Verstappen grabs Spanish Grand Prix win, Norris again closest challenger

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Spain, Circuit de Catalunyaes

A perfect plan of execution and a quick rectification of falling behind Russell at the start were key to Max Verstappen's victory at the Spanish Grand Prix. Lando Norris eventually came close but finished second ahead of Lewis Hamilton who confirmed the resurgence of Mercedes.

Lando Norris had previously gone on record to do everything possible to maintain the lead from pole and convert this pole position to a victory, and the start clearly showed so. Norris went right to cover Verstappen with the latter briefly in the grass as they continued side by side on the very right of the track towards Turn 1.

Trouble came from behind though as George Russell saw his opportunity and enjoyed the slipstream of the two ahead, swerved to the outside and had the ideal line into Turn 1 to take the lead. Hamilton was stuck in fourth, followed by Leclerc and Sainz.

DRS in the second lap already changed positions with Russell getting overtaken by Verstappen for the lead while Sainz gained a position on his team mate to move up into 5th.

Beyond this moment it was more or less a wait until the pitstops. The major news during this period was Alonso and then Verstappen picking up some gravel after being a bit too eager to get through the high speed corners at the end of Sector 2.

Gasly and Ocon were the first of the top 10 to make a stop, soon followed by Russell, Sainz and Hamilton another lap later. As they returned to the track on their fresh medium tyres though the encountered the Aston Martins who were trying to make their softs last a bit longer, at least creating some overtakes on track.

Hamilton meanwhile didn't want to sit about and passed Sainz through Turn 1 to take 6th place. Hamilton went on to set the fastest lap as the incident of them coming together was being investigated by the stewards. It was later announced as "Noted"

When Alonso pitted on lap 20 that left only Norris, Leclerc and Piastri on their soft tyres from the start. Piastri pitted on lap 22 after getting passed by Verstappen for third place.

Norris pitted on lap 24 while having 6s over Leclerc and about 10s on Verstappen. This tyre change brought Leclerc in the lead and Norris down to 6th, nearly 3 seconds behind Norris. Leclerc then pitted the next lap and returned to the track in 7th place, in between the Alpines of Gasly and Ocon.

Norris' call to go long with the soft tyres wasn't all too bad since he quickly made up ground and soon passed Sainz. Two laps later he found himself in the slipstream of Hamilton. A pass wasn't possible the first time they crossed the main straight but on lap 32 it was straightforward with Hamilton even not going off the racing line to defend his position.

Russell did what he could to maintain second but made it extra complicated when he veered right to defend his position into Turn 1 while Norris seemed to settle for another lap in third place. This allowed Norris to move ahead through Turn 3, only to see Russell come back in Turn 5, then returning the favour again two corners later. That settled second place for now as Russell now dropped into a position where he had to defend to Hamilton.

Just a single lap later, Russell pitted for a new set of hard tyres. Sainz stopped simultaneously and opted for the same hard tyres.

As Norris continued to reduce the advantage of Verstappen by nearly a second a lap, Russell started complaining about the hard tyres not being the greatest option. With everybody listening in, Hamilton and Verstappen opted to go for soft tyres as they pitted in lap 44 and 45 respectively. Thats with 22 laps remaining.

While Verstappen returned to a clear track, Hamilton was stuck for an entire lap behind the much slower Ferrari of Carlos Sainz. The Mercedes driver however then recorded the fastest lap, a fraction faster than what Verstappen had done the same lap.

Four laps later it was Norris and Leclerc's turn to pit, also switching to soft tyres. Those quick 4 laps on the softs by Verstappen and a suboptimal pitstop meant if Norris wanted to win he needed to close an 8 second gap to the leading Red Bull.

As Norris set the fastest lap to cut the gap down to 5.7 seconds, Hamilton edged ever closer to Russell and passed his teammate around the outside of Turn 1 on lap 52. Sainz was in a similar situation to Russell with the hard tyres and opted not to fight when Leclerc tried a DRS overtake on lap 55.

Norris continued to decrease the gap to the leader and showed very impressive pace even while Verstappen was told to push to secure the win. Eventually it appeared like Verstappen controlled it well, winning the race with 2.2s on Norris. Hamilton was a safe third while Russell only just managed to fend off Leclerc for 4th.

Carlos Sainz finished 6th, followed by a Piastri and a disappointing Perez. Gasly and Ocon completed the top 10 to secure a double points finish for Alpine.