Verstappen wins in Spain to take title lead as Leclerc retires
Max Verstappen fought back from an early spin to win the Spanish Grand Prix after title rival Charles Leclerc retired from a dominant lead.
It was Verstappen’s fourth victory in six races this year, helped by Red Bull imposing team orders on Sergio Perez. It gives him the championship lead for the first time in 2022 and he heads to Monaco next weekend with a six-point advantage over Leclerc.
Mercedes’ George Russell took a strong third after a long and valiant attempt to hold Verstappen at bay early in the race.
And his team-mate Lewis Hamilton fought back to fifth place following a first-lap collision with Kevin Magnussen’s Haas, which gave the seven-time champion a puncture and dropped him to the back of the field.
Hamilton moved into fourth behind Russell with a move on Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz around the outside of Turn One with six laps to go.
But Hamilton lost the position again after being told to slow down because he had a coolant leak, and could not use full throttle.
Russell received the same message to lift-and-coast at the end of the race. In his case, his car was overheating throughout the grand prix.
Verstappen salvages victory from mistake
Verstappen has had his share of bad luck this season, with two retirements from the first three races, but he certainly enjoyed some good fortune in Spain.
Leclerc was on course for a comfortable victory after a rare error from Verstappen saw the world champion spin into the gravel at Turn Four on lap nine.
The race had looked finely poised between the two until that point, with Leclerc leading by two seconds, but Verstappen’s spin changed the complexion of the race.
It put him behind Russell, and despite the Red Bull’s much greater pace, Verstappen was unable to pass the Mercedes.
Verstappen was held back by a DRS overtaking aid that rarely worked, but at the same time Russell put in a superb defensive drive to hold the Red Bull back for 19 laps.
In the end, Red Bull decided to switch strategy to get Verstappen past Russell, and stopped him on lap 28 for a set of soft tyres.
That allowed him to run in clear air, and when he stopped again on lap 44 for a final set of mediums, he emerged ahead of Russell, with only Perez ahead.
Red Bull told the Mexican not to hold Verstappen up, and he was past into the lead a few laps later, a decision Perez said was “unfair”. On his slowing down lap, he said: “I am happy for the team, but we have to speak later.” (BBC Sport)