Monday, June 24, 2024

Verstappen Takes Dominant Victory, Double Mercedes Podium

Max Verstappen took a dominant victory at the Spanish Grand Prix but it was the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team duo that took the headlines, with both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finishing on the podium, with the latter coming from twelfth on the grid.

It was win number forty for Verstappen, who finished over twenty seconds ahead of Hamilton in second, followed by Russell, who was almost caught by Sergio Pérez with a few laps to go.

What Happened In The Race?

The start of the race was an eventful one, Carlos Sainz Jr. started his home race on the front row alongside Verstappen and almost got ahead of the Dutchman, who started on the medium tyre compound. The Spaniard, cheered on by his home crowd, went for a move up the inside but it was quickly covered off by Verstappen, who got through the start with his lead intact.

There was contact between Hamilton and Lando Norris, who started third, which seemed to be a reaction to the battle between Sainz and Verstappen ahead of them. Russell also made up a few positions on the start but was soon under investigation for gaining an advantage after taking the off-road to avoid contact with Oscar Piastri. The stewards deemed the decision by Russell to be the right one and took no further action on the incident.

Norris fell to the back of the grid after having to replace his front wing, and never really recovered from the incident, finishing outside the points. Hamilton was left to fight Lance Stroll, who passed the Brit after his contact with Norris. Hamilton soon overtook Stroll though for third, with the help of DRS. Russell was making moves too, getting past Fernando Alonso for sixth.

Ten laps in, Pérez had made his way into eighth after a move on Yuki Tsunoda, who was running in the points after a good start. Russell quickly passed Esteban Ocon for fifth, which made Scuderia Ferrari and Sainz start to worry about the pace of Mercedes.

As Verstappen continued to extend his lead at the front, increasing his advantage to eight seconds after fifteen laps, Ferrari started to discuss potential pit stops. Despite Sainz arguing that it wasn’t time yet, he received the instruction to pit after Aston Martin Armaco F1 Team brought Stroll in for a pitstop. Hamilton chose to stay out with his soft tyres still feeling good.

In the meantime, the midfield provided early race excitement as Nico Hülkenberg, Tsunoda, Piastri, and others executed impressive overtakes. Pierre Gasly swiftly passed some midfield cars after his own pit stop. Alonso became the next driver from the top ten to make a pit stop. Russell, similarly to Hamilton told Mercedes that he wished to continue without pitting, as his tires were in good condition.

On lap twenty-five, Hamilton made his pit stop, entering the pits just over eleven seconds behind race leader Verstappen. He switched to medium tires and emerged from the pits around two seconds behind Sainz.

Shortly after, Russell also made his pit stop, dropping to sixth place. He re-entered the race just ahead of Ocon. Verstappen followed the Mercedes drivers into the pits. The race leader was able to maintain his lead despite making the pitstop, with only his teammate Perez yet to make his mandatory pit stop. Eventually, Pérez also pitted, with all drivers having made their stops by lap twenty-nine.

Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

On lap twenty-eight, Hamilton successfully caught up to Sainz and overtook him into Turn One making a lovely Hamilton-Esque move. Meanwhile, Leclerc, the other Ferrari driver, was struggling to make progress. His overtake on Nyck de Vries placed him in thirteen midway through the race, showing just how much he was struggling out there. Russell caught up to Sainz and made short work of the Ferrari with DRS down into Turn One with a great move to run P3 behind Hamilton on lap thirty-six.

Everyone soon started making their second stops and with 14 laps remaining, the top four drivers were all on fresh soft tires. Verstappen held a commanding lead of seventeen seconds over Hamilton, who was five seconds ahead of Russell. Pérez trailed behind by an additional eight seconds. Sainz, on hard tires, occupied fifth place, followed by Stroll. Ocon and Alonso had a tense moment on the track, resulting in Alonso overtaking his former teammate to secure seventh place. However, Ocon’s defence was seen as somewhat aggressive, something we saw multiple times last year when the pair were teammates at BWT Alpine F1 Team.

As Verstappen appeared to be cruising towards his fifth victory of the season, he received a warning for exceeding track limits for the third time, receiving the black-and-white flag. Another infraction would result in a five-second time penalty. Oracle Red Bull Racing cautioned Verstappen against attempting the fastest lap due to the impending penalty. Nonetheless, Verstappen promptly set the fastest lap of the race, taking a point away from Pé

Verstappen managed to avoid any further track limit violations and crossed the finish line with a comfortable lead of 24 seconds ahead of Hamilton. Russell’s impressive performance secured Mercedes’ first double podium finish of the season as he finished ahead of Pérez.

Sainz, Stroll, and Alonso followed in the standings, with Ocon, Zhou Guanyu, and Gasly completing the points-scoring positions. Tsunoda initially finished in ninth place but dropped down to twelfth after he was penalized with a five-second penalty for forcing Zhou off the track. Leclerc finished outside the points and was followed by Piastri, de Vries, Hülkenberg, Alex Albon, Norris, Kevin Magnussen, Valtteri Bottas and Logan Sargeant.

Improvement for Mercedes?

Mercedes certainly took the biggest headline of the weekend with their first double podium of the season. Hamilton showed really good pace in qualifying yesterday and carried it on into the race today as he finished behind Verstappen for his second podium of the season.

Russell had an excellent drive coming from twelfth on the grid, outperforming Pérez who started eleventh in the Red Bull. The Briton made a number of impressive moves to move up the pack, and it was certainly an improvement for Mercedes to see themselves ahead of Ferrari and Aston Martin.

Mercedes will be hoping this improvement is a mark for the future, with the new upgrades on the car and more to come soon in the upcoming races. The gap to Red Bull is still big, but Toto Wolff will be hoping they can start to bridge the gap.

Next Up?

Formula 1 now heads to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix and it is sure to be another exciting race with everyone attempting to get closer to Red Bull at the front. Mercedes will be hoping to continue their form from this weekend but will be wary of Aston Martin and Ferrari, who will want to bounce back.

1 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT 66 1:27:57.940 26
2 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 66 +24.090s 18
3 George Russell MERCEDES 66 +32.389s 15
4 Sergio Perez RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT 66 +35.812s 12
5 Carlos Sainz FERRARI 66 +45.698s 10
6 Lance Stroll ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES 66 +63.320s 8
7 Fernando Alonso ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES 66 +64.127s 6
8 Esteban Ocon ALPINE RENAULT 66 +69.242s 4
9 Zhou Guanyu ALFA ROMEO FERRARI 66 +71.878s 2
10 Pierre Gasly ALPINE RENAULT 66 +73.530s 1
11 Charles Leclerc FERRARI 66 +74.419s 0
12 Yuki Tsunoda ALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT 66 +75.416s 0
13 Oscar Piastri MCLAREN MERCEDES 65 +1 lap 0
14 Nyck De Vries ALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT 65 +1 lap 0
15 Nico Hulkenberg HAAS FERRARI 65 +1 lap 0
16 Alexander Albon WILLIAMS MERCEDES 65 +1 lap 0
17 Lando Norris MCLAREN MERCEDES 65 +1 lap 0
18 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 65 +1 lap 0
19 Valtteri Bottas ALFA ROMEO FERRARI 65 +1 lap 0
20 Logan Sargeant WILLIAMS MERCEDES 65 +1 lap 0