By: Shaelyn Winters
Edited By: Kylie Augis
The 2023 Spanish Grand Prix took place at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya last weekend. While yet another race win for Max Verstappen was unsurprising, there were many interesting occurrences in both Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s race.
Qualifying – Saturday June 3
The conversation surrounding qualifying was immensely populated with concerns regarding the likelihood of precipitation given the extensive downpour which occurred in the final practice session earlier in the morning. The probability of rainfall stood at 30 percent to begin the event.
Yet despite having a nearly dry track with minimal wet patches to start Q1, these conditions proved to be demanding for some. There were a multitude of drivers who became friendly with the gravel traps early into the session: Fernando Alonso at turn 14, both Yuki Tsunoda and Nick de Vries at turn 11 and Alexander Albon at turn 5. In the same timeframe, a red flag was signalled following the presence of gravel on the track, which was likely the result of Valterri Bottas’ gravel trap encounter at turn 14. Following the resumption of the session, the FIA announced they would review Pierre Gasly for obstructing both Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz.
A shocking turn of events occurred in Q1 as Charles Leclerc qualified nineteenth – one year after achieving pole position on the same track. The Monegasque driver initially reported issues with his rear tyres, but difficulties prevailed following a late pitstop and a new set of tyres that did not prove to be of much help. As Ferrari failed to determine the problem with the car during their designated time period, Leclerc would begin the race on Sunday from the pitlane with a new power unit and a fifteen-place grid penalty. Along with Leclerc, the other drivers eliminated in Q1 included Logan Sargeant, Alexander Albon, Kevin Magnussen and Valterri Bottas.
Subsequently, Q2 witnessed two more astonishing eliminations. With under two minutes remaining in the session, Sergio Perez found himself in the gravel trap at turn 5, damaging his tires and thus he was unable to complete a quick enough lap to advance into the top ten. George Russell, after receiving damage following teammate Lewis Hamilton’s attempt to pass along the outside, was also unable to complete a quick enough lap time. The accident resulted in the replacement of Hamilton’s front-wing for Q3. Yuki Tsunoda, Nyck de Vries and Zhou Guanyu were also eliminated in Q2.
In the final qualifying session, only Verstappen and Hamilton began on a new set of tyres. Verstappen set a lap time of 1:12:272 with roughly eight minutes remaining in Q3, which was quick enough to attain pole position for Sunday’s race. Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris rounded off the top three finishers. The FIA announced that Pierre Gasly, who qualified fourth – his best race start of the season – would be subject to a six-place grid penalty (two three-place penalties) and would start the race in tenth position.
Courtesy of Formula 1 on Twitter
Race – Sunday June 4
Sunday began with the same concerns regarding the probability of precipitation, which remained slightly higher at 40 percent. Following lights out, Sainz and Verstappen were wheel-to-wheel into turn one – but Verstappen was able to maintain his position. Simultaneously, Hamilton gained a position following an incident with Norris, who dropped to twentieth position following the replacement of his front wing in a second lap pitstop. Along with Norris, there were a series of premature pit stops to start the race which resulted in an early rearrangement of the grid order. Through twenty-three laps, the entire grid except for the two Red Bulls and the two Mercedes’ had undergone at least one pitstop. These would end up being the two teams in contention for the podium finish for the entirety of the race.
The first of the four to enter the pitlane was Hamilton in lap 25, shifting from softs to mediums. Verstappen would then complete his first pitstop of the race and maintain first position after converting from medium to hard tyres. Perez pitted one lap later, losing second place and reentering the race in ninth position. The top three going into lap 30: Verstappen, Hamilton and Sainz.
For those complaining about the lack of entertainment to begin the season, George Russell’s proclamation that he could not determine whether it was rain or sweat inside of his own helmet throughout lap 32 should count for something! He passed Sainz in lap 35 to join his teammate in the top three.
Alonso pitted for the second time in lap 46, dropping from fifth to tenth position. Five laps later, Alonso surpassed Ocon to achieve seventh position – the place he would finish. In lap 51, both Hamilton and Perez made their second pitstop of the race. Hamilton re-entered the race in second but Perez, pitting from third, dropped to fifth position. Verstappen pitted two laps later but maintained his position. It would come down to Russell and Perez to battle for the third place finish.
In lap 56, Tsunoda pushed Guanyu off the track. Tsunoda would eventually receive a five-second time penalty, enough to drop him from ninth to twelfth position. Additionally, the black and white flag was signalled for Verstappen as his fourth warning for exceeding track limits.
With the waving of the chequered flag in lap 66, Max Verstappen won his fifth grand prix of the season, marking his 40th first-place finish in Formula 1. He also achieved the fastest lap, earning one additional point with a lap time of 1:16:330. Mercedes completed a 2-3 finish, with Hamilton in second and Russell in third.
With the two Aston Martin drivers finishing in fifth and sixth position, Mercedes moves into second place in the Constructors championship. While Carlos Sainz finished in fifth position at his home grand prix, Charles Leclerc, finishing eleventh, was unable to earn points in Spain.
Courtesy of Formula 1 on Twitter
The final results of the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix are as follows:
Max Verstappen 11. Charles Leclerc
Lewis Hamilton 12. Yuki Tsunoda
George Russell 13. Oscar Piastri
Sergio Perez 14. Nyck de Vries
Carlos Sainz 15. Niko Hülkenberg
Lance Stroll 16. Alexander Albon
Fernando Alonso 17. Lando Norris
Esteban Ocon 18. Kevin Magnussen
Zhou Guanyu 19. Valtteri Bottas
Pierre Gasly 20. Logan Sargeant
The Canadian Grand Prix is next on the calendar and occurs from June 16-18 in Montreal.