F1 – Verstappen holds off Norris charge to win Spanish GP as Hamilton takes first podium of year

F1 – Verstappen holds off Norris charge to win Spanish GP as Hamilton takes first podium of year

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen seized an early lead and held off a determined late-race charge from pole sitter Lando Norris to take a third consecutive Spanish Grand Prix win ahead of the McLaren driver, as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton claimed his first podium of the year with third place. 

Norris made a poor start from pole and though the lead was stolen by Mercedes’ George Russell in Turn 1, Verstappen quickly closed on and took the lead at the start of lap three. Norris slipped to third but charged back in the closing stages to beat both Mercedes and then put pressure on Verstappen in the final laps. The Dutchman was able to resist, however, and he crossed the line 2.2 seconds ahead of the McLaren man to take his seventh win of the season. 

“Lando and McLaren were very, very quick today,” Verstappen admitted . “But I think we did everything well. We drove quite an aggressive strategy, and luckily it paid out till the end. It was quite close till the end, but very happy to win here.”

When the lights went out at the start, Verstappen made a good start from the clean side of the track, but as he powered towards Turn 1 he was squeezed towards the edge of track by Norris who got away badly. The tussle between the two allowed fourth-place starter George Russell to swoop around the outside of both to take the lead in Turn 1. 

Verstappen reacted quickly and as Norris slipped to third, the Red Bull driver tucked in behind the Mercedes man and when DRS was activated the Red Bull drivers moved to the outside and swept past the Briton to take the lead. With the lead secured, Verstappen began to carve out a small gap and by lap 10 he was two seconds clear of Russell. 

Russell was the first of the frontrunners to box at the end of lap 15 but the Mercedes driver’s switch to Mediums was slowed by a problem with the right rear wheel and he dropped to seventh place. 

Verstappen made his first stop, also for Mediums, on lap 18 and after a 1.9s halt and he rejoined in fourth, behind Norris, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and the second McLaren of Oscar Piastri who had yet to stop. Verstappen quickly reeled in Piastri and on lap 21 he powered past the McLaren to take P3, just over seven seconds behind Leclerc. 

Norris, though, was trying to eke out a tyre advantage over the Mercedes driver and Verstappen and when he pitted at the end of lap 24 for Medium tyres he emerged in P6 behind Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz. Leclerc was the last of the leaders to pit and once all the frontrunners settled into their second stint, Verstappen took the lead once more, almost six seconds clear of Russell, with Hamilton in third ahead of Sainz and Norris. 

Norris had fresh tyres, however, and on lap 27 he used DRS to power past Sainz to take fourth place, nine seconds behind race leader Verstappen. The McLaren driver’s next target was Hamilton and he powered past the Mercedes under DRS on lap 32. Then after a lap-long battle with Russell on lap 35, Norris at last muscled his way through to take P2, nine seconds behind Verstappen. 

Norris then began to close in on Verstappen, and as the race hit two thirds distance the gap shrank to below five seconds. The race leader made his second visit to the pit lane on lap 44 and after a good 2.8s switch for new Soft tyres Verstappen rejoined in third place, behind Leclerc.

Norris, in the lead and in clear air, was told it was his chance to build a gap and over the following laps the McLaren driver pushed his advantage over Verstappen to more than 17 seconds. The champion responded though and on lap 46 he pumped in a race fastest lap to stay in touch. 

Norris made his final stop at the end of lap 47 and in a 3.6s stop he took on Soft tyres and as Verstappen swept back into the lead the McLaren driver just managed to stay ahead of the Mercedes cars to slot into second place, eight seconds behind race leader Verstappen. 

Verstappen was told that the McLaren driver was “pushing hard, not saving tyres, all corners” and over the following two laps the gap between the leaders fell to 5.7 seconds and with 15 laps left Verstappen was told he needed to “push to the end”. 

The champion responded and over the final 10 laps he did enough to keep Norris at bay and to take a controlled seventh win of the season, 2.2 seconds clear of the McLaren and with Hamilton a further 15 seconds back in third. Place. 

Fourth place went to Russell, with Leclerc in fifth ahead of team-mate Sainz. Piastri took seventh in the second McLaren and after a three-stop race Sergio Pérez passed Pierre Gasly in the closing stages to take eighth place ahead of the Alpine driver and his team-mate Esteban Ocon. 

Source : Fia