Three-time world champion Max Verstappen won the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday after a decisive early move and an “aggressive strategy” from Red Bull to deny McLaren’s pole-sitter Lando Norris and extend his lead in the world championship.
Lewis Hamilton completed the podium at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit as the Mercedes seven-time former champion returned to the podium for the first time since Mexico last season.
The racing may be closer than the past two seasons but Verstappen always seems to pull it out of the bag when it matters most.
This was his 61st career win, seventh of the season, and fourth at the track where he first shot onto the F1 scene as a teenager in 2016.
And it pushed him another step further to a fourth straight title with Austria and Silverstone coming up over the next two weekends.
“I think what made the race was at the beginning I took the lead on lap two and that’s where I had my buffer,” said the 26-year-old.
“I think we did everything well, we drove an aggressive strategy but luckily it paid off until the end. Very happy to win here.”
Fourth-placed George Russell in the other Mercedes enjoyed a stunning start.
With Verstappen to the left of Norris, and Russell to the right of him in the charge into the first turn at the end of the long straight, the pole-sitter came out the loser.
As Norris grappled with Verstappen it was Russell, unsighted, who pulled out from fourth on the grid to take command.
“I got a bad start. As simple as that. The car was incredible today, we were for sure the quickest, I just lose it in the beginning,” rued Norris, who climbs into second in the drivers’ standings for the first time in his career.
Ferrari-bound Hamilton, who received a huge cheer from the Catalan crowd on the podium, said: “Unfortunately, like Lando, I got a really bad start.
“It’s been a solid weekend, I have to say a big thank you to the team as they’ve been training so hard on the pit-stops and the strategy, and they were on point.”
Verstappen raced in second from Norris with Hamilton in fourth.
Two laps later, at the end of the straight, Verstappen made his race-winning move.
He was told by his race engineer this “might be our best opportunity Max” and the Dutch ace needed no second invitation, producing a beautiful pass to deprive Russell of the lead, surging over one second clear of the Briton, with Norris less than a second back.
In the first flurry of pit stops after around a quarter of the 66-lap race Russell had a slow stop, emerging in eighth as Verstappen led by almost five seconds.
Hamilton had a quicker stop than his teammate as Verstappen headed in for a change of tyres, returning to the circuit in fourth behind yet-to-pit Norris.
A feisty Hamilton zipped past home hero Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari and up to sixth at turn one, with contact between the pair.
Norris and his team were trying a different strategy, staying out longer before a new set of rubber.
He eventually ‘boxed’ for fresher tyres, to slot back in behind Sainz in sixth.
At halfway it was the familiar presence of Verstappen with a six second gap from Russell, from Norris, back in third after a straightforward overtake past Hamilton.
A few laps later Norris bested Russell after a bit of nip and tuck between the pair to leave only Verstappen ahead of him, albeit around nine seconds up the road.
Russell promptly pitted as the race entered its business stage, Norris chipping away at Verstappen’s lead.
On lap 45 Verstappen came in for a second time, as Norris followed suit, setting up a compelling conclusion in Catalonia.
Norris had over six seconds to make up on his Red Bull rival with 15 laps left as Hamilton moved past his teammate to put himself in the running for his first podium of 2024.
“We need to push to the end now Max,” Verstappen’s engineer urged on the team radio. He took the chequered flag for the third straight year at one of his favourite tracks by a little over two seconds from Norris.
Verstappen heads to Red Bull’s home race in Spielberg in a week’s time with a 69-point lead over Norris, who earned a point for the fastest lap, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, fifth on Sunday, third, two points further back.

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