How committing to an “aggressive strategy” pre-race set Verstappen up to win

2024 Spanish GP interactive data

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Max Verstappen’s hopes of winning the Spanish Grand Prix received a boost at the start of the race when he got ahead of pole-winner Lando Norris.

But a bold strategy call by Red Bull before the race even began paid dividends towards its end.

Like Norris on pole position and the Ferrari pair on row three, Verstappen had saved an untouched set of soft tyres from practice and qualifying. But unlike those rivals, he chose not to start on them. He therefore went into the race knowing he would have a fresh set of soft tyres available to use later on.

The decision to start the race on a set of used softs effectively committed Verstappen to pitting earlier than those around him who started on new tyres. However Red Bull knew the only car among the top four which could do this was Norris, as the Mercedes drivers had no new softs left.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2024
Red Bull also produced the three fastest pit stops of the race
This was a sensible gamble, as Red Bull knew getting ahead of Norris at the start was going to be difficult. Norris’ firm tactics off the line probably would have prevented Verstappen getting by him, but then George Russell drew alongside the pair of them. As Norris admitted later, this forced him to back off earlier for the first corner, losing places to both his rivals.

Verstappen had a strong chance to win the race from that moment on and he boosted his chances when he leant hard on those used tyres and shot past Russell in the DRS zone. Norris couldn’t do the same, despite having a new set of softs, and from there the die was cast.

“I think we did everything well,” said Verstappen. “We drove quite an aggressive strategy, but luckily it paid out at the end. It was quite close until the end, but very happy to win here.”

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Having lost his hard-won advantage of track position, Norris responded in the fashion which has become typical of McLaren lately – by extending his stints, playing to the MCL38’s strengths and giving him the chance to attack on fresher tyres later on. “Lando and McLaren, they were very quick today, especially on deg, it seems always the last few laps of the stint, they were very fast,” Verstappen observed.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2024
The Mercedes pair delayed Norris in his second stint
Delaying his first stint “made my life much easier to overtake George,” said Norris. “I was racing George until halfway through the race. And once I kind of passed him, then I was in my own race and trying to race against Max.”

However when they approached the final stint, Verstappen had an ace card still to play – his new set of soft tyres. As Norris switched to a three-lap-old set, and ran a shorter middle stint than Verstappen after straining his tyres while passing the Mercedes drivers, it meant they began the final stint on similar age tyres.

Norris was still able to make some gains on Verstappen, but long before the end of the race it became clear he wasn’t going to catch him. Even so, Norris remained convinced McLaren had done the right thing by delaying his first pit stop.

“I know people had the same [negative] comments about our strategy last weekend in Canada on the second pit stop onto the slick tyre [but] I think our strategy was better,” he said. “The strategy is very strong, has been for a lot of the year. We made a couple of mistakes here and there, but no, I think today we’re probably the best strategy, so I’m happy with that.”

McLaren may have made the right calls during the race, but Red Bull’s decision beforehand to save their set of new soft tyres paid off massively.

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2024 Spanish Grand Prix lap chart

The positions of each driver on every lap. Click name to highlight, right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

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2024 Spanish Grand Prix race chart

The gaps between each driver on every lap compared to the leader’s average lap time. Very large gaps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

2024 Spanish Grand Prix lap times

All the lap times by the drivers (in seconds, very slow laps excluded). Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and toggle drivers using the control below:

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2024 Spanish Grand Prix fastest laps

Each driver’s fastest lap:

