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Verstappen Triumphs in Tense Spanish Grand Prix, Holding Off Norris for Victory

Formula One F1 - Qatar Grand Prix - Lusail International Circuit, Lusail, Qatar - October 7, 2023 Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates after finishing second in the sprint race and winning the championship REUTERS/Rula Rouhana
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Max Verstappen showcased his exceptional driving skills once again, proving he doesn’t need a dominant car to stay on track for his fourth consecutive Formula 1 title.

The Dutchman delivered a masterclass performance at the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday, successfully fending off a determined Lando Norris to secure the win.

Despite Norris’ claims of having the fastest car on the track, Verstappen’s impeccable start and strategic racing ensured he remained untouchable. “We should have won today,” Norris reflected post-race. “We had the quickest car.”

The recent races have seen Mercedes and Norris’ McLaren closing the gap with Verstappen’s Red Bull. Norris had taken pole position in qualifying, narrowly edging out Verstappen. However, the race dynamics shifted quickly. Verstappen muscled past Norris from the starting grid and overtook early leader George Russell’s Mercedes, maintaining his lead for the remainder of the race.

Verstappen’s victory was not without its challenges. He managed to stay just ahead of Norris in the final laps, securing first place while Norris settled for second. Lewis Hamilton, driving for Mercedes, completed the podium in third place, marking his first podium finish of 2024 as he prepares to join Ferrari next season.

Reflecting on his crucial early manoeuvres, Verstappen said, “What made the race was the beginning, taking the lead on Lap 2 and eking out the gap a little bit. Lando and McLaren were very, very fast today. We drove an aggressive strategy, but it played out at the end.”

This win marks Verstappen’s seventh victory in ten races this season and his third consecutive triumph at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalonia. It also brings his career total to 61 wins. Verstappen now leads the championship with 219 points. Norris, with his second-place finish, has moved into second in the standings with 150 points, overtaking Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who finished fifth and now has 148 points.

Norris attributed his second-place finish to a poor start, where he lost two spots. He had aimed for another win following his first victory in Miami in May but had to settle for second place once more, just as he did at the Canadian GP. “I quite easily had the best car there,” Norris lamented. “I just didn’t do enough off the line. That one thing cost me everything.”

The race saw Russell taking an early surprise lead from his fourth-place start, but Verstappen swiftly overtook him. Managing his tires effectively on the challenging Barcelona track, Verstappen’s Red Bull team executed flawless pit stops, which proved pivotal.

Norris demonstrated his strong form by overtaking both Mercedes after a tire change, engaging in a lengthy duel with Russell before finally pulling ahead. This tussle helped Verstappen by adding crucial seconds to his lead.

In the final 10 laps, Norris pushed hard to close the gap on Verstappen but ultimately ran out of time, finishing two seconds behind. Verstappen anticipates more close races ahead, particularly with the Austrian and British Grand Prix on the horizon.

“We are struggling a little bit for that outright pace, and we didn’t have the best tire life today compared to Lando,” Verstappen noted. “I can’t really say that we did something wrong in the race, but we just need to try and find more performance.”

Russell finished fourth, while it was a disappointing day for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, with neither able to contend for the front positions. Sainz, the local favorite, finished sixth after being overtaken twice by Hamilton.

Oscar Piastri, Norris’ McLaren teammate, secured seventh place. Sergio Pérez in the other Red Bull finished eighth after starting from 11th place due to a grid penalty from the Canadian GP. The Alpine pair, Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, rounded out the top ten, with Fernando Alonso finishing 12th in his Aston Martin.

Source: AP