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Winners and Losers from the 2023 F1 Spanish Grand Prix

Dominance with a capital D, light at the end of the tunnel, a harsh penalty and an out-of-sorts Spaniard. It's the Winners and Losers from the 2023 F1 Spanish Grand Prix.

Whereas a couple of races ago, there were questions as to whether there would be a Formula 1 title fight in 2023, that notion has now been firmly shut in crushing style by Max Verstappen. A 14-point lead after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix has now turned into 53 in just three races after the World Champion delivered three wins on the trot and, for the first time this season, a Grand Chelem. Verstappen will be the 2023 World Champion, and match Juan Manuel Fangio, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton as the only drivers to win three titles on the trot - and with Red Bull's advantage seemingly going to be locked in until the end of 2025, it would take a brave person not to declare the Dutchman as favourite for '24 and '25 before the rules reset comes in. But at least there are finally signs that Mercedes might be getting their act together, and the prospect of Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton in 2024 should be quite something if what has gone before tells us anything. We start our rundown of Winners and Losers from the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix with the soon-to-be triple World Champion.

Winner - Max Verstappen

Very rarely in the history of Grand Prix racing can a driver as be nailed on for a Grand Chelem as Verstappen was after securing Pole Position in Barcelona. Not even in the Vettel or Hamilton heydays was a result as expected as this - but it is just another example of the class and level at which Verstappen is operating at the moment. He is king of the castle and he just failed to match Hamilton's record from the 2015 Italian GP of topping every practice, qualifying segment and posting that Grand Chelem by missing out on topping Q1 - to Hamilton! Verstappen was in 'cruise and bring it home' mode from as early as Turn 3 on the opening lap, with only the black and white flag for track limits the only blemish on the copybook. This was as dominant a performance over a Grand Prix weekend as is possible, and he didn't even need to break sweat. What did Verstappen say? "The pace was still OK, but I couldn't really create much more of a gap, not how I would have liked. But then of course, we just did the amount of laps we had to do on the [Hard] tyre and then we pitted again for the Soft and that actually felt a lot nicer to drive."

Loser - Ferrari

This is not so much on Charles Leclerc's side of the garage as there was clearly a fundamental mechanical problem which ruined his chances of a decent result after the early Qualifying exit, but more on Carlos Sainz's side. From second place on the grid with a wide open fight for a podium, the very minimum Ferrari should have achieved with Sainz was third, but he was fifth, 13.3 seconds behind George Russell on the podium. Sainz deployed a Soft-Medium-Hard strategy compared to the Soft-Medium-Soft of the two Mercedes with Sergio Perez also going for Softs in the final stint as the tyres held up better than expected. On a bad weekend after the Leclerc mystery, a podium would have done wonders for a team which is now firmly fourth best - and with a rejuvenated Alpine having pace, if not the execution, Ferrari might soon find themselves looking backwards and not forward. What did Leclerc say? "The limitations were completely different to qualifying, so we were expecting this. But for some reason, we never seem to get into the right window of the tyre and when we do, it is a bit of a surprise to us. There is a lot of work we need to do."

Winner - Mercedes

Who knew that ditching a concept that everyone looked at like the ugly stepchild would suddenly turn Mercedes around into Red Bull's nearest (the term being used very lightly) rivals? The team admitted that they were fooled into sticking with zero sidepods after winning in Brazil last season when it should have been binned and a more conventional concept deployed. One wonders where Mercedes would be if they had never deployed the zero sidepods having turned up to the first test last year with normal sidepods. But there is finally promise and light at the end of the tunnel for the team. The race pace was excellent as Hamilton and Russell carved through to a second and third double podium - even if Russell was rather lucky not to get a penalty for that first lap excursion. There is something to play with now - 2023 is gone but the W15 of '24 will probably be one of the most eagerly anticipated F1 cars of all time, especially as Red Bull's cost cap penalty will bite just when the RB20 is being designed... What did Toto Wolff say? "It's a good moment to see that the development direction is right. We just need to chip away and as you know from our lap times, we are really good at grinding. Once there is a set-up direction and a development direction, we just go for it."

Loser - Yuki Tsunoda

This was an excellent drive by Yuki Tsunoda - a driver who has really stepped up in 2023 and delivered some fantastic efforts, even if the results aren't there to back it up. Excellent that is until the Lap 56 defence against Zhou Guanyu at Turn 1, which forced the Alfa Romeo into the run-off. Enough of the #24 Alfa was alongside Tsunoda to warrant some room being granted by the AlphaTauri, and so by the letter of the law, the five-second time penalty was deserved, but it was certainly harsh - especially as the penalty dropped Tsunoda out of the points. He won't make that same mistake again. What did Tsunoda say? "To be honest, after I've given literally everything on every lap, I feel that it's a really harsh penalty. From my perspective, there's still space there, and the car [Zhou] suddenly run off into the area and pretended like he got forced off, but there was still space, so he could have stayed on the track."

Winner - Lance Stroll

Lance Stroll needed this weekend. He needed to somehow, somewhere beat Fernando Alonso and stop the rot - especially after the disaster of Monaco. And he done that in Alonso's home race where all the noise was about the two-time World Champion. Stroll wasn't the driver to go off and damage the car in qualifying. Stroll was the one who nipped up the inside of Hamilton on the first lap and ran in third for eight laps before wisely ceding position. This was a badly needed weekend, with a sixth place finish in his back pocket as he heads to his home circuit in Montreal next time out. He must continue the forward momentum. What did Stroll say? "It was a fun battle with Lewis on the first lap; I've pulled that move off before so I knew there was a gap and figured Lewis would leave me a bit of space, which he did. That put me in a good position going into Turn Five and I could hold the place."

Loser - Fernando Alonso

This was an out of sorts Alonso at in front of his adoring home fans. The uncharacteristic mistake in Q1 cost him about four-tenths of a second per lap in Qualifying and left him eighth on the grid once Pierre Gasly's penalty was factored in. In the race, he didn't show any of the pace we've come to expect this year and in the end, he was seventh, having decided not to overtake Stroll and play the team game. The next batch of tracks coming up should not suit the Aston package, with Canada, Austria and Great Britain all being high-speed tracks where draggy cars are punished, although the AMR23 is set for upgrades in Montreal. It can firmly be filed under one to forget and move on. What did Alonso say? "We were not sure about the degradation. George was so fast on the first stint, when he overtook me, we changed our minds a little bit - we didn't want to run too close to the cars in front and extended the first stint. By doing so, we also extended the second and we knew our opportunity was in the final 15 laps of the race, but not enough to fight at the front, just to fight the midfield."

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