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  • Writer's pictureBen Waterworth

Spanish Grand Prix talking points: Why the closer F1 field can't stop the same Verstappen result

In the latest edition of F1 talking points, we bring you all the hot topics from the Spanish Grand Prix just in time before we switch focus to the Austrian Grand Prix this weekend.

What’s on the agenda this time around? Let’s find out.

The field is closer, but the dominance still remains

No matter how you look at it, the gap at the front has closed.

We’ve seen that, particularly on the one-lap pace, with the last three pole positions all going to non-Red Bull drivers from three different teams.

However, we still are basically getting the same result at the end of the day, with Max Verstappen still the man to beat.

He has still won seven of the ten races this season, one less than this point last year and one more than this point in 2022. He also remains more than two wins clear at the top of the Drivers’ Championship.

This though can be put down to Verstappen himself, not necessarily the car. In comparison, his teammate Sergio Perez has skunked back into his usual mid-season dip and hasn’t remotely come close to the podium, let alone a win in the last few rounds.

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

So while Verstappen shines, Red Bull definitely has lost the pace advantage they have maintained for the early part of the season and the majority of 2023.

A close field is great. As is witnessing a great driver become even better.

Norris might be the second-best driver in the sport

For the first time in his career, Lando Norris sits second in the Drivers’ Championship.

It’s an outstanding feat by the Brit who continues to go from strength to strength.

He might also lay claim to the second-best driver in the sport right now. After his win in Miami, he easily could’ve won both the Canadian and Spanish races, and besides his fourth in Monaco, he has been runner-up in every race since.

Added to this is his stunning pole on the weekend, and there is no questioning the type of form and skill he is bringing to the table.

While Verstappen is the clear number one on the grid, Norris sits among a very select group of drivers who can lay claim to being the next best.

It just might be the case that, currently, he sits atop of that select group.

Can we talk about THAT start?

As Crofty told us it was “lights out and away we go”, all of our eyes were firmly fixed on the Red Bull and McLaren at the start.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t paying attention to the two Mercedes cars behind them, particularly the one in fourth of George Russell.

But before you could even realise what was happening, Russell had vaulted from fourth to first in one of the best starts we’ve seen in the sport in modern times.

(Photo by Motor Sport Magazine)

It wasn’t to be for Russell ultimately, as he found himself finishing the race off the podium and in fourth place.

But it deserves a mention once more as to just how incredible it was, and how it was able to inject just a tad of excitement into an otherwise dull race. Speaking of which…

Spain always brings the viewing pain

Monaco is always the annual punching bag for lack of excitement when it comes to races on the F1 calendar, but can I please present Spain and Barcelona as the one that deserves it the most?

Rack your memories right now and tell me the last time there was a decent Spanish Grand Prix. Hard isn’t it?

Even last year during my ‘top five races’ feature I did for each race, which was a particularly difficult one to do. Even then only two of them had come in the last 20 years.

The issue with Spain is of course that it is the ultimate middle circuit to fully test just where your car is at.

It was the circuit used by the teams the most for testing back in the day and is the track most drivers are familiar with.

You can test your car there to see how it works at high speed, low speed and everything else in between, making it a track that offers limited mistakes made by drivers and actions given how well it is known by everyone.

Barcelona isn’t Monaco. There is no glitz. There is no glamour. There is no history.

Sure it has some passionate fans and is located in a beautiful city. But the circuit is just dull and bland and has never produced good racing.

(Photo by GRANDPRIX247)

Thankfully there is hope on the horizon for the Spanish Grand Prix, with Barcelona set to host the race for one more year before switching to a brand-new circuit near Madrid in 2026.

Fingers crossed it will bring some decent racing to Spain for the first time in history.

Alpine improving on track but going downhill off it

It’s great to see Alpine making progress on the track with their performance recently.

After not scoring a point in the first five races, they have since managed to string together eight points in the last five, including double points finishes in the last two races alone.

But off track what is going on?

It’s no secret the team have had several interesting decisions made over the last few years, but hiring former boss of the Enstone outfit Flavio Briatore as ‘special advisor’ might just be the lowest point.

While there’s no questioning his success at the team under previous guises Benetton and Renault, this is also the man who tarnished the sport like perhaps no other person in the history of Formula 1 with ‘crashgate’ at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

So serious was this incident that Briatore was initially banned for life from motorsport, before ultimately having that overturned.

However, he hasn’t been in an official role in the sport since, and while it was maybe always suspected that he would return somewhere, nobody would’ve guessed it would’ve been back at the team that he so infamously threw under the bus through that race.

It just speaks volumes of where Alpine is at right now behind the scenes if they feel their best way forward is to bring back the man who caused so much damage to the sport and the Renault brand.

Let’s just hope that it won’t turn down the path that it did 16 years ago.

This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here


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