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Verstappen wins Spanish GP from pole for 40th career victory

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands leads during the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, Spain, Sunday, June 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)
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MONTMELO, Spain (AP) — Max Verstappen of Red Bull won the Spanish Grand Prix from pole position on Sunday to strengthen his hold on the Formula One championship.

The two-time defending champion was never challenged on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya after beating Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari to the first turn.

Lewis Hamilton crossed the finish line second in his Mercedes to equal his best finish of the season. Fellow Mercedes driver George Russell completed the podium.

Verstappen has won five of seven races this season.

His 40th career win, including his third in Barcelona, leaves Verstappen one win behind the late Ayrton Senna’s total of 41. He also seems well on course to matching Senna’s three world titles. Verstappen set a Red Bull record with 39 wins last weekend at Monaco, breaking Sebastian Vettel’s record of 38.

Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez, who finished fourth, has won the other two races this year.

The Dutchman grew his lead over Pérez to 55 points.

“It is a big pleasure to drive a car like this and it showed on a day like this,” Verstappen said. “Hopefully we can keep it up throughout the year.”

Sainz had to settle for fifth after being passed by the Mercedes cars and Pérez’s Red Bull.

Home favorite Fernando Alonso disappointed the legion of Spanish fans by finishing a season-worst seventh place, right behind teammate Lance Stroll.

As expected given the superior speed of the Red Bull, the 66-lap race was largely decided in the 595-meter run from the starting line to Turn One.

Sainz tried to get the jump on Verstappen from the off by starting on a faster, although less durable, tire than the polesitter. Sainz was side-by-side with Verstappen after the long opening straightway going into the first turn, but the Red Bull fended off the Ferrari to stay in front.

Esteban Ocon was eighth in an Alpine ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu and Pierre Gasly in the other Alpine to round out the top 10.