Max Verstappen with his third Grand Chelem ahead of Mercedes in Spain

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It’s race time in Barcelona after a rather damp qualifying session. For the first time, Max Verstappen is starting from pole position on the track where he won his first ever Formula 1 race back in 2016, with Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz besides him in front row.

Lando Norris who had qualified in P3 for his best starting spot of the season had a right rear issue while on the grid, with his mechanics hard at work to solve it.

Logan Sargeant and Charles Leclerc will both start from the pit lane after their teams broke the Parc Fermé rules, whereas Pierre Gasly has received two three grid places penalties for impeding during qualifying twice, thus starting in P10.

Just before the start, the weather is rather cloudy but not raining, with Ferrari forecasting that rain won’t be coming for the first half hour of the race. Everyone starts on softs bar for Verstappen, Perez and Sargeant on medium and Leclerc on hards.

At the start Sainz tries to make a move for the lead but is unsuccessful as Norris mentions damage on the radio after contact with the seven time world champion Lewis Hamilton and has to pit to change tyres and front wing, with heated brakes. Stroll had a good start reaching P3 with a beautiful move on Hamilton at T4.

Esteban Ocon, on the podium in Monaco has also had a good start, moving up to P5, as well as Zhou Guanyu, who has gained five positions in the first five laps of the race.

His Alfa Romeo teammate Valtteri Bottas pits on Lap 6 for hards. Hamilton overtakes Stroll for P3 as Piastri moves up to P11 on Hulkenberg. Fernando Alonso appears to be struggling again on the soft tyres, as he is stuck in P7.

Sergio Perez is making his way up after a difficult qualifying left him in P11. On Lap 11 he is in P11, just as Zhou pits for hards and Russell moves up to P5 for one of the strongest performances seen in 2023 from Mercedes.

After his slow pit, Zhou completed an impressive double overtake on Bottas and Tsunoda. The battle further back down the grid is much more heated than at the front, as the AlphaTauri driver retakes P15 passing Zhou on the outside and in the lap after completes the move on Hulkenberg as well.

Hamilton was closing up on Sainz, whose pace had significantly dropped, and is thus stopped by Ferrari on Lap 16 , rejoining the track just behind Leclerc in P9. The Monegasque driver pits for softs as well, rejoining in P18.

On Lap 19 Verstappen, Hamilton and Russell complete the provisional podium as Piastri overtakes De Vries for P14. Alonso and Gasly pit, with the former going for softs and the latter for mediums but suffering from a slow stop.

The Mercedes drivers and Perez, running in P4, are all yet to stop. Further down the order, Leclerc and Gasly battle out for P15, with the Alpine driver succeeding and making his way up.

Hamilton pits on Lap 25 rejoining behind Sainz, with Russell as well in the following lap ending up in P6. Verstappen stops on Lap 27 resuming the lead as Hamilton passes the Spanish driver for P2 while Russell mentions rain on track at Turn 5. The Mercedes driver is not fazed by it, achieving the provisional fast lap of the race and taking 3 seconds of his gap to Sainz, strongly suffering from graining.

The rain will never come, as Russell later on mentions it might be sweat the liquid he sees in his visor.

Perez fights Alonso for P8, with the Red Bull driver prevailing in the end. Two laps lter the Mexican driver overtakes Tsunoda for P7.

On lap 35 Russell overtakes Sainz for P3 as Stroll and Tsunoda pit for the second time, with the Aston Martin driver exiting on hards and the AlphaTauri on mediums. Ocon suffers from a slow pit as well, rejoining in P14.

With 20 laps to go the top ten features Verstappen Hamilton Russell Sainz Perez Alonso Leclerc Stroll Ocon Tsunoda, as Sainz’s race goal shifts from podium to staying ahead of Alonso. The Ferrari driver pits on Lap 42 for hards, immediately followed by his teammate Charles Leclerc.

Alonso pits for hards and returns on track behind an impressive Zhou in P9 after the same number of stops. Rusell pits for softs, allowing Perez to join the podium. On Lap 51 Hamilton as well returns on the softest compound, holding on to P2.

Alonso complets the move for P7 over his former teammate Esteban Ocon, while Leclerc passes Piastri for P12. The next driver to stop for fresh reds is Verstappen on Lap 53, who will be definitely going for the fastest lap to complete another Grand Chelem, as his teammate Sergio Perez goes fastest from P4.

Zhou passes Tsunoda at the apex but the Japanese driver closes off, sending the Alfa Romeo racer out of track.Yuki Tsunoda was later awarded with a 5 seconds time penalty for forcing Zhou off track earlier as Leclerc tries to catch Gasly for P11.

With four laps to go Verstappen, who was also showed a black and white flag for track limits, signs the fastest l@ in 1:16.330, but immediately Hamilton signs off the best first sector, completing his attempt of fastest lap in 1:16.700.

Photo credits: Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen achieves his third ever Grand Chelem and his race win number 40, which leaves him -1 to Senna in number of all time race wins. The championship leader finished ahead of both Mercedes driver and Sergio Perez in P4. To round off the top ten we have Sainz, Stroll, Alonso, Ocon, Zhou and Gasly, brought up by Tsunoda’s time penalty.