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Analysis
Formula 1 Spanish GP

How Verstappen's lost lap would have extended his Barcelona F1 dominance

Max Verstappen belting up aboard the Red Bull RB19 to then blow his opposition away is not new to Formula 1 in 2023.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

Yet his dash to pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix was made that bit easier again when the only other driver to top a qualifying shootout this term, Charles Leclerc, was knocked out in Q1. Two more big scalps were claimed in Q2 as Sergio Perez and George Russell were also eliminated.

His path looking clearer, Verstappen was left to bolt to a 1m12.272s effort with some eight minutes of Q3 remaining. Despite track evolution being exacerbated by drizzle earlier in the day helping to clean the asphalt, no one could use the faster track to knock him off the top spot.

Runner-up Carlos Sainz crossed the timing line at the death to run some 0.462s adrift. Meanwhile, McLaren's Lando Norris completed the top three another 0.058s in arrears.

But unlike numerous past cases of a Red Bull driver running early in Q3 to then jump out of the car and wait for events to unfold, safe in the knowledge their pole was secure, Verstappen insisted he head out for one last lap.

Largely against the team's will, as the chequered flag flew at the end of Q3, he was on another charge that would very likely have extended his command over the field.

At the end of the first sector, marked by the entry into the Turn 4 left-hander, Verstappen had in fact ceded 0.025s to his previous personal best. But then he turned up the wick through the sector part of the lap.

He flashed purple by the point he hit the brakes into Turn 10. A run time of 28.903s was not only 0.251s quicker than any other driver managed through the second sector, but also 0.161s up on his own pole effort.

By this point, Verstappen was 0.136s up on his personal best before backing off the lap. With it by then evident no driver was going to come close, race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase jumped on the radio to tell Verstappen to "abort" to minimise the risk and keep an extra lap of life in the soft tyres, should they be required in the race.

Pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, celebrates in Parc Ferme after Qualifying

Pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, celebrates in Parc Ferme after Qualifying

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Verstappen explained the climax, saying: "The team first said, 'We're not going to drive at all' at the end of Q3. But I really wanted to drive because I knew there was more time in it.

"The team said, 'OK, we'll still go out, but we'll let you know right away if anyone goes faster or not'. Then no one turned out to go any faster.

"By Turn 10, I was already almost two tenths under my own time, so it still would have been a nice lap. But in the end, it wasn't necessary."

All told, Verstappen never had the opportunity to improve on his previous final-sector effort of 21.672s, which likely would have tumbled anyway since he was unhappy with his Turn 10 and 12 exits from before.

Verstappen reckoned he had carried more speed into Turn 10 on his last attempt and then, if it had been required, was prepared to increase the risk through the high-speed final corner.

He said: "Unfortunately, the last corner wasn't flat for me. I never really got to try it. Maybe I would have tried it on the last lap…

"Over time, cars are improving. Next year, if we come back, then probably it's flat."

Notably, as early as FP2, Verstappen had taken the final turn with 75% throttle compared to 50% for Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso.

Verstappen reckoned that had he hooked up the rest of the lap, and perhaps have kept the throttle pinned, he would have plausibly been the only driver of the weekend to dip into the 1m11s.

So, whereas Verstappen's oft-praised lap for a potential pole in Saudi Arabia in 2021 was scuppered by the concrete wall, this time it was the pit wall that had other ideas.

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