Max Verstappen wins his fifth race of 2023 in Barcelona

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 04: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Spain at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on June 04, 2023 in Barcelona, ​​Spain.  (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

Max Verstappen has won five victories in seven Formula 1 races so far in 2023. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

Max Verstappen took another easy victory in Sunday’s Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix.

Verstappen was not challenged at any time after the first corner of the race after starting on pole. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz put in a gallant effort before Turn 1 on the opening lap, but Verstappen used his Red Bull to close Sainz’s way on the outside and pulled away from the field during the first stint.

By the time Lewis Hamilton moved into second place, Verstappen’s lead was nearly nine seconds before the first lap of pit stops. Verstappen then finished 23 seconds ahead of Hamilton while Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate George Russell finished third.

The win is Verstappen’s fifth of the season in the first seven races of 2023 and takes his lead over team-mate Sergio Perez to 50 points. The size of the gap puts Verstappen on pace to post a bigger margin of title victory a season ago when he won 15 of 23 races and beat Charles Leclerc by 146 points in the standings.

Has Mercedes closed the gap?

Yes, Hamilton was far behind Verstappen. But it was easy to glean some optimism if you’re a Mercedes fan about how Sunday’s race went. The team’s upgrades appeared to significantly reduce the pace gap to Verstappen’s Red Bull.

While Verstappen was obviously the fastest driver in the race, Hamilton and Russell were able to stay in closer contact once they secured a position at a track that seems much more suited to the Red Bull type of car.

It’s a bit strange to say after a blowout, but the best-of-the-others status Mercedes achieved on Sunday showed why the idea of ​​Red Bull’s Verstappen and Perez winning every race this season is so unlikely, even without considering of any potential reliability. issues. If Mercedes’ pace on Sunday was real, Red Bull’s margin of error over the rest of the field appears to be less than it was.

“They’re still a bit ahead but we’ll keep chasing them,” Hamilton said after the race.

Aston Martin’s lack of pace

Lance Stroll led the way for Aston Martin with sixth place while Fernando Alonso finished seventh for his worst result of the season.

Alonso finished third in the first three races of the season and entered Sunday’s race with a fourth-place finish in Azerbaijan, his worst result of the season. But he couldn’t sniff out the front two rows on Saturday’s final qualifying lap and Aston Martins lacked the speed to match Red Bull, Mercedes or Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari.

Aston Martin’s speed had been the first surprise of the season as Alonso is third in the points standings behind Verstappen and Perez. Alonso’s margin in the standings is now down to 17 points over fourth-placed Hamilton ahead of potential upgrades to Aston Martin cars ahead of the next race in Montreal on June 18.

Race results

1. Max Verstappen

2. Lewis Hamilton

3. George Russell

4. Sergio Perez

5. Carlos Sainz

6. Start the walk

7. Fernando Alonso

8. Esteban Ocon

9. Zhou Guanyu

10. Pierre Gasly

11. Charles Leclerc

12. Yuki Tsunoda

13. Oscar Piastri

14. Nyck De Vries

15. Nico Hulkenberg

16. Alex Albon

17. Lando Norris

18. Kevin Magnussen

19. Valtteri Bottas

20. Logan Sargeant

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