Barcelona (AFP) – In the sweltering heat of Barcelona, Max Verstappen sent the Orange Party to a boil in the stands.
Despite slipping in the gravel and technical problems, the world champion grabbed the Formula 1 lead with his third straight win and enjoyed the cheers of tens of thousands of fans. However, the Red Bull star took advantage of his rival Charles Leclerc’s engine failure on Sunday. The Ferrari driver had to retire on lap 28 while he was clearly in the lead.
Verstappen takes overall leadership
With his fourth win of the season, Verstappen managed to take the overall lead for the first time this year. “It was a difficult start but a good end,” said the 24-year-old. With 110 points, the Dutchman is now six points ahead of Leclerc. “I hope we come back stronger and that won’t happen again,” Leclerc said.
Mexican Sergio Perez came second in Spain, where temperatures reached 37 degrees. It was the second double win of the season for Red Bull. Mercedes’ George Russell finished third. Six-time Barcelona winner Lewis Hamilton raced to fifth after suffering an early crash and cooling problems and showed the Silver Arrows to be expected once again.
Schumacher missed his first World Cup points
Mick Schumacher, who finished sixth shortly after the start, missed his first world championship points again when he was 14th in Haas. “After a very good first lap, hopes were very high,” the 23-year-old said on Sky. “After the second and third laps, there was a feeling that it could be difficult.” Grand Prix next Sunday: “Our car is strong in qualifying, that’s what matters in Monaco.”
Sebastian Vettel finished 11th in a widely modified Aston Martin. Vettel said on Sky: “It’s a shame we don’t take anything with us. I’m satisfied so far, but it’s 11th, I’ve been driving worse and I’ve been on top, that’s what the sport looks like.”
High temperatures lead to harsh conditions
The sweltering temperatures annoyed all teams even before the start. Mercedes Motorsport boss Toto Wolff warned of tire melting on asphalt, which at times exceeded 49 degrees. “The heat makes things a little bit more difficult,” said Helmut Marko, Red Bull motorsport advisor to Sky. His senior pilot, Verstappen, took off on the track a few seconds before the pit lane closed. Problems? “There were some,” Marco said.
At first there was little to be seen. Verstappen got off to a good start and pressed his World Cup rival Leclerc from second place. The day before, Monaco finished first on a superb lap when Verstappen was no longer able to save due to a technical fault. Russell also got off to a good start, moving up to third.
Hamilton and Sainz are having problems
On the other hand, teammate Hamilton had to go to the garage after the first lap. Haas driver Kevin Magnussen hit the Briton and damaged the Silver Arrow’s tyre. Hamilton was initially far behind, always winning at Barcelona in the past five years. The 37-year-old advised his team to easily tackle the engine rather than trying to catch up. But Mercedes rejected the record champion at the end of the day.
Things did not go well for local champion Carlos Sainz. At first he lost two places in the beginning and was only fifth. Then on the seventh lap spin and slip into the gravel trap. To the horror of tens of thousands of spectators, the series of accidents, mistakes and misfortune has continued in the past few weeks for the madrielles.
Leclerc surrenders – Verstappen fails and wins
A shock for Verstappen fans followed shortly afterwards: the 24-year-old was pushed into the gravel by strong winds and dropped to fourth. Teammate Perez let him pass quickly, but got stuck behind Russell’s Mercedes due to a faulty assist. “We can’t even make the DRS work, it’s unbelievable,” Verstappen said angrily on the radio.
Everything points to an easy win for Leclerc. But the drama then: On lap 28, the Ferrari driver suddenly slowed down. “No, no, I’ve lost strength,” shouted the Monegas. With the last of his engine power, he got into the pits, his race over. Ferrari’s mechanics gave Leclerc a comfortable hug, and he waved to the crowd once more from the pit wall. “It came out of nowhere,” Leclerc said. “I’ve never felt anything before.”
That suddenly paved the way for Verstappen, who won his first Grand Prix at Barcelona in 2016 when he was just 18. Getting new tires, teammate Perez Russell overtaken and took the lead. When these two also had new rubber compounds applied for the second time, Verstappen took first place.
What for so long seemed like a day of frustration for the world champion became a victory in the final third of the race. At the same time, Verstappen continued his streak: whenever he crossed the finish line this season, he also won the race.
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