Berliner Tageblatt - Spanish Grand Prix - three things we learned

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Spanish Grand Prix - three things we learned
Spanish Grand Prix - three things we learned / Photo: © AFP

Spanish Grand Prix - three things we learned

Max Verstappen may have claimed his seventh win from 10 races this season but the Spanish Grand Prix was far from a walk on the park for the three-time world champion.

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Lando Norris blamed a poor start for failing to convert pole into victory as the in-form McLaren driver crossed the line just seconds behind Verstappen's Red Bull to suggest the 2024 title race is far from a done deal.

AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from an incident-packed weekend in Catalonia:

McLaren rue imperfect getaway

"Our dominance is completely gone" Max Verstappen said after Lando Norris pipped him to pole by two hundredths of a second in qualifying.

Although the Belgium-born Dutch driver took his by now customary place on the top rung of the podium at the end of Sunday's race it was by no means a straightforward afternoon drive in the Catalan sunshine -- he admitted he took the chequered flag in an inferior car.

Norris put aside the drama of his team's hospitality unit catching fire to harry Verstappen all the way to the line.

The result could well have been different but for Norris getting caught out on the run to the first corner by an inspired George Russell, who came from fourth on the grid, then by Verstappen at the start of lap three.

Norris blamed himself for not translating his hard-earned pole into a win, and if anything the weekend will have taught him and McLaren that it is going to require perfection and possibly a bit of luck to derail the Red Bull/Verstappen juggernaut.

"Not could have, I should have won it. I got a bad start. As simple as that" said Norris, who for the first time in his career moves up to second in the world championship, 69 points off Verstappen.

Spain was the first of a hectic triple-header, with Spielberg and its Austrian sprint followed by Silverstone over the next fortnight.

"Austria and Silverstone are two of my favourite tracks. I'm excited, we're on a roll. I just need to tidy a few bits to get on top" reflcted Norris.

Briatore - the past is a different country

The weekend began with an announcement from ailing Alpine that caused a stir.

Flavio Briatore left Formula One in disgrace after the damaging crashgate' incident at the 2008 Sinapore Grand Prix, which he always denied any wrongdoing.

Now 74, the former boss of Benetton guided Michael Schumacher to the first two of his seven-titles, then when the team became Renault two further titles in 2005-2006 wirh Fernando Alonso.

With Esteban Ocon leaving at the end of the season and Pierre Gasly's contract still up in the air the flamboyant Italian's reputation as a talent scout could come in handy for the slightly all at sea French outfit.

He was in Barcelona after his appointment as executive advisor to watch the two drivers who have clashed in Monaco and Canada finish in the top 10.

But Briatore's bruising past was a hot topic at the team's press conference on Saturday.

"I think everybody deserves the opportunity to come back. And for me, for sure, having another clever mind in Alpine, someone that is able to simplify things and apply common sense, is in any case, where Alpine is today, is a benefit," said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

One driver waiting in the wings to step in next season is their reserve driver, a certain Jack Doohan, son of five time Motorcycling world champion Mick Doohan.

Sainz losing sleep over next job

Carlos Sainz had love pouring from the stands at his last home Grand Prix as a Ferrari driver.

The 29-year-old Spaniard has never made the podium on his country's tarmac, and was desperate to change that before he relinquishes his seat to Lewis Hamilton in 2025.

Intensely unhappy at the way Hamilton muscled past him on Sunday he had to settle for sixth.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen described him as "the cork in the bottle" in terms of the fluid driver's market.

Sainz said his choice of next employer was taking up too much space in his head as he weighs up the pros and cons of buying into Williams' long term project or take a risk with Sauber and its Audi works team from 2026.

Either choice is a gamble, but he promises to take time out to make a decision shortly, which will then trigger a domino effect involving the likes of Magnussen, Daniel Ricciardo, Ocon, Gasly, Bottas, and Zhou Guanyu.