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Spanish Grand Prix 2023

Verstappen title secured and FIA penalty uproar - What we learned at the Spanish GP

Verstappen dominated in Spain, but what did we learn from the weekend at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya?

Max Verstappen continued Red Bull's domination of F1 by securing a comfortable victory at the Spanish Grand Prix.

The Dutchman finished ahead of Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, with Sergio Perez unable to fight back to the podium.

There was plenty of action in the midfield to make up for the lack of battling up front, but what did we learn at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya?

Verstappen untouchable

If there was any need for a reminder that Verstappen was going to secure a third World Championship this season, then he duly provided just that across the weekend.

The fastest time in FP1, FP2, FP3, Q2, Q3, the fastest lap in the race and the victory underlined his dominance without looking at physical gaps to his rivals.

Verstappen's pole margin was over four-tenths to Ferrari's Carlos Sainz on a day dominated by lacklustre performances from big-name drivers - including Charles Leclerc qualifying 19th and Perez 11th.

Hamilton was Verstappen's nearest challenger on race day yet still finished 24 seconds adrift, with the feeling that the Red Bull was coasting around for the majority of the 66-lap event.

The gap at the top of the standings between Verstappen and Perez is now 53 points after the leader secured a fifth win in the opening seven races. No such lead has been overturned in F1 history and Perez looks unlikely to break that streak.

Whilst the lack of battling for the lead may take away the excitement, we simply have to admire Verstappen and Red Bull's brilliance.

Verstappen Russell Hamilton Spain podium © XPBimages

Mercedes direction change vindicated

The margin to Red Bull may still be sizeable but Mercedes' radical upgrade package introduced in Monaco is clearly a step forward.

In a race with no Safety Cars on a genuine, traditional circuit, Hamilton finished over 20 seconds ahead of Sainz in the Ferrari and 39 seconds ahead of Lance Stroll's lead Aston Martin.

The performance promoted the Silver Arrows to second in the Constructors' standings and its rivals face a huge task to close that sort of margin.

The race pace was particularly impressive, with Russell scything his way through the top 10. He made light work of getting past Sainz, Stroll and Fernando Alonso en route to a podium from 12th on the grid.

"Set-up windows" was the trigger phrase when the W14 utilised the 'zeropod' concept, with the car struggling to find an optimum working range. That seems to be a thing of the past after the first two weekends using the upgrade package and now Mercedes can focus on chasing down Red Bull.

Aston Martin's bubble burst

Aston Martin had assumed second in the standings before this event having secured five podiums in six races, courtesy of Alonso.

But the Silverstone-based team's pace disappeared across the weekend, especially on high-fuel where neither driver was able to make an impression.

The lack of performance was highlighted by Stroll's stellar start to move up to third, past Hamilton and damage-stricken Lando Norris, on the opening lap - only for a steady decline to result in a sixth-place finish for the Canadian.

Alonso conceded the run of six street circuits had masked performance, particularly Miami and Monaco, where the team apparently expected poor results only for strong qualifying runs to save blushes.

Canada must be a return to form in order to validate the early-season results. It is clear that work still needs to be done, but the good news is that migration into new factory buildings is now underway. There is no need for the squad to be disheartened.

McLaren in the shadows

McLaren will be a team deflated after another difficult Sunday.

Norris had suggested the Woking-based outfit was the seventh-fastest on the grid despite securing a double-points finish in Monaco a week previous.

That claim was seemingly thrown out the window with a stunning qualifying effort to clinch third on the grid, with Oscar Piastri also reaching Q3.

But a collision with Hamilton on the opening lap cost Norris any chance of a positive result, though the Briton conceded after the race that points were unlikely regardless, given the MCL60's lack of race performance.

Piastri slid backwards and out of points contention to leave the team pointless from the weekend and sixth in the Constructors' standings with only 17 points in seven races.

This season is a write-off and focus must turn to the arrival of infrastructural upgrades, including a new wind tunnel, as well as staff improvements. 2025 seems the likely target for a return to the top.

Result Race - Spanish

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FIA stewarding inconsisteny bites

Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner landed himself in hot water with the FIA race stewards for comments relating to Nico Hulkenberg's penalty for causing a collision in the opening lap of the Monaco Grand Prix.

Steiner was unhappy with apparent inconsistencies in stewarding decisions and called for full-time paid professionals to be given roles across each race weekend.

But questionable decisions during the Spanish GP will lead to further questioning in weeks to come.

Russell was fortunate to get away with taking to the runoff area on lap one and being able to keep position - something Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner alluded to.

AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda was extremely hard done by to be given a five-second penalty for forcing Zhou Guanyu's Alfa Romeo off the track during combat over ninth. The punishment would cost the Japanese driver a points finish, a decision he labelled as "ridiculous".

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone not in Alfa Romeo team kit who believed the incident to be worthy of a penalty, with more rigorous defensive moves going unpunished in recent times.

Crucially a penalty point was added to Tsunoda's license for his infringement. Twelve points in a 12-month rolling period would result in a race ban, with Tsunoda now just seven shy.

Consistency is key, otherwise, there will always be a disgruntled corner of the paddock.

F1 2023 Spanish Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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