Spanish Grand Prix: McLaren's taste of hope ruined

Published on 6 June 2023 at 13:00

Megan Taylor


Circuit de Barcelona- Catalunya hosted round eight of this season. Home to Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso. They had their country’s support in claiming victory, but unfortunately, the Barcelona track was once again dominated by Red Bull.


Drivers had 66 laps to push for victory. The race distance is a total of 307.236 Kilometres. The circuit includes a mix of corners, low, medium and high speeds, which can make the car set-up tricky.  However, it was a good circuit to introduce upgrades on cars which paid off for Mercedes, who achieved a two-three podium finish.


Let’s take a look at this weekend.


In free practice one, the new test tyres made their debut. Reportedly they were supposed to be for the 2024 season, but considering the speed of the cars, Pirelli decided to do an early launch. There were multiple complaints of bouncing through the laps, including Verstappen, Russell and Perez.


Free practice two included rookie Piastri and Mercedes driver George Russell having a run-in, resulting in Russell landing in the gravel due to dirty air from Piastri. It was clear that the hard right corners caused stress on the front left side of the car. Whilst the top three drivers have been fairly regular, this free practice Nico Hulkenberg made it to third place.


Lightening made an appearance during free practice three. A red flag was waved for the first time caused by rookie Logan Sargeant. He sent his Williams into a barrier, luckily, there wasn’t too much damage, but he sure does like keeping his engineers busy. The gravel wasn’t shy of any drivers this weekend.


Qualifying included another red flag. However, this was from a more experienced driver who had qualified in first place and finished on the podium in Barcelona multiple times before. Valtteri Bottas found himself starting in 16th place. The most shocking part of qualifying session one was previous pole sitter Charles Leclerc only making it to 19th position. The Brits dominated Q1, with Lewis Hamilton, George Russell and Lando Norris making it to the top three.  


In qualifying session 2, Red Bull driver Sergio Perez had another strike of bad luck with the gravel finishing his session and leaving him in 11th place. George Russell complained of having ‘No confidence in his tyres’, which landed him in a disappointing 12th position.

Hass driver and newly returned Nico Hulkenberg had an impressive first part of the weekend, making it to Q3 and putting in some impressive lap times. He out-qualified his teammate significantly by driving to 7thplace.

Both McLaren drivers made it to Q3 remarkably. Rookie Oscar Piastri seems to be adjusting to the underwhelming McLaren this year, as well as Lando Norris, who is pushing it to its limit. Finishing behind his former teammate Carlos Sainz, the Brit started race day in 3rd place. McLaren had the best qualifying position all season and gave the papaya fans something to cheer for.


However, disaster struck when contact with Hamilton during the opening lap of the race made Norris pit lap two due to losing his front wing. The seven-time world champion, however, climbed his way into third place. Watching Norris slip from third to last within seconds was heartbreaking for McLaren fans. This season has been one problem after another for the team. Could this season be a deal breaker for the long-standing driver?  


There was a fierce battle between Hulkenberg, Tsnuoda and Zhou Guanyu. Despite being at the back of the pack, they fought for the points. The luck was out for Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, who was punished with a five-second penalty after the FIA reviewed an incident involving the Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu. Tsunoda pushed Zhou off the track and landed himself out of the points due to his actions.


Mercedes and their upgrades displayed their upgrades with a two-three podium finish. George Russell climbed up the grid by nine places and finished in third place behind his teammate Lewis Hamilton. The Brits found themselves alongside their rivals Red Bull. Barcelona has been Mercedes’s most successful weekend.


Barcelona’s podium was once again graced with the Dutch national anthem. We are yet to see a different constructor on the first-place podium. Red Bull continues to prove their dominance. Although Sergio Perez struggled with qualifying in the last two rounds, he made his way up to 4th, just missing the last step.


In post-race interviews, there were mixed emotions, as usual. However, the Mercedes team were united in their delight.

Lewis Hamilton said,

“It is what we were hoping for. It is down to all the great, great people at the factory.”

He continued to praise his younger teammate and his impressive race. The team of Hamilton and Russell has been positive during their time together.

Do you see Hamilton as a mentor for Russell?


George Russel was thrilled to receive his first podium of the season. He reported.

“The upgrades worked as expected. We’re looking for the next to close the gap to Red Bull. Mercedes is the best team with development.”

The young driver has the ambition to chase the constructor leaders. Many have said he has the potential to be a world champion. Perhaps Mercedes is the team to get him there.


However, an interview with Lando Norris had a very different atmosphere. The loyal McLaren driver was very frustrated as he answered questions.

When asked about the collision, he replied,

“It was just racing; it was unlucky. They knew they would be slow.” “Lap 1 cost us everything.”

He then continued to say,

“Expectations were too high.”

His successful qualifying was the confidence boost they desperately needed, but unfortunately, he couldn’t bring it home. Whilst others are more positive about their team, he didn’t hold back admitting their speed weakness. This led many to believe his time with McLaren is limited if they can’t produce a successful car.


Barcelona has tested new tyres and upgrades and produced a new podium combination. Mercedes have proved their upgrades were worth the wait. Another unfortunate result for McLaren after such a successful start.


Could Mercedes be a competitor with Red Bull with their upgrades? And do you think McLaren could lose Lando Norris?


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