Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023

Verstappen dominates Spanish Grand Prix to win ahead of Mercedes pair

2023 Spanish Grand Prix summary

Posted on

| Written by

Max Verstappen dominated the Spanish Grand Prix to win by over 24 seconds from the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

The world champion extended his points margin at the top of the standings even further after leading every lap of the race to win, setting the fastest lap for good measure. Hamilton came home second ahead of team mate Russell, with Sergio Perez taking fourth place after starting in 11th.

There was a heavy threat of rain as the formation lap began with a large storm less than five kilometres to the west of the circuit. Pole winner Verstappen left the grid on medium tyres, while all the other cars on the grid had soft tyres, except for his Red Bull team mate Perez in 11th.

When the lights went out, Verstappen pulled off the line cleanly as Carlos Sainz Jnr tucked into his slipstream down the long straight. Sainz looked to challenge the Red Bull around the outside of the first corner, but Verstappen resisted and retained the lead.

Behind, Lando Norris was passed by Lewis Hamilton and the McLaren driver ran into the rear of the Mercedes at turn two, damaging his front wing. This allowed Lance Stroll to put Hamilton under pressure and pass Hamilton for third place through turn four, while Norris pitted for a new front wing at the end of the lap, dropping him to the back of the order.

Verstappen out front started to gradually pull away from Sainz behind, while the Ferrari was also edging away from Stroll. Hamilton put Stroll under pressure and managed swept past the Aston Martin as they approached turn one, while Russell passed Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon to gain fifth.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Sainz pitted at the end of lap 15 for a set of medium compound tyres, promoting Hamilton to second place, while Stroll followed soon after to release Russell into third. The Mercedes drivers both tried to extend their first stints until Hamilton stopped at the end of lap 24, rejoining less than three seconds behind Sainz in fifth. Russell was brought in on the next lap for mediums and emerged behind Stroll.

Race start, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023
Gallery: 2023 Spanish Grand Prix in pictures
Verstappen pitted for hard tyres, comfortably holding onto the lead. With fresher rubber, Hamilton caught up to Sainz and used DRS to pass the Ferrari driver, who was told not to over-stress his tyres battling the Mercedes, allowing Hamilton back up to second. Russell caught up to Stroll and passed the Aston Martin, before chasing down the Ferrari ahead and then passing Sainz into turn one to move up to third.

Verstappen’s pace was still unmatched out front, even on his hard tyres, as he continued to pull away from Hamilton behind. Russell pitted for soft tyres and emerged behind Perez in fourth, the second Red Bull having made up eight places from his starting position. Hamilton and Perez would pit soon after, with Hamilton retaining second over his team mate. Perez emerged behind Sainz in fifth on soft tyres, quickly eating into the gap before passing him at turn one to take fourth place.

With 15 laps remaining, Verstappen pitted a second time for soft tyres. He continued to grow his advantage over the Mercedes behind. In fourth, Perez tried to catch up to the Mercedes ahead but could not do so in the time remaining.

Verstappen crossed the line at the end of the 66th lap to win the win and a grand slam victory with the fastest lap. Hamilton finished 24 seconds behind the Red Bull in second, with Russell taking third for his first podium appearance of the season.

Perez was fourth in the second Red Bull from 11th on the grid, ahead of Sainz’s Ferrari in fifth. The two Aston Martins of Stroll and Alonso finished sixth and seventh, with Alonso backing off in the closing laps to secure the positions. Ocon finished eighth, but after Yuki Tsunoda was penalised for forcing Zhou Guanyu off the track at turn one, the AlphaTauri driver was pushed out of the points, meaning that Zhou and Pierre Gasly completed the top 10, Charles Leclerc just finishing outside the points in 11th.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2023 Spanish Grand Prix reaction

    Check back shortly for more race reaction

Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

80 comments on “Verstappen dominates Spanish Grand Prix to win ahead of Mercedes pair”

  1. BW (@deliberator)
    4th June 2023, 15:56

    When is Perez planning to start his title challenge?

    1. @deliberator When is Verstappen leaving Red Bull? Probably around then.

      1. Then hell lose to whoever replaces max

        1. I think NOR might take PER’s spot next year.

        2. Yes, I’m guessing red bull wouldn’t go with a pairing like sainz + perez, for example, cause if merc or anyone else makes a decent car, a hamilton or russell will then win the championship: they will need a top gun, which should beat perez handily.

    2. on race 23

    3. In his third year of Indycar

      1. This is probably accurate. He really has an indycar profile. F1 is far less suited for him.

  2. Frankly, Perez performance this race was quite embarrassing. Started 11th, finished 4th, 3 seconds off Russell’s P3 who started 12th. All while his teammate finished over 20s ahead of Russell’s teammate.

