Making another emphatic statement in his quest to defend his world championship, Max Verstappen completed a late overtake on teammate Sergio “Checo” Perez before sprinting away to win the Spanish Grand Prix at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Sunday, May 22.
The 24-year-old Dutchman driving for Oracle Red Bull Racing rallied from a rocky start early in the event, where he got loose and slipped into the gravel trap in Turn 4 while running in second place on the ninth lap. Through pit strategy, Verstappen, who led seven laps midway into the event, spent the majority of the event battling against Mercedes’ George Russell and teammate Sergio “Checo” Perez towards the front. After making his final pit stop on Lap 45 to remain ahead of Russell in the runner-up spot behind Perez, the latter, under team orders, was told to let his teammate overtake him, which he did on Lap 49. From there, Verstappen, who led a total of 24 of 66 laps, muscled away to claim the victory by more than 13 seconds over teammate Perez.
The victory at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya marked Verstappen’s second career win in the Spanish Grand Prix since 2016, where he claimed his maiden F1 victory in his first event driving for Red Bull Racing. It also marked his fourth victory of the season and the 24th of his Grand Prix career. With initial points leader Charles Leclerc retiring in last place due to a turbo issue, Verstappen emerged with the lead in the drivers’ championship standings for the first time this season.
“It was a tricky one,” Verstappen said. “I don’t know why I went off on Turn 4. I braked at the same point and suddenly, I just completely lost the rear [tyres]…Nothing, really, was lost because I was fighting with George [Russell]. My DRS stopped working. That was very frustrating at the time. I was very upset, but at that point, you have to try to live with it. I tried to do the best I could. We opted to go with a different route with the strategy and I think that also made us win today because once I was in clean air, I could do my own lap times again and I could actually pull a big gap on the cars around me. That was very positive. We have to be realistic. Without Charles’ retirement, he probably would have won the race. We are lacking in bit of pace, so we have to make that we keep on working to try and improve the car.”
Despite expressing his frustration over the team’s order to, Perez, who pitted for a final time for soft tyres on Lap 54, managed to claim an extra bonus point for logging in the fastest lap of the event as he finished in second place for the third time this season. With that, Oracle Red Bull Racing managed to claim its second 1-2 finish of the season.
“It’s a difficult one to digest,” Perez, who led 12 laps, said. “It turned out to be that the three stop [strategy] was a better strategy. I think I didn’t have a very optimize two stop [strategy]. At the end of the day, it’s a great team result…I’m definitely here to win. I think if I was on the three stop [strategy], I should have won the race.”
After spending the majority of the event battling against Verstappen, George Russell, who led four laps, completed the podium in third place for his second podium result in his first campaign with Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team
“We’re not back just yet, but we’re definitely on the right path,” Russell said. “It’s been six races worth of problem solving. We finally found the solutions to our problems and now, we can focus on brining more performance. This is the start of our season. I don’t think we’ll make any major strides for next week, but I think we will do in the coming races.”
Carlos Sainz rallied from spinning on the seventh lap to come home in fourth place in front of Sir Lewis Hamilton, who backed out of the throttle due to late overheating issues.
Valtteri Bottas finished in sixth place for his fifth points-paying result in his first campaign with Alfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen followed by Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso and Yuki Tsunoda.
The first competitor to finish outside of the top-10 points-paying results was Sebastian Vettel followed by Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly, Mick Schumacher and Lance Stroll.
Nicholas Latifi settled in 16th place, two laps behind the leaders, followed by Kevin Magnussen, whose strong start in the top 10 was spoiled by an opening lap collision with Hamilton that damaged his Haas VF-22. Alexander Albon, Latifi’s teammate at Williams Racing, ended up in 18th place after being hit with a five-second track limits penalty.
Rookie Guanyu Zhou suffered his second consecutive DNF of the season after retiring in 19th place nearing the halfway mark of the event.
Charles Leclerc, the championship leader who started on pole position, led the first 26 laps before falling off the pace and retiring in last place due to a turbo issue to his Ferrari F1-75.
1. Max Verstappen, 25 points
2. Sergio Perez, 19 points
3. George Russell, 15 points
4. Carlos Sainz, 12 points
5. Lewis Hamilton, 10 points
6. Valtteri Bottas, eight points
7. Esteban Ocon, six points
8. Lando Norris, four points
9. Fernando Alonso, two points, +1 lap
10. Yuki Tsunoda, one point, +1 lap
11. Sebastian Vettel, +1 lap
12. Daniel Ricciardo, +1 lap
13. Pierre Gasly, +1 lap
14. Mick Schumacher, +1 lap
15. Lance Stroll, +1 lap
16. Nicholas Latifi, +2 laps
17. Kevin Magnussen, +2 laps
18. Alexander Albon, +2 laps
19. Guanyu Zhou – OUT, Retired
20. Charles Leclerc – OUT, Retired, 26 laps led
With his victory, Max Verstappen leads the drivers’ standings by six points over Charles Leclerc, 25 over teammate Sergio Perez, 36 over George Russell, 45 over Carlos Sainz and 64 over Sir Lewis Hamilton.
Currently, Red Bull Racing RBPT leads the constructors’ standings by 26 points over Ferrari, 75 over Mercedes, 145 over McLaren Mercedes, 156 over Alfa Romeo Ferrari and 161 over Alpine Renault.
Next on the 2022 Formula One schedule is Circuit de Monaco for the Monaco Grand Prix, which will occur on May 29.