1 and his third consecutive Grand Prix victory. The win is the 40th of his career.

The closest thing to drama the Dutchman experienced all afternoon (after a first-lap defense that cut off Carlos Sainz‘s chance at home victory) was a black-and-white flag shown to him on lap 59 for exceeding track limits on three separate occasions.

On lap 62, he set the fastest lap of the race anyway.

“Just within the limits,” Verstappen radioed his team after the checkered flag.

Speaking to Nico Rosberg for Sky Sports, the World Championship leader was happy, if typically subdued.

“It’s a big pleasure to drive with a car like this, and I think it showed again today,” Verstappen said. “… Again, a win here is incredible. … We had another strong weekend, and that’s of course what I like to see from myself, from the team.”

Second place was Mercedes-AMG’s Lewis Hamilton, who had a similarly quiet race outside of first-lap contact with McLaren’s Lando Norris and a pass on Sainz into the first corner on lap 28. Following the collision, Norris had to pit for a new front wing and ended the day 17th after starting third.

Despite their history at this venue, Hamilton was all smiles in his post-race interview with Rosberg.

“What a result for our team,” Hamilton said. “… I just want to take my hat off to my team and say a big, big thank you to everyone back at the factory for continuing to push and bring us a little bit closer to the Bulls.

“They’re still a bit ahead, but we’ll keep chasing them down … one step at a time. If we can get close at the end of the year, that’ll be awesome. But if not, next year.”

Third was George Russell, a set of aerodynamic upgrades helping Mercedes to its first double-podium of 2023, followed by Sergio Perez and Sainz to complete the top five.

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Aston Martin teammates Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso wound up sixth and seventh, respectively. Esteban Ocon, Zhou Guanyu and Pierre Gasly rounded out the points finishers.

For the second week in a row, weather was a concern. Russell was once again the first to report a sprinkle, radioing the Mercedes pit wall on lap 28 with word of rain in the turn 5 hairpin.

But about 10 minutes later, Russell revised his forecast, asking his team: “Is anyone else reporting rain? I think it’s sweat from the inside of my helmet.”

Mercedes confirmed: it was the sweat. 

F1’s social media team had a little fun as the young Briton put a brave move to the inside of Sainz into the first corner, stealing the final podium place on lap 35. 

“Solid move,” the Mercedes team radioed. After some teasing from Russell, Team Principal Toto Wolff upgraded his rating to “pretty good.”

With the Ferrari dealt with, the battle for the final podium position came down to Russell and Perez, who began the day in positions 12 and 11, respectively. 

The Red Bull pilot covered Mercedes’ inspired choice to put Russell on the racy soft tires late, swapping onto the red-walled Pirellis on lap 51 and blowing past Sainz two laps later. But the softs held strong for Russell, who maintained his pace to the flag. Perez was unable to close.

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Alonso’s most recent victory in F1 came in this race a decade ago, but the hometown hero had a weekend to forget. Out-qualified by his Canadian teammate Stroll for the first time in 2023, Alonso faced an uphill battle toward a sixth podium finish of the season. 

After Russell passed him on the seventh lap, the task became truly Sisyphean. For the first time all season, the Aston Martin in Alonso’s experienced hands was clearly outgunned by the faster Mercedes and Ferraris. 

At least the wily veteran had something saved for the Alpine of Ocon.

Closing in on Stroll in the closing laps, the Spaniard radioed, “Tell Lance not to worry.” The man famed for his cutthroat approach both on and off the track played the good teammate, following the boss’ son home in a quiet seventh place.

The biggest action all afternoon was a battle between Zhou and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda that waged from pit exit on lap 14 all the way to the checkered flag.

Unfortunately for AlphaTauri, although Tsunoda claimed ninth place on track, he was awarded a five-second penalty for forcing Zhou off-course in the first corner.

The Japanese driver was dropped to 12th in the final result, promoting Gasly to the final points-paying position after triumphing in his own battle with Charles Leclerc.

Next time out, Formula 1 visits North America for the first time in 2023, stopping at the historic Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montréal for the Pirelli Canadian Grand Prix. Coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN.

About the author

Jack Swansey primarily covers open-wheel racing for Frontstretch and co-hosts The Pit Straight Podcast, but you can also catch him writing about NASCAR, sports cars, and anything else with four wheels and a motor. Originally from North Carolina and now residing in Los Angeles, he joined the site as Sunday news writer midway through 2022 and is an avid collector (some would say hoarder) of die-cast cars.

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