    Some of it might be strategy (not really his fault mostly) and the start (something he could have done better), but even then its not a good look.

    Verstappen is more than 2 DNF’s ahead of Perez now and with the performance gap between them, it’s time for Perez to accept the role of supporting driver again. Work on performance and consistency again, and perhaps better luck next year. Although deep down we all know how that will go down.

    1. It’s maybe what Red Bull management have discussed among themselves, allow him this wobble while he thinks he has some chance of the WDC and then back to assisting Max, not that he needs it any longer. Pérez has said he has adjusted his driving to, quote, ‘get faster’, but he’s messing up his own natural (albeit slower) style in trying to imitate Max. When he realizes the championship battle is over, maybe he’ll settle down and perform better without the pressure to equal Verstappen.

    2. Doesn’t matter as long as the cheques keep clearing. (and the lead in the WCC is there)

    3. Don’t forget Russell ran off and picked up 5 places at the start without getting penalised

      1. Oh, is there a limit on how many people you can pass in a lap now?

        1. He’s talking about the fact he did it off track

  3. I’d love to see the Monaco haters defend this utter dross we all just sat through.

  4. They should give Max the WDC now and he can go off and do LeMans, GT3 etc racing which is hes real love for the rest of the season then stick a trained Chimp in hes car so RB can win the WCC, that makes the rest of the season interesting as to who will come out on top between Perez and the Chimp…

    1. Are you telling us Perez is a Chimp?

      1. But apparently not well trained.

  5. Hamilton and Rosberg interview… That looked really cold…

    1. It looked quite chilled. I was expecting more

      1. I agree. They were quite relaxed.

  6. Is this the first Grand Chelem for Max?

    1. 3rd according to statsf1

      1. Interesting, he got 2 of them in challenging moments of the seasons, well, 2021 was always a challenging season, and austria was a really strong weekend for red bull, the first time I noticed hamilton not gaining on the hard tyres, which were mercedes’ strongest one, and 2022 was imola, where I remember verstappen chased and passed leclerc towards the end of the sprint, definitely ferrari was still performing well then.

    2. No, it’s the 3rd.

  7. How did Russell not get penalised for the start going off track? He had a clear track!

    He is going full pelt , while the others are stuck behind cars on the actual racing line.

    1. By doing the Alonso in Sochi 2021 thing.

    2. They showed his on board after the race and he was behind the Haas just like when he left the track. You can argue that he would have been slower coming out of the corner has he stayed on track. He took advantage of the rules but didn’t do anything wrong. Perhaps they should make the off-track exit road to be a bit slower to deter people from doing this as Roeberg said. In anycase he potentially avoided a crash and ending 3 drivers race.

      1. Exactly. RUS took the escape route which is part of the track. The escape route should be a bit longer.

    3. I was waiting for Alonso to fully send it but it was Russell

      1. He’s learning alonso’s tricks already!

    4. Perez did that on Paul Ricard several years ago and got a penaulty while he followed the escape route…..

    5. First lap, he followed the escape route (which is designed to not give an advantage) and he was in the same position when he rejoined the track as when he left.

      At least, that’s my understanding.

    6. Because he is the new hope F1 control wants

  8. Imagine if this wasn’t F-management…

    He’d probably lap everyone twice. Probably the easiest win of all his 40.

    1. Wow, 40 wins already, I’m guessing he will get past senna and prost already this season, then will depend on the car he gets in the future for schumacher and hamilton, cause he has plenty of years but if you get stuck on a midfield car for a decade you don’t get more wins, but I believe red bull and merc are the best long term bets, they seem to be consistently stronger than ferrari.

  9. Please Redbull for the our sake, sack Perez and get someone who can at least give Max a little genuine competition… Ocon, Ricardo, Norris, Bottas, Alondo….someone, anyone but Perez.

    1. I thought it was a serious comment until i seen bottas, nice joke :)

      1. No suspicions when seeing Ricciardo’s name?

      2. Ahah, well, at least bottas is a better qualifier, but yes, he couldn’t even keep verstappen behind when he had to for mercedes’ championship, he just cruised past; ocon I have a hard time thinking he could do much better than perez, ricciardo depends if you get the best version: the best version should be an upgrade, but the mclaren version is far worse than perez, you gamble much more than any other driver with him.

  10. It’s actually quite incredible how the eight other teams in the same series can all be so bad. Especially considering they’re collectively spending over a billion dollars on just 20 some races, and actually probably double that once you factor in the engines and personnel.

