5 Formula 1

Once again at the top: Max Verstappen © APA/afp / THOMAS COEX

Verstappen wins again, much frustration for Norris

World champion Max Verstappen took a meter-long run-up and threw himself into the arms of his Red Bull team members with relief. In the strategy thriller in Spain, the Dutchman fended off the next attack from Lando Norris and raced to a hat-trick of victories in Barcelona.

The 26-year-old celebrated his seventh win of the season on Sunday with a highly concentrated performance, thereby extending his lead in the World Championship. "We definitely weren't the fastest out there today, but we also did everything right with our strategy," said a happy Verstappen. After his 69st career victory, he has 61 points more than the new World Championship runner-up Norris.

After a horror start, the McLaren driver had to settle for second place despite pole position and a dogged pursuit to the finish line. He was 2,2 seconds behind in the end. "I should have won. I messed up the start," complained a frustrated Norris. "The car was unbelievable. We deserved more." In the 1111th Grand Prix in Formula 1 history, Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes made it onto the podium for the first time this year, finishing third.

A fire causes chaos

Norris and his McLaren team had experienced a chaotic Saturday. After a fire alarm, the motorhome of the traditional English racing team had to be evacuated, the fire brigade arrived and was on duty for hours. A fire, probably in the kitchen, caused a lot of excitement. According to official information, no one was injured.

Lando Norris botched the start. © ANSA / SIU WU

Norris and his teammate Oscar Piastri had to move. Norris found shelter in the engineer's office - and then raced to his second career pole. He had previously secured his only starting position at the front in Russia in 2021. Norris and McLaren then thanked the emergency services on race Sunday with, among other things, a souvenir photo.

Verstappen was upset after qualifying, even though he was only 0,020 seconds behind the leader. "I've been saying for weeks that we need to get more performance out of the car," he complained. Red Bull, it seemed after Saturday, has lost its lead. McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari are almost on the same level. "We had a very dominant car last year. Of course, it's not what it used to be," admitted Verstappen.

Russell with a rocket launch

George Russell was responsible for the first wow effect after the red lights went out. While Norris botched his start with spinning wheels and Verstappen at least held on to his position, the Mercedes driver gained three places and simply passed on the outside in the first corner. "He pushed me into the grass," Verstappen complained over the radio about the battle for position with Norris.

The winners' podium. © APA/afp / THOMAS COEX

But it didn't take the three-time world champion long to race back to the front. The Red Bull command post advised him to act wisely on lap three. And just a few moments later, Verstappen pushed Russell back from first place. After around a quarter of the 66 laps, the Dutchman's lead was almost five seconds.

During the first wave of pit stops, a botched stop with a downtime of 5,3 seconds set Russell back in the fight for a possible Grand Prix victory. Verstappen and Red Bull, meanwhile, showed how it's done: within just 1,9 seconds, they got fresh tires.

Norris comes close – but Verstappen stays cool

The strategists had long been called upon. The leader Norris stayed further out on the softest compound - and gambled. After the first tire change, he was a full ten seconds behind Verstappen. Norris also wore out the fresh tires in his pursuit because he did not get past Russell and his teammate Hamilton quickly enough. Hülkenberg, who started from 13th place, fought further back for at least one World Championship point.

Verstappen's lead over Norris shrank to almost four seconds. The world champion now came into the pits for the second time. Norris rejoiced: "This is our chance." Shortly afterwards, however, the Englishman began to have doubts. Norris followed suit with a stop, but had to make up almost eight seconds on Verstappen. Red Bull radioed its star: "Max, we have to step on the gas, Lando is not saving his tires." Norris drove a dogged race, but he was unable to catch the cool Verstappen.

The result:

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