F1: Catalunya – Max Verstappen Wins Ahead of Perez in a Red Bull 1-2
The Dutchman took his first win at Barcelona since his maiden F1 victory in 2016, as Charles Leclerc painfully retired from the lead.
Max Verstappen has won the Spanish Grand Prix in what was for once an eventful race at the Barcelona circuit, filled with some hard-fought battles and several unlucky moments that hindered the top drivers. The three podium finishers were all involved in a battle for several laps, but as they all ran different strategies respectively, it was Verstappen who came out on top, as Sergio Perez came home second with the fastest lap as well to make it another Red Bull 1-2, while George Russell claimed the final podium spot giving Mercedes their third podium of the season.
Charles Leclerc started well from pole, successfully defending Verstappen’s attack for the lead in the first turn. His teammate and home hero Carlos Sainz, however, suffered the opposite as he gradually lost three places within the first few corners. The Mercedeses meanwhile had decent getaways, and within the first turn Russell made his way to third. He was tagged by Sergio Perez coming down the inside, but luckily both drivers escaped any damage and was able to keep going. Lewis Hamilton suffered with worse luck as he collided with Kevin Magnussen in the fourth turn, which was later deemed as a racing incident. Magnussen ran off to the gravel, while Hamilton picked up a puncture and limped his car to the pits for new tyres.
Leclerc comfortably held the lead ahead of Verstappen, while Perez was stuck behind Russell in a battle for 4th despite multiple overtake attempts down the main straight. Moments later, Sainz spun out of turn 4 and ran onto the gravel, and luckily was able to rejoin the race. It was reported that gusts of wind in that corner contributed to the spin, which later on also caught out Verstappen when he lost control and ran to the gravel, rejoining behind Perez and Russell. The trio ended up in a breathtaking battle for 2nd, as Russell defended brilliantly against the charging Red Bulls, although it was partially aided by Verstappen’s malfunctioning DRS. With the Mercedes holding up both Red Bulls for a while, it allowed Leclerc to pull away even further and make a pit stop without compromising his race lead at all.
In what looked to be a commanding Ferrari victory, Leclerc’s engine failed on the 27th lap, and he painfully cruised his way back to the pits to retire his car. This gave Russell the temporary lead, while Red Bull allowed Perez to re-pass Verstappen to challenge for the lead again due to the Dutchman’s recurring DRS issues. Perez eventually found his way around Russell, pulling away with the lead before making his second pit stop for fresh mediums. Verstappen, who pitted earlier for softs shortly after the battle, took the race lead before pitting for fresh mediums after seven laps. He emerged behind Perez after the stop, but with fresher tyres he had the prime opportunity to catch his teammate for the lead.
With Verstappen running a significantly faster pace, Red Bull elected to swap positions, a move Perez called “unfair” but he complied anyway on lap 49. The Mexican pitted once more three laps later for fresh softs, in order to steal the fastest lap away from Hamilton and gain an extra point against Leclerc in the championship standings.
While Perez snatched the fastest lap and made ground from his 25-second deficit in the final fourteen laps, Verstappen was able to cruise to victory, crossing the line 13 seconds ahead of Perez, a commanding day for the Red Bulls as they take their second 1-2 of the season. Russell claimed the final podium spot 32.9 seconds from the lead and taking his third career podium.
Carlos Sainz was able to salvage 4th on his home grand prix, a solid result for the Spaniard although he is definitely ruing his poor start as well as the moment he spun to the gravel, which ultimately cost him a chance for the podium or even a maiden victory, especially with his teammate’s retirement from the lead. Lewis Hamilton impressively came back to 5th, after having to rejoin from last without the aid of any safety cars. Bottas meanwhile took another strong 6th for the Alfa Romeo squad, the sole finisher for the team as Zhou Guanyu suffered an engine failure during the race.
Esteban Ocon continues his consistent points run with another 7th place finish, while Lando Norris fought his way to 8th after starting 11th. Fernando Alonso returns to the points after a miserable run of bad luck in the last four grands prix, finishing 9th ahead of Yuki Tsunoda who claimed the final point. It was also an impressive comeback for the Spaniard at home, after his Q1 elimination and eventual grid penalty that sent him to start last when his team elected to change components.
Sebastian Vettel finished 11th, a solid performance after a disastrous qualifying for Aston Martin which saw both cars eliminated from Q1. Behind him was his former teammate Daniel Ricciardo, another race to forget after a promising qualifying where he ended 9th, the sole McLaren in Q3. Pierre Gasly also had a rather uneventful race, aside from colliding with Stroll in the first chicane late in the race which sent the Canadian spinning and facing the opposite way.
Mick Schumacher’s 2-stop strategy backfired as he gradually dropped places to the 3-stoppers late in the race, a disappointing end to his weekend after his Q3 appearance in the hunt for his maiden F1 points. Lance Stroll took 15th after losing positions from his collision with Gasly, while fellow Canadian Nicholas Latifi finished 16th once again, this time outracing his teammate for the first time in the season. Kevin Magnussen was unable to make up any ground after his first-lap collision, finishing 17th two laps down, and Alex Albon finished 18th and last. The Thai driver picked up a 5-second time penalty for exceeding track limits, but his position was unaffected.
Charles Leclerc and Zhou Guanyu were the only retirees of the race, both being victims to power unit failures in Ferrari-powered cars.
Leclerc’s retirement and Verstappen’s win allowed the Dutchman to take the championship lead with 110 points, six points ahead of the Ferrari driver. Sitting 3rd is Sergio Perez with 84 points, who looks a lot stronger in his second year for Red Bull and may just end up as a surprise contender for the championship. George Russell impressively sits 4th with 74 points to his tally, nine points ahead of Carlos Sainz in 5th, and eighteen ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton who covers the top six.
The next round in Monaco will motivate Charles Leclerc to retake the championship lead at home, but he is also yet to finish a home grand prix, a curse that has lasted all the way since his F2 season in 2017.
Featured Image – Red Bull Racing