F1 winners and losers from 2023 Spanish GP

Max Verstappen's crushing 2023 Spanish GP victory for Red Bull never looked in doubt as he extends his Formula 1 World Championship lead

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Max Verstappen dominated the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix to take his third victory on the bounce and extend his championship lead to 53 points from Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

A jumbled qualifying and the heavy degradation at least produced some movement in the race, but it ended with only one driver outside the top 10 in the championship scoring a point.

Nico Hulkenberg was lucky not to end up in the losers, after qualifying eighth he just went backwards in the race and finished 15th. However, the Haas has struggled on a couple of other Sundays and in hindsight holding onto the top 10 was probably pretty unrealistic.

Meanwhile there weren’t too many other candidates for winners, Alpine recorded another double-points finish but that’s fast – becoming the expectation now they’re finally turning pre-season optimism into points.

Theo Pourchaire did pull out an inspired performance in the sodden F2 sprint race though, rising from ninth to second, but still lost ground on surprise championship leader Frederik Vesti.

Loser: Ferrari

A respondent Charles Leclerc at the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix | Ferrari F1 Team

This feels very harsh on Carlos Sainz who put in a great qualifying effort and was completely hamstrung by his machinery in the race, but Ferrari just seem to be slipping further and further back as the season goes on.

Sainz did concede this track was never going to show the best of the SF-23, but given they brought significant upgrades to Barcelona then a forlorn haul of ten points is pretty disappointing.

Charles Leclerc was at a loss to explain his Q1 exit on Saturday and a spirited early charge up the field stalled desperately before he had a serious chance at points.

They’ll hope for better in Canada but most of all it seems a team shorn of confidence, belief and any semblance of momentum.

Winner: Max Verstappen

He’s making weekends like these look ordinary, which is terrifying for every other driver on the grid. Not much more to say than that really.

Peerless all weekend, the only black mark on Verstappen‘s performance was the track limits black-and-white flag – but he responded in remarkable fashion to pull out a crushing fastest lap that underlined how much more he could’ve won by if he needed to.

It’s hard to believe that just three races ago Verstappen was starting at the back of the grid with Sergio Perez on pole in a race that would decide the lead of the championship.

With the Mexican already a half-century behind his teammate and no other team anywhere close to Red Bull, what’s the earliest Verstappen can wrap up his third world title?

Loser: Lando Norris

In a similar – but much more negative – vein, there’s no long analysis needed to sum up Norris‘ Sunday.

He was superb all the way through qualifying and rewarded with a fantastic third place that could’ve swung the constructors’ championship back in McLaren‘s favour.

However, a closing gap on the inside on the first lap isn’t the best place to stick a front wing. From there his race nosedived, he finished 17th and it’s such a shame because his qualifying effort deserved more.

Still, he looked pretty slick doing it in that McLaren livery.

Lance Stroll of Aston Martin and Lando Norris of McLaren during 2023 Spanish GP practice | Aston Martin F1 Team

Winner: Zhou Guanyu

Particularly pleasing because he really needed to fight for those points. Zhou can sometimes go anonymous on race weekends but he showed great racing instinct with a couple of his overtakes on the way to ninth place.

After not looking outstanding on Saturday, he just refocussed on raceday and the rewards were plain to see, hauling himself up the pecking order and finishing with a deserved couple of points.

Less pleasant was Martin Brundle’s moment commentating over Zhou‘s battle with Nico Hulkenberg and Yuki Tsunoda, it made for pretty uncomfortable viewing.

Zhou Guanyu prepares for the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix | XPB/James Moy Photography Ltd / Alfa Romeo F1 Team

Loser: Aston Martin

What happened here then? Given how much Fernando Alonso clearly cares about his home race it was extra surprising to see how uncompetitive he was on Saturday.

Then on Sunday he just couldn’t make up any ground, and while his salutes to the crowd before the race had even finished was a great piece of showmanship it did distract from a disappointing weekend for driver and team.

Meanwhile Lance Stroll did fantastically on Saturday to outqualify his teammate for the first time this season – after a definite dip in form – but Alonso could’ve easily taken sixth place from him if he wanted.

Sixth and seventh was probably the ceiling for Aston but that in itself is pretty damning for a team that took five podiums from the opening six races.

Winner: Mercedes

2023 Spanish Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

On the other side of that coin, Mercedes have to be pleased with just their second double-podium since the 2022 summer break.

After some positive signs in Monaco despite all the memes, this was always going to be the true test of their huge upgrade package and the Black Arrows passed with flying colours.

Rising to the top of the pack behind Red Bull was the best realistic outcome from the new sidepods, floor and suspension that got bolted on a week ago and they were very comfortably ahead of Aston and Ferrari.

At one stage Russell looked in real trouble as Perez rocketed to within five seconds of the Brit on his final set of soft tyres but Russell was able to manage the gap from there to complete a moral-boosting result.

Loser: Yuki Tsunoda

A superb example of why winners and losers isn’t necessarily a reflection of driver performance, Tsunoda performed fantastically for 90% of the race.

He’ll likely be a bit disappointed to have been out-qualified by Nyck de Vries but once the lights went out on Sunday, Tsunoda was a man on a mission.

He scythed through the field landing a couple of particularly nifty overtakes and looked arguably the most dialled-in driver on the track at times in the first half of the race, bar Verstappen.

Which makes it even more gutting that he lost out on a deserved points finish with that lap 59 contact with Zhou.

Still, in a contract year Tsunoda‘s undoubtedly showing why he deserves a seat on the 2024, whether at an AlphaTauri outfit who’ve gone backwards since the end of 2021 or elsewhere.

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