The seventh round of the 2023 Formula 1 season took place in Barcelona, the race ending with a more than resounding victory for Max Verstappen, the current champion and main contender for the title this year.
The Dutchman’s gap in this race was so great that the tactical battle between Mercedes and Ferrari attracted much more attention, with the Scuderia completely failing in it.
The results of the Spanish Grand Prix – in the traditional “Championship” review.
Ferrari’s new sidepods didn’t help
In qualifying, Carlos Sainz achieved the best second place of this season and expected to fight for the podium in the home race. At first, the Spaniard kept his position, but in the second segment, within six laps, he lost both Hamilton and Russell. In the end, Sainz could not contain Pérez either, so he only managed fifth place at the finish line.
“One of the weak points of our car is the increased wear on the tires, and on tracks with a lot of fast corners, this is especially noticeable,” shared Carlos after the finish. – We took care of the tires throughout the distance and still lost our pace from time to time. It’s hard to say if the novelties have worked, because this track is perhaps the weakest for us.”
Sainz is second behind Verstappen
Photo: Adam Pretty/Getty Images
In Spain, Ferrari brought new sidepods and a redesigned bottom. Team leader Frederic Vasseur immediately emphasized that he did not expect a quick effect from the updates: the engineers are ready to add in the future when they can make further progress on the new concept. However, no effect is yet to be seen: tire wear from the start of the season continues to be a problem for Ferrari, and their car is often only the fourth-quickest in the field.
The problem of unstable behavior has not been solved either – Charles Leclerc spoke about this after the goal. According to him, after switching to “hard” at the last pit stop, the car began to behave completely differently and became nervous – these were the problems that both drivers talked about after the race in Miami. It seems that the car needs more updates.
But encouraged “Mercedes”
Mercedes also recently introduced new sidepods, and at first it seemed that the updates gave no special effect, and even Hamilton and Russell would now have to fight their way to the final of the standings. On a fast lap the Mercedes doesn’t really look the best, but over long runs on one of the most technically demanding tracks in Barcelona, the W14 turned out to be second quickest.
Spanish Grand Prix marks first double podium finish for Mercedes since Brazil 2022
Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images
Over the course of the distance, Hamilton and Russell moved ahead of the Aston Martin drivers, passing Carlos Sainz on one occasion, and before the first pit stops, George moved ahead of Esteban Ocon. In addition, the car handled the tires economically, and in the “software” starter kit, “Mercedes” lasted longer than other cars. The German team has managed to shoot from time to time before, but this success can be considered a sign of upcoming changes for the better.
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Pérez’s chances are now only theoretical
Cheko made a mistake in the second qualifying in a row and after the failure in Monaco in Barcelona he started only from 11th position. On Sunday, the Mexican showed himself dignified, but against the background of the powerful pace of Mercedes, he could only go as high as fourth. The gap to Verstappen in the general classification reached 53 points, meaning Max is guaranteed the lead until the Silverstone stage in early July.
Perez ahead of Hulkenberg
Photo: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Unfortunately, the gap itself is not surprising, and before the start of the season, few believed that Perez could force a title fight on Verstappen. It’s amazing how quickly Cheko fell off his teammate: in three races he lost 47 points to Max. The decline began in Miami, when Sergio couldn’t beat the Dutchman on fresh tyres. Now, to catch up with Verstappen in the championship, Pérez needs two retirements from Max at the same time or 7-8 races in a row, in which Sergio will be faster. Both are purely theoretical.
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track got better
In 2023, the Barcelona track was used for the first time in recent history without a chicane in the final sector; it appeared in 2007 to slow cars down, and the drivers didn’t like it. Eventually, the safety of the cars and the level of downforce reached such a level that the FIA recognized that it was possible to run without a segment that would only spoil the character of the track.
And in this configuration, the Barcelona track really got better! It is believed that it is not easy to overtake here, but this time, due to the final high-speed sector, the DRS on the start straight had a greater effect and therefore there were no problems and the fastest cars always had a chance to overtake get ahead of the opponent. Unfortunately, this always happened on the straight, even before going into the corner. However, its author is sure that with such a setup and without DRS, the race could have turned out to be more intense and less predictable.
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