RACE DEBRIEF

    Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen continued their intense title fight in Spain, with the former hunting down his Red Bull rival with fresher tyres to snatch a third victory in four races. But it wasn’t just the front battle that kept us entertained. We’ve picked out six winners and five losers from Sunday’s race…

    Winner: Lewis Hamilton

    It was midnight on Friday in Spain, and while many would have understandably been asleep, Lewis Hamilton was emailing back and forth with his engineer Pete Bonnington trying to find performance, having only left the track a couple of hours previously.

    Hamilton is leaving no stone unturned, despite his immense experience, in his pursuit of a record eighth world title. The next day, he secured a remarkable 100th pole position, going on to convert it into victory for the 59th time in his illustrious career.

    READ MORE: Wolff praises Mercedes strategists for ‘faultless execution’ in Hamilton's Barcelona win

    It was also his fifth successive Spanish Grand Prix win, tying Ayrton Senna’s record for most consecutive wins at a single venue – Senna won five straight Monaco GPs – and it moves him onto 94 points after just four races, making this the best start to a season in his career.

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    Hamilton celebrates his third victory of the season in Spain

    Loser: Max Verstappen

    Max Verstappen did everything right in what was his 100th Grand Prix for Red Bull and the scene of his maiden F1 win that came five years previously – but ultimately he did not have the pace to win.

    The Dutchman can take heart from having led 54 of the 66 laps, in the process ending Hamilton’s run of consecutive laps led in Spain since midway through the 2018 race, and leading Red Bull’s 4000th lap as a constructor.

    READ MORE: Verstappen says he was a 'sitting duck' in Hamilton fight, as he defends Red Bull strategy call

    This continues to be his best start to a F1 season – but he leaves Spain with a bigger gap to Hamilton (14 points) and heads to Monaco needing to find a way to keep his title challenge on track.

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    Verstappen trails in the championship - and needs to get back to winning ways

    Winner: Charles Leclerc

    This is the best Charles Leclerc has ever driven. The Monegasque is revelling in having a machine that not only looks silky smooth out on track but has the pace to compete consistently for strong points finishes.

    Right now, he’s getting everything out of the car – and then some. Fourth ties his best result of the season and continues his run of scoring points inside the top six at every race this year.

    READ MORE: ‘P4 the best we could have done’ – Leclerc delighted with ‘very competitive’ Ferrari performance in Spain

    That puts him fifth in the drivers’ standings and heats up an intriguing battle with Lando Norris, who has also scored in all four races and sits just one point ahead in fourth.

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    Leclerc kept Bottas behind for the first stint - and came home an impressive fourth

    Losers: Red Bull

    Red Bull will have headed to Spain believing they had the pace to win this Grand Prix and wrestle the momentum back in their favour in the championship fight.

    But instead they left even further behind Mercedes in the constructors’ championship – 29 points – and suffering the pain of having led almost all of the Grand Prix before losing the win because of an inferior strategy.

    The reality is they could have done little else based on the cards they had. But they would have given themselves a better chance had they had an extra set of mediums – rather than softs – like Mercedes, or had Sergio Perez further up the field to make Mercedes’ decision to pit Hamilton for a second time a much riskier proposition.

    READ MORE: Why Red Bull were always likely to lose to Mercedes in Spain, however the strategy battle played out

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    Another double points finish - but Red Bull need to get back to winning ways

    Of course, we’re all cleverer with hindsight, but this title fight will be won on fine margins and Red Bull ended up on the wrong side of those yet again.

    Winner: Daniel Ricciardo

    Daniel Ricciardo needed a stronger weekend after a turbulent start to life at McLaren, and Spain offered the first real shoot of hope that the worst may now be behind him.

    The Australian beat McLaren team mate Norris for the first time, equalled his best result of the season with sixth and scored in Spain for the first time since leaving Red Bull at the end of 2018.

    READ MORE: Ricciardo happy to face 'good problems' on way to joint-best finish for McLaren

    And if that wasn’t enough, he also extended his scoring streak to 15 Grands Prix, two short of his career-best set in 2016.

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    Ricciardo put in comfortably his best performance since joining McLaren in Spain

    Loser: Fernando Alonso

    Fernando Alonso was in good spirits as he made it two Alpines in the top 10 in qualifying, but a “very optimistic” strategy – his words, not ours – saw him drop like a sack of potatoes from ninth to 17th in the final few laps.

    It means he has now scored in just half the races he has competed in since returning to F1 – and has yet to finish ahead of team mate Esteban Ocon at the chequered flag.

    READ MORE: Alonso blames ‘very optimistic’ Alpine strategy for late plunge to 17th at home race

    Winner: Esteban Ocon

    This is quite some run of form Esteban Ocon is on right now, the Frenchman’s ninth place was his sixth points finish in seven Grands Prix.

    As mentioned previously, he has yet to be beaten by team mate Alonso – and has outqualified the double world champion in the last three sessions.

    Formula One World Championship
    By the time Alonso pitted for a second time, the points were long out of reach for the Spaniard at his home race

    His third straight points score puts him ninth in the drivers’ standings, two points clear of compatriot Pierre Gasly.

    Loser: Yuki Tsunoda

    Yuki Tsunoda retired (through no fault of his own) for the first time in his F1 career in Spain, making it three races without a top 10 finish having scored points on his debut in Bahrain.

    READ MORE: Gasly annoyed over 'really silly' five-second penalty despite points in Spain

    The Japanese driver has grown increasingly frustrated on team radio and been unable to replicate that strong performance on his opening weekend. In qualifying, he has now been knocked out of Q1 twice in four attempts.

    2021 Spanish Grand Prix: Tsunoda retires after engine failure

    Winner: Carlos Sainz

    Carlos Sainz was disappointed with seventh, believing he could have finished at least fifth behind team mate Leclerc, but it was nonetheless his third points finish in four races to regain momentum after he failed to score in Portugal.

    It also maintained his 100% record of scoring in all seven of his home Grands Prix and very much keeps him in the mix to fight once more for the title of ‘best of the rest’ this season.

    READ MORE: Sainz left unsatisfied with P7 as he says Ferrari were ‘quickest’ midfielders in Spain

    Losers: Aston Martin

    This race was moderately better for Aston Martin, as they got two cars home 11th and 13th, compared to 13th and 14th in Portugal, but it was a second consecutive race without scoring a point – and that leaves them still on single figures in the constructors’ championship.

    They can take hope from Vettel appearing to be a touch more comfortable with the car, having received the upgrade package in Spain – a race later than his team mate – while Stroll was just five seconds off a point, but having finished fourth and fifth at the same track last year they expect far better.

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    Stroll had an entertaining fight with Alonso but ultimately wound up outside the points

    Winner: The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya

    The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has a reputation for processional races – but this year’s event was anything but.

    There was tension throughout as it remained unclear whether it would be Hamilton or Verstappen who would take victory, while there were great battles through the field, including a six-car fight for the final couple of points.

    And it was lovely to see fans back in the grandstands on Sunday – even if the numbers were limited to 1000.

    HIGHLIGHTS: Watch all the action from the Spanish GP as Hamilton beats Verstappen to victory