    At least things will turn around when Red Bull starts on their car for next season… I mean, once the “penalty” kicks in.

    1. The lack of testing ensures that the team that gets it right on day one, especially after a significant rules change, will have a lasting advantage. Think back to 1998 and 1999 when McLaren came out with a car that was so good in the first few races Mika lapped everyone but Schumacher. With the ability to test, Ferrari got their act together and were able to challenge for the championship in both years. The ability to test needs to be restored and some kind of help found for those that can’t afford to do so.

      1. Absolutely. They locked everything down, and then act all surprised when the sport has been uncompetitive for over a decade. It’s only because Covid19 pushed back the new regulations that F1 basically lucked into it’s single competitive season since 2012.

      2. Nikos (@exeviolthor)
        4th June 2023, 21:38


        In 1998 one of the main reasons Ferrari was able to catch up was that McLaren’s rear brake pedal was banned mid-season.

        1. Yes, but in 1999 McLaren also started with a dominant car and Ferrari fought back to make the season competitive. With the testing restrictions, rather than hacking away at a teams advantage with an axe over a few months, teams must whittle away at it with a pocket knife, over several years.

          1. Nikos (@exeviolthor)
            5th June 2023, 7:13


            In 1999 they did not have a dominant car. Ferrari actually won the Constructors Championship. McLaren of course was very quick, but not very reliable. In the first race both cars retired for example.

            I think that the two basic factors that the championship went down to the last race were firstly that Hakinnen made too many silly errors and secondly and more importandly Schumacher was out for most of the season due to injury.

            In 1998 the championship also went down to the last race, but this was only because the rear brake pedal was banned. Before that both McLarens lapped the entire field!!!

            Note that I do agree with you that lack of testing does not let other teams catch up to Red Bull. It is just that I think that the 1998 and 1999 season are not very good counter examples of this.

      3. Agree, this is a very good point about testing.

    2. Not really. I would expect Newey was working on that floor design well before the budget cap kicked in. The floor on the RB19 (and I presume RB18) is to ground effects what the Mercedes PU106A Hybrid was to V6 Turbo-hybrid engines– a total game changer that no one else thought of.

      It’s the technological equivalent to the split-turbo design– in retrospect, it’s obvious, but it’s going to take the other teams awhile to figure it out.

      I’ve heard that people think the secret to the Red Bull’s performance is the suspension, but having seen the complexity of the floor in the Monaco crane shots, I think the floor itself is capable of countering porpoising.

  11. Anyone have the slightest idea what on earth Ferrari were doing with Charles Leclerc ? They started him on the hard tyre which is logical giving his starting position. The wise thing to do even if the hard tyres weren’t working as expected is to extend the stint, sacrifice a little bit of time in exchange for better durability.

    They stopped in lap 17 when he was behind Gasly and showing no dramatic loss in performance for new soft tyres. I thought they were going aggressive Hard-Soft-Soft. Then they stopped for Hards again despite the fact that they have 2 sets of fresh tyres. Franck Montagny in Canal+ said that Leclerc in the radio was asking for new softs but they gave him the Hard tyres.

    The commentators were perplexed by the significant age of the hard tyre set that was mounted. It raised suspicions whether Ferrari provided Leclerc with the same set he began the race with. Another clown show and Vasseur is slowly turning into a new Binotto.

    1. The commentators were paraplexed because the tv graphic was wrong – I’ve just checked the onboard, he got the new set in the last stop.
      Apparently he didn’t like the first set, that’s why they boxed early.

      1. Nevertheless, starting on hards and stopping early with no sign of tyre issues is pointless. His times were consistent albeit a bit slow which is understandable due to the delta between the compounds. It would have made more sense to start him on the softs.

        1. Nevertheless, starting on hards and stopping early with no sign of tyre issues is pointless.

          It’s a Ferrari classic. They do this way too often.

    2. I am not sure either. Did they not have Charles on more or less the same strategy as Carlos? This seemed pointless though which is exactly how it proved.

      Ferrari just seem to be going backwards at the moment. It now looks like finishing 4th in the WCC is the best they can hope for. With the Mercedes improvements.

      1. Maybe they can try to jump aston because of stroll, but even then, not sure ferrari can even outdevelop aston during the season.

  12. Josh (@canadianjosh)
    4th June 2023, 17:27

    Mercedes dominance was fun to watch because Rosberg was ice cold and could punch back, 2017 to 2022 you had Mercedes Ferrari and RedBulls fighting each other, this year absolutely is boring and predictable so far. Only reason I’m watching the next GP is because it’s in Montreal. Drive to Survive couldn’t spin this season.

