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Spanish F1 Grand Prix: Max Verstappen Leads Red Bull 1-2 After Charles Leclerc Abandons

Charles Leclerc, who took pole position, was leading the Spanish F1 Grand Prix from the start until his engine gave away on Lap 27.

Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after winning Spanish F1 Grand Prix on Sunday.
Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after winning Spanish F1 Grand Prix on Sunday. AP

Max Verstappen reclaimed the Formula One (F1) points lead as the reigning world champion won the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday for his third consecutive victory after Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari broke down while he was comfortably in front. (More Motorsport News)

Verstappen needed an assist from Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez to get his fourth victory of the season, however. Pérez was leading the race after Leclerc had abandoned when his team told him to let Verstappen pass on Lap 49 of 66.

“It’s unfair but OK,” Pérez told his team. Pérez, who could have taken just his third career win, finished second ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell in third. Verstappen, who got his first career win on this track in 2016, overtook Leclerc in the standings and now leads by six points after six races.

“Not an easy start to the race, but we turned it around,” said Verstappen, who had enjoyed previous victories in Imola and Miami. “Thanks to the team for their great job and thanks to Checo (Pérez), he is a great teammate.”

Leclerc defended his pole position at the start, and Verstappen spun off the track early. But disaster struck when Leclerc’s car lost power on Lap 27, as he screamed “No! No! No! What happened?”

Lewis Hamilton, who had won here for the previous five years, had a fine drive to finish fifth behind Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz after the seven-time world champion was dropped to the back of the pack on Lap 1 when his Mercedes needed a tire change following a knock with Kevin Magnussen’s Haas.

Verstappen looked like he would have to settle for a podium place to limit the damage after he went off the track and into the gravel — an incident his team blamed on a gust of wind — in the opening laps, knocking him back from second to fourth.

It got worse for the Dutch driver when the same DRS flap malfunction that had ruined his chances to try for a last flying lap in Saturday’s qualifying cropped up again. He was unable to pass Russell at the time in an exciting duel.

“We can’t even make the (expletive) DRS work, unbelievable,” Verstappen shouted on team radio as Leclerc pushed ahead and took fresh tires without losing his lead. But after Leclerc’s race imploded, Verstappen’s fortunes drastically changed.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said that his team will work to determine what went wrong, with the team saying that the car’s power unit had failed.

“The car has performed well, its pace was good. We had this problem of reliability that we will have to analyze and resolve, but the season is long and we have a car that is very strong,” Binotto told DAZN television.

The track is notoriously tough for overtaking with its limited passing zones. Pole-sitters have won 23 of 32 times the race has been held at the 4.6-kilometer (2.8-mile) Barcelona-Catalunya circuit. Leclerc, Russell and Pérez all took turns leading, but Verstappen was first across the finish line after 66 laps, and an act of generosity.

“I am happy for the team, but we need to speak later,” Pérez told his team by radio just after finishing behind Verstappen. “I am happy to be on the podium,” the Mexican driver said later. “It was a great team result.”

Valtteri Bottas finished sixth for Alfa Romeo. Esteban Ocon was seventh in his Alpine. Lando Norris was eighth for McLaren, despite being seen vomiting just before the start of the race.

Local favorite Fernando Alonso, who has struggled all season, recovered nicely from a last-place start after Alpine changed his car’s engine. He finished ninth ahead of Yuki Tsunoda in his Alphatauri.

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