Max Verstappen wins dramatic Spanish F1 GP after Charles Leclerc retires | Formula One

bourbiza22 May 2022Last Update : 4 weeks ago
Max Verstappen wins dramatic Spanish F1 GP after Charles Leclerc retires | Formula One

Max Verstappen won an incident-packed Spanish Grand Prix for Red Bull after fighting through technical problems, coming back for a crucial victory in front of his teammate Sergio Pérez. In a dramatic race in Barcelona where Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc retired with a loss of power, it ensured his world championship lead has disappeared, with Verstappen now on top in what is a tooth and nail fight.

Britain’s George Russell put in a superb performance to return third place for Mercedes while his teammate Lewis Hamilton managed an exellent recovery to fifth having dropped to 19th after an opening lap incident. Carlos Sainz was fourth for Ferrari.

The win has seen Leclerc’s 19-point lead switched to a six-point advantage in Verstappen’s favour after six meetings with 16 to go. A turnaround that had seemed unthinkable for much of the race with Leclerc enjoying a dominant lead until mechanical failure left him bereft. Verstappen and Red Bull stuck at their task, however, and delivered an adaptive strategy to secure an impressive win.

This is Verstappen’s 24th career win and ominously his third in a row this season in which he now has four victories, indeed he has now won every race in which he was not stymied by mechanical failures.

Leclerc held his lead on the run into turn one, while Russell made it past Sainz to take third but behind him Hamilton had a disastrous opening. Starting in sixth he was clipped by Kevin Magnussen in the Haas as he attempted to go round the outside of the British driver at turn four.

Both drivers were forced to pit with punctures and Hamilton emerged in 19th. The stewards took no action, judging it a racing incident.

Leclerc and Verstappen swiftly opened a four-second gap to Russell, while Hamilton was reporting his car was handling terribly and suggested it would be better to retire the car to save the engine. Mercedes however believed he could still salvage points and urged him to race on.

Charles Leclerc leads the Spanish Grand Prix ahead of Max Verstappen
Charles Leclerc leads the Spanish Grand Prix ahead of Max Verstappen before the Ferrari driver was forced to retire. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Turn four was proving a treacherous corner for other drivers, too. Sainz had gone wide there and dropped places and on lap nine. Verstappen followed him into the gravel in an uncharacteristic error, prompted by high tail winds into the corner, as he lost the rear, dropping him to fourth.

Russell, now up to second, was making a superb fist of holding up Pérez and then Verstappen, who had swiftly made it past his teammate to third. Verstappen was once more suffering from his DRS flap intermittently failing to open which had cost him in qualifying despite Red Bull having replaced the unit for the race.

Russell and Verstappen both pitted on lap 13 to take the medium tyres and came out line astern. Verstappen charged and had Russell in range but with his DRS failing he could not make the pass as Russell defended brilliantly. Verstappen was furious as it appeared the win was slipping away as Leclerc made hay out front.

By the time Leclerc pitted on lap 21 he had opened enough of a gap to stop and emerge still holding his lead. With Red Bull thinking on the hoof they advised Verstappen to attempt to operate his DRS after he came off the kerb on the entry to the straight and it appeared to work. He had it open on lap 23 and the pair went wheel to wheel through turn one and into two and three as Russell refused to yield, brilliantly squeezing the Dutchman wide.

Leclerc however suffered his own heartbreak. Losing power on lap 26 he was forced to retire, promoting Russell to the lead. Red Bull acted immediately pitting Verstappen again for fresh tyres to allow him to attack again.

Pérez with working DRS could not be held off by Russell and he passed for the lead on lap 30. Russell took his second stop on lap 36 by which point Verstappen had done enough to clear him for second and the team pitted Pérez a lap later.

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It left the race finely poised. Verstappen led but having pounded his tyres would require one more stop. He duly came in on lap 44 and emerged in front of Russell and five seconds behind his teammate.

Pérez was unsurprisingly informed by the team he had to let Verstappen though if he was quicker. The Mexican was not happy, describing it as “unfair” but he played the game. Verstappen had him in sight within three laps and Pérez allowed him past on lap 48. It was early in the year for team orders but Red Bull, anticipating a season-long battle for the title with Ferrari, were backing the driver at the sharp end of that fight.

Hamilton, having worked his way through the field made a late stop for fresh tyres and his team’s confidence paid off as he made it through to pass Sainz for fourth on lap 59. A remarkable result but he could not hold the place when the team told him he had to ease off the pace as his car had an issue that could cause a DNF. However Hamilton managed to coax it over the line for fifth.

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