  13. Still can’t believe Russell got away with his blatant cheating at the start… run off track and pass two cars? Fine! Get the feeling he wouldn’t have got away with it if he was in a midfield car…

  14. When this season has no significant change Redbull will not feel the punishment they got for overspending. They can use a quarter of the season for testing on the track.

    1. That’s true, surprised they’re not doing that already with this pace.

  15. Verstappen’s fastest lap was only 3 tenths quicker than Hamilton’s, maybe we might actually get some racing this season, if Mercedes can develop the car quickly enough. Probably track-specific though.

    1. Also, he was told not to muck about as he had three track limit warnings. He then set fastest time and the team told him to stop it. He agreed; probably could have gone much faster as he seemed, from his radio, to be having fun.

      1. If I were verstappen I’d have been like “why should I care about 5 sec penalty for track limits?”; hey even told him he had 18 sec margin on hamilton!

      2. Unless the penalties scale up he could afford 12 more track limit infringiment, for a further 15 sec penalties (4 track limits per penalty) and since he ended up with 24 sec lead it’d have still been enough.

    2. I think the Red Bull with Max driving it has half a second at least on the rest of the grid. Even Max couldn’t spin today as a “challenging drive”.

      We’ll see how Canada goes– it’s always been one of Hamilton’s best tracks, even more so than Barcelona. Problem is, I suspect the low-drag nature of the Red Bull will dominate just as much.

  16. Found Toto’s post race comments to be very telling but need to know more. He said something to the effect that they had to race the first few races this year with last’ year’s design to prove that the design did not work. Who? Who did they have to prove that to? How they wasted the entire off season is beyond me but it will be a great study for organizational behavior.

    1. It’s better to take time to understand what you’ve done wrong, than to put it aside and jump to a new concept without understanding what caused you the first problem. Otherwise you risk making the same error again. You don’t want to be putting out fires, you want to prevent them from happening.

    2. Remember, they won the penultimate race in 2022. In order to justify the expenditure on a whole new design, they had to establish that it was worth the effort. I’m sure they had the design ready on paper (CAD work being fairly inexpensive), but it wasn’t until this season began so terribly that they could justify the cost.

      With a budget cap, the decision has to be, can we develop out of our current hole, or do we need to spend the extra money required to develop a whole new chassis that they’ll have to learn all over again, and start from square one on development?

      Even Ferrari showed reluctance to develop a new concept, preferring to stick with their design from last year, and develop it, rather than bring a new aero concept to the track.

      At the other end, Aston Martin realized fairly early last year they were heading down a dead end, and changed their aero concept– which cost them last year, but has paid dividends this season.

      I genuinely think the cost cap is about 25 to 40 million less than it should be for actual competition. The cost cap and the “anti-dilution fee” should at least be comparable. ;)

      1. I get the point about the cost cap, but we’d have several teams nowhere near cap then, which are already week as it is and would be worse then.

      2. weak*

  17. Ban on in-season testing needs to be lifted, otherwise teams will never catch up with the one that nailed the rules. Honestly, for the second years of new rules, this is quite ridiculous. Wind tunnel time based on the constructors’ standings is useless since Red Bull easily outsources anything to Alpha Tauri. More testing for other teams is what would change the status quo.

    1. They ban in season testing to cut costs yet simultaneously keep expanding the calendar. It makes no sense

      1. It really doesn’t.

  18. I’m pretty sure Alonso would have lost quite a few Spanish fans for his dastardly act of staying put behind Stroll. Those fans came just to see a win or podium for their home hero, on the back of consecutive top 4 finishes. Not only did they not get a podium, but their driver purposely finished one position lower than where he could. Was this race fixing by Aston Martin?

    1. Yes, disappointed by him tbh.

  19. Watched the first two races of this season and gave up. Gave it another go today but only got half way through the race. I am willing to watch an uncompetitive season providing the season is not too long and it mainly has good circuits. Neither of those criteria apply to modern F1. I’ll be back for Spa, Suzuka, Interlagos and Zandvoort.

    1. Bad choice of circuits if you want to see a team other than Redbull winning. You should tune in for Hungary and Singapore.

  20. Boringgggggggg……………

    1. Yep, another complete borefest. Wonder who’ll win in Canada?

      IndyCar races on a new street course in Detroit because a conservation group said they were destroying the island. Everyone whined it would be a crash fest (which it wasn’t), and put on a race that was a thousand times more fun than this crap. Watch IndyCar to escape the boredom of F1.

  21. Looks like Mercedes may not have reached entropy just yet.

Comments are closed.