Rank # Driver Car Lap time Gap Avg. speed (kph) Lap no.
1 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1’17.115 217.41 51
2 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda RBPT 1’17.776 0.661 215.56 54
3 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda RBPT 1’17.785 0.670 215.53 51
4 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’17.809 0.694 215.47 46
5 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes 1’17.874 0.759 215.29 56
6 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1’17.897 0.782 215.22 52
7 63 George Russell Mercedes 1’18.290 1.175 214.14 50
8 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’18.334 1.219 214.02 50
9 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 1’18.539 1.424 213.46 39
10 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas-Ferrari 1’18.609 1.494 213.27 49
11 24 Zhou Guanyu Sauber-Ferrari 1’18.771 1.656 212.83 50
12 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1’18.982 1.867 212.27 54
13 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault 1’19.045 1.930 212.1 51
14 23 Alexander Albon Williams-Mercedes 1’19.132 2.017 211.86 45
15 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’19.318 2.203 211.37 50
16 22 Yuki Tsunoda RB-Honda RBPT 1’19.447 2.332 211.02 56
17 3 Daniel Ricciardo RB-Honda RBPT 1’19.450 2.335 211.02 61
18 77 Valtteri Bottas Sauber-Ferrari 1’19.608 2.493 210.6 13
19 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1’19.805 2.690 210.08 33
20 2 Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes 1’20.172 3.057 209.12 38

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2024 Spanish Grand Prix tyre strategies

The tyre strategies for each driver:

2024 Spanish Grand Prix pit stop times

How long each driver’s pit stops took:

Rank # Driver Team Complete stop time (s) Gap to best (s) Stop no. Lap no.
1 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 21.464 2 31
2 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 21.472 0.008 3 49
3 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 21.544 0.08 1 17
4 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 21.603 0.139 2 43
5 4 Lando Norris McLaren 21.618 0.154 1 23
6 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 21.624 0.16 2 47
7 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine 21.687 0.223 2 38
8 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine 21.834 0.37 1 13
9 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 21.84 0.376 1 16
10 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 21.88 0.416 1 17
11 23 Alexander Albon Williams 21.892 0.428 2 43
12 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine 21.921 0.457 2 37
13 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 21.957 0.493 1 19
14 22 Yuki Tsunoda RB 22.064 0.6 1 9
15 22 Yuki Tsunoda RB 22.084 0.62 2 27
16 3 Daniel Ricciardo RB 22.108 0.644 2 42
17 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 22.181 0.717 1 13
18 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 22.194 0.73 1 15
19 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren 22.224 0.76 1 21
20 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 22.249 0.785 2 36
21 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 22.26 0.796 1 24
22 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 22.34 0.876 2 44
23 3 Daniel Ricciardo RB 22.364 0.9 1 16
24 2 Logan Sargeant Williams 22.401 0.937 1 14
25 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren 22.42 0.956 2 46
26 2 Logan Sargeant Williams 22.506 1.042 2 34
27 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 22.518 1.054 2 38
28 24 Zhou Guanyu Sauber 22.523 1.059 1 9
29 22 Yuki Tsunoda RB 22.564 1.1 3 44
30 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 22.571 1.107 2 45
31 4 Lando Norris McLaren 22.631 1.167 2 47
32 63 George Russell Mercedes 22.7 1.236 2 36
33 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 22.722 1.258 1 12
34 77 Valtteri Bottas Sauber 22.744 1.28 1 11
35 77 Valtteri Bottas Sauber 22.963 1.499 2 28
36 23 Alexander Albon Williams 23.248 1.784 1 18
37 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas 23.36 1.896 1 10
38 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 23.381 1.917 2 37
39 24 Zhou Guanyu Sauber 24.253 2.789 2 41
40 63 George Russell Mercedes 25.023 3.559 1 15
41 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine 26.097 4.633 1 14
42 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas 28.967 7.503 2 29

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2024 Spanish Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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2 comments on “How committing to an “aggressive strategy” pre-race set Verstappen up to win”

  1. An Sionnach
    23rd June 2024, 23:57

    Next time can the McLaren strategy be to just cover off Red Bull at the pit stops? If they did this today, then it wouldn’t have mattered what Red Bull did. That, and don’t fumble the critical pit stop.

  2. The McLaren is in racing pace also faster in free air but looking to the first stint when Lando is behind George Lando has problem over taking him. So even if Lando would catch Max Lando couldn’t overtake Max.
    So McLaren has the faster car Mercedes isn’t far off either.

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