Mercedes-AMG Returns To Form At 2023 Spanish Grand Prix

Formula One / 3 Comments

But Max Verstappen proves, yet again, that he's in a class of his own this year.

Max Verstappen took yet another dominant victory at the 2023 Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix, taking home a Grand Slam in the process, as the Flying Dutchman claimed pole position, led every lap, set the fastest lap, and secured the win. He was also the quickest in FP1, FP2, and FP3, and it was his 40th win for Red Bull. The only thing he didn't win was Driver of the Day, which went to Sir Lewis Hamilton.

Behind Verstappen, the two Merc Men took the remaining podium slots. Hamilton finished second for the second time this season, and George Russell was hot on his heels in third. Sergio Perez drove a solid, if not impressive, recovery drive to fourth after starting in 11th. Carlos Sainz claimed fifth, rounding out all the drivers that finished less than a minute behind Super Max.

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We'll be brazen and say that all decent F1 fans wanted Fernando Alonso to claim his first victory in years at his home Grand Prix. It was not to be, as his less experienced teammate, Lance Stroll, beat him to the finish line for the first time this season. Alonso finished in seventh, roughly five seconds ahead of Esteban Ocon. Zhou Guanyu took ninth, followed by Pierre Gasly in 10th. Yuki Tsunoda would have scored points but received a five-second penalty for pushing Zhou off the track, pushing the latter and Gasly into the points.

Verstappen now leads the Championship with 170 points, with Perez in second with 117 points. Fernando Alonso remains in third place, just one point shy of triple digits. Hamilton is fourth with 87 points, and Russel is fifth with 65 points.

At this point, a third world championship for Verstappen seems inevitable, while the rest are all fighting for second place.

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Talking Points

The central talking point from this weekend was Mercedes fighting its way back into the top three and Ferrari effectively being kicked out. Following the Monaco Grand Prix, Mercedes was a single point behind Aston Martin in the Constructors' Championship, and the Germans surpassed the British brand in a big way in Spain.

Thanks to Hamilton's second and Russell's third, Mercedes stands strong in second on 152 points. Aston Martin is now third with 134 points, and this is where the British brand's problems start. Alonso has been doing all the heavy lifting for Aston Martin, while Hamilton and Russell remain consistent. Thanks to Merc's recent upgrades, its car looks as fast, if not faster, making it an uphill battle for Aston Martin to regain that position. Aston is bringing an upgrade package to the next race in Canada, though, so it may be able to counter Merc's big step forward.

Speaking of the Mercedes upgrades, one has to wonder if they're enough. Verstappen got a brilliant start off the line and then proceeded to lap 0.5 seconds faster than anyone else. And that was just in tire management mode.

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As he proved when he went for the fastest lap just for the heck of it, Mercedes' upgrades are not enough to challenge Red Bull. Verstappen finished 24 seconds ahead of Hamilton, and Perez was within three seconds of Russell.

Three more laps of racing would likely have seen both Red Bulls on the podium, but we don't deal in ifs. The Merc updates have put the team in a better position.

Meanwhile, Ferrari seems to be a rudderless boat in stormy waters. Carlos Sainz was the team's only hope of scoring decent points, yet the Mercs made passing him look easy. Charles Leclerc started in the pits after the Scuderia replaced the entire rear end of his car, hoping to fix an unknown problem. He drove a poor recovery and could only get to 11th. The team should have sent him out in a Monza SP1 because he seems at odds with his current open-top racer.

Leclerc was Verstappen's main rival last year, but he's currently in 7th in the Drivers' standings. It seems Scuderia Ferrari may need a bigger reset than a new team boss.

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