Max Verstappen clinched his third consecutive victory at the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix on Sunday, while McLaren’s pole-sitter Lando Norris lamented a poor start that he believes cost him the win.

The British driver’s frustration was palpable as he crossed the finish line just 2.2 seconds behind Red Bull’s triple world champion after 66 laps around Barcelona’s sun-drenched Circuit de Catalunya.

“I should have won,” said the disappointed driver, now Verstappen’s closest challenger in a title battle that still looks one-sided despite rivals catching up.

“Not could have. Should have won. I got a bad start. Simple as that. The car was incredible. We were the quickest, and I lost it at the beginning. A lot of positives this weekend. One negative, and that kind of ruined everything.”

Well behind the top two, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton finished third for his first podium appearance of the season, while Mercedes teammate George Russell was overtaken and ended up fourth.

Verstappen extended his championship lead to a hefty 69 points over Norris, who also banked a bonus point for the fastest lap.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was fifth after taking the checkered flag just 0.3 seconds behind Russell, following a wheel-banging tussle on lap four with teammate Carlos Sainz, who finished sixth in front of his home crowd.

Leclerc said the clash damaged his front wing at a time when he was trying to manage the tires, and he would be having words with the Spaniard, who is making way for Hamilton at the end of the season.

“He is motivated to do something spectacular, but I was probably not the right person to do that with,” said the Monegasque.

Sainz also took issue with Hamilton after being forced wide by the Briton, but stewards saw no need for action.

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri was seventh, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez eighth on a three-stop strategy, with Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon taking the final points for Renault’s underperforming Alpine team.

Poor start

Norris had beaten Verstappen by 0.020 seconds on Saturday to secure only the second pole of his F1 career, but any advantage slipped through the 24-year-old’s fingers as soon as the lights went out.

As Verstappen and Norris battled into the first corner, with the Red Bull squeezed onto the grass in what team boss Christian Horner called “fairly robust racing,” Russell rocketed past around the outside from fourth.

Verstappen knew he needed to get past Russell as soon as possible and did so by lap three, allowing him to ease clear and build a buffer.

“I think what made the race was the beginning,” he said. “I took the lead and made that first stint where I could eke out a gap a little bit.

“After that, we had to drive kind of a defensive race. Lando and McLaren were very quick today. I think we did everything well; we drove quite an aggressive strategy, but luckily it played out to the end.”

Norris did a longer first stint, looking to strategy to help close the gap, although a slow first pitstop cost him precious time, and began to close on Verstappen, who was told to push to the end because the McLaren was not saving its tires.

The win was Verstappen’s seventh in 10 races so far this season and the 61st of his career.

He now has 219 points to Norris’s haul of 150 and Leclerc’s 148, while Red Bull has 330 to Ferrari’s 270 with McLaren third on 237.

“Max demonstrated why he is the world champion,” said Horner, whose team now looks forward to a home race in Austria next weekend. “At the key moments, he delivers.”

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