Max Verstappen holds off Lando Norris to extend title lead with Spanish GP win

The Dutchman claimed his third win from the last four races to extend his title lead to 69 points.

Max Verstappen held off the charge of Lando Norris (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)
Max Verstappen held off the charge of Lando Norris (AP Photo/Joan Monfort) (Joan Monfort/AP)

Max Verstappen held off Lando Norris’ late charge to win the Spanish Grand Prix and extend his championship lead.

Norris started from pole position but dropped to third after he was outfoxed by Verstappen and George Russell at the opening bend following a poor getaway in Barcelona.

But the McLaren driver took on a different strategy to his rivals to afford himself a last-gasp surge for victory on fresher rubber.

However, Norris ran out of steam in his pursuit of Verstappen with the Dutchman claiming his third win from the last four races to extend his title lead to 69 points.

Lewis Hamilton passed Mercedes team-mate Russell with 14 laps remaining to take the final spot on the podium. Russell, despite having led the opening two laps, finished fourth.

Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc took fifth and sixth respectively for Ferrari.

Norris rued his getaway over the radio. “I should have won,” he said. “I f***** up the start. Car was amazing. Deserved more.”

Speaking after the chequered flag, Norris said: “I got a bad start. Simple as that. We were the quickest and I lost it at the beginning. A lot of positives this weekend and one negative ruined everything. I need to work it out for next time.”

Norris delivered the lap of his life to secure only his second pole of his career but the 24-year-old was on the back foot from the get-go when he dropped two positions before the opening bend.

Verstappen has won three of the last four races to restore a commanding championship lead (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)
Verstappen has won three of the last four races to restore a commanding championship lead (AP Photo/Joan Monfort) (Joan Monfort/AP)

Norris aggressively moved to his right to cover off Verstappen on the long run down to the first corner, only for the Red Bull to sneak down the McLaren man’s inside.

On the other side of the track, Russell, from fourth on the grid, blasted clear of a slow-starting Hamilton before moving into the tow of both Verstappen and Norris and then sling-shotting his Mercedes into the lead.

But Russell’s moment of glory lasted a little more than two laps with Verstappen attacking the Mercedes driver on the 210mph charge to the first corner.

Russell attempted to cover off Verstappen by hogging the inside line only for the three-time world champion to place his Red Bull on the British driver’s outside before making the move stick at the next corner. By the end of the lap, Verstappen had moved one second clear, and, crucially, out of DRS range.

On to the pit stops and Russell was the first of the leaders to take on fresh rubber on lap 15. Hamilton was in on the next lap, with Verstappen stopping on lap 17. But Norris elected to stay out.

Asked by his engineer if he wanted to cover off Russell, an ambitious Norris said: “I think we need to go and get Max.”

Further back, Hamilton was muscling his way past Sainz – the Spaniard who he will replace at Ferrari next year. The pair banged wheels and, although the stewards noted the incident, they took no action.

“I don’t know why we don’t follow the rulebook,” a disgruntled Sainz complained.

Back at the sharp end and six laps after Verstappen’s stop, Norris was in for fresh medium tyres.

He emerged in sixth, promoted one place to fifth when Leclerc pitted before he was on Hamilton’s gearbox by lap 31.

On lap 32, Norris cruised ahead of his countryman to take fourth and on lap 35, Norris went wheel-to-wheel with another of the grid’s British stars.

Norris launched his McLaren round the outside of Russell at turn three only for Russell to swoop back past at turn four.

The two young Englishmen were separated by mere centimetres, with Norris dropping two of his McLaren wheels on the grass before eventually forcing his way ahead at turn seven. Verstappen was now 9.2 sec up the road.

Norris was taking chunks of time out of Verstappen and when the Dutch driver stopped for a second time on lap 44, Norris was within five seconds.

Norris waited a further three laps before pitting in the hope his rubber would come alive at the end of the race. He left the pits eight seconds behind Verstappen with 19 laps to run.

And, although he turned on the after-burners in the closing stages, he never got close enough to challenge Verstappen for the lead and crossed the line 2.2 sec back.

Russell might be wondering why he was put on the hardest compound by Mercedes when he stopped for a second time.

Team-mate Hamilton was handed the speediest soft rubber and comfortably moved ahead of his team-mate on lap 52 to claim his first podium of the year.

Hamilton, who finished 17.7 seconds adrift, said: “It has been a good day and a solid weekend. Like Lando, I got a bad start and lost ground to the Ferraris.

“With a better start, although I am not sure if we could have held on (to Verstappen and Norris), I am sure we would have not been as far behind as we were.”

Elsewhere, Oscar Piastri took seventh, with Sergio Perez eighth in his Red Bull.