Max Verstappen won the Spanish Grand Prix. Despite the gravel bed excursion and DRS problems, the world champion finally prevailed over teammate Sergio Perez. Charles Leclerc retired with an engine problem on the way to victory.
After his retirement in Melbourne, Max Verstappen grumbled that this season would have to run over 55 races before he caught up with Charles Leclerc in the World Championship standings. The change in leadership was now achieved in the sixth Grand Prix of the year. The world champion benefited in Barcelona from a failure of his direct Ferrari rival. Verstappen triumphed in the end, although he himself didn't manage the 66 laps without problems.
At the start everything looked like a sovereign affair for Leclerc. With the advantage of the fresh tires, the Monegasque easily defended the lead through the first corners. The pursuers behind them made a number of mistakes in the early stages. On lap seven, team-mate Carlos Sainz spun into the gravel in turn 4 and thus retired from the fight for the podium places.
Leclerc on his way to victory
Just two laps later, Verstappen was thrown off track by a gust of wind at the same spot. The Dutchman was just able to avoid a spin and lost only two positions against George Russell and Sergio Perez. The Red Bull internal order was quickly changed. But the Mercedes proved to be a tough nut to crack. It didn't help that the DRS only worked sporadically on Verstappen's car. The folding wing had already gone on strike in qualifying.
While the pursuers lost time in their duels, Leclerc was able to increase his lead at the top. The Scuderia driver had everything under control when the drive suddenly failed on lap 26. Leclerc could only sneak to the pits and park his car. The frustration could be seen in the 24-year-old. Even the consoling pats on the back from his mechanics didn't help.
"I have to look at the positive aspects. The pace was good all weekend. The tire management also worked. That gives me confidence for the next races," explained the unlucky man. "I'm not interested in the fact that I lost my lead in the championship. It's more important that the performance is right." Team boss Mattia Binotto didn't lament for long either: "It's going to be a long season. Something like this has happened to the others. It was our turn today. That's how the game works. We have to get to the bottom of the problem now."
Red Bull beats Russell
Even Russell couldn't help Ferrari in the end. Because Verstappen couldn't pass on the track, the Red Bull squad took him early for the second pit stop and put him on soft tires. Perez in the second Red Bull made short work of the Silver Arrow on the track.Thanks to the functioning DRS, he simply drove past on lap 30 on the home straight. Thanks to his superior pace, Verstappen made the additional pit stop on the track. He got back on track after his third tire change ahead of Russell.
With the fresher rubber, the world champion also went on the hunt for his own teammate. Finally, on lap 49, there was a change of place, in which Perez did not offer much resistance according to instructions from his team. The only option left to the Mexican was to make an extra pit stop in order to start chasing the bonus point for the fastest lap. For Verstappen it was the fourth win in the sixth race of the season. He now leads the World Championship standings by six points.
"Unfortunately, I lost the car at the beginning because the wind caught me from behind. Then the DRS also went on strike," Verstappen complained after the race. "It was a difficult start, but fortunately there was a happy ending. Congratulations also to Checo. This is of course a great result for the team."
Hamilton has to save fuel
Behind George Russell, Lewis Hamilton in fourth place seemed to ensure a strong team result for Mercedes. The Briton had collided with Kevin Magnussen on the first lap, resulting in a puncture. After the unscheduled pit stop, Hamilton put up a great fight. With six laps to go, the Silver Arrow even overtook Sainz, who didn't have a particularly good weekend. But on the penultimate lap, the command post suddenly instructed the pilot to drive more slowly because a water leak would otherwise result in a failure. As a result, fourth place was lost again.
The midfield was led by Valtteri Bottas in sixth place. The Finn in the Alfa Romeo was able to stay in fourth place for a long time, but had to admit defeat to Sainz and Hamilton in the closing stages. Fernando Alonso finished ninth behind Esteban Ocon and Lando Norris. The local hero made a strong comeback after an engine penalty dropped him to last on the grid.
Yuki Tsunoda secured the last point in the Alpha Tauri. Just behind them, Sebastian Vettel and Mick Schumacher went home empty-handed in eleventh and 14th place. Vettel tried an alternative strategy with a long first stint. She did put him forward, but not far enough for anything countable. Schumacher had already fought his way up to sixth place on the opening lap, but a bad strategy and poor pace threw the German out of the points at the end.