Max Verstappen secured his fourth victory of the 2022 F1 season at the Spanish GP after a drama-filled race saw Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc retire from the lead with power issues.
In the early stages of the race Leclerc had built up a lead of up to 30 seconds at points, as ongoing issues with Verstappen’s DRS meant the Red Bull ended up stuck behind the Mercedes of George Russell for a long stretch.
Russell deftly defended second against the Dutchman on multiple occasions as the reigning champion consistently looked for an overtake into Turn 1, the failure of the Red Bull’s DRS flap to open hampering his efforts as well.
Verstappen actually took the position round the same corner on Lap 24, but Russell fought back and managed to retain second place for several more laps.
With all the squabbling it looked like Leclerc could run away with the race, but a sudden power unit issue struck the Ferrari on Lap 27, and a distraught Leclerc came on the radio before he pulled the car into the pits and retired from the race.
Russell continued to fight for the lead with Verstappen before the Red Bull driver pitted on Lap 29 for the second time for fresh rubber, and was able to keep the gap to the Dutchman’s teammate Sergio Perez for another few laps before he eventually pitted on Lap 37.
The Mexican held the lead for a few more laps as Verstappen pumped in fastests laps, and eventually team orders meant that the champion took back the lead of the race and was able to romp home for a win that looked unlikely after the first part of the Grand Prix.
At the end of the race Perez came on the radio to say that while he was happy for the team, he wanted to speak later, suggesting he may not be wholly satisfied with being asked to give up a potential victory given he had stellar pace and no mistakes throughout the race.
Nonetheless, the result remains a 1-2 for Red Bull and Perez’s first podium at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, while Verstappen now leads the drivers’ championship for the first time this season.
Mercedes were much improved throughout the Spanish GP weekend, with both drivers and team principal Toto Wolff confident that they had resolved the porpoising issues which had held the performance of the car back throughout the first races of 2022.
Russell secured yet another podium and crucial points for the team, but it was Lewis Hamilton’s drive to finish 5th which was arguably the more impressive performance after a first lap tangle with Haas’ Kevin Magnussen dropped him to the back of the pack.
Hamilton had started on the medium compound tyres in 6th on the grid, and that call while others kicked off the race on the softs meant the seven-time world champion was swallowed up by the pack, dropping back down the order.
Magnussen attempted to go around the outside of the Mercedes and clipped the back left wheel, causing a puncture and forcing Hamilton back into the pits, with the driver coming on the radio to ask whether the team should consider running an engine-saving pace in the race.
But Hamilton persevered, and looked on for a fourth place finish before he was asked by the engineers on the penultimate lap to ease off the power and coast to prevent a potential DNF from engine issues.
That allowed Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz – who himself suffered from an early spin at Turn 4 on Lap 7 when he lost the rear end due to a crosswind on track and went into the gravel, to rescue fourth, salvaging some more points for the Scuderia at his home race.
In the midfield, Valtteri Bottas was once again best of the rest for Alfa Romeo, finishing high up the field once again in sixth with an upgraded car. Bottas’ teammate Zhou Guanyu, who did not have the same upgrades, retired for the second consecutive race with technical issues.
After a disappointing qualifying, Alpine managed to salvage a double points finish, with Esteban Ocon crossing the line in seventh and Fernando Alonso battling back from starting at the back of the grid after taking a penalty for replacing his engine up to ninth.
Lando Norris ran a largely isolated race but was securely up in eighth, while Yuki Tsunoda rounded out the points finishers for AlphaTauri in 10th, ahead of the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo in 12th.
Mick Schumacher lost out yet again on what would have been a first points finish in F1 as he dropped down the order in the final laps on fading tyres to 14th, ahead of Lance Stroll for Aston Martin in 15th and Williams’ Nicholas Latifi in 16th.
That result for Latifi meant he finished ahead of Williams teammate Alex Albon for the first time in 2022, with the pair split by Magnussen in the Haas as the Dane was unable to make his way back into the points after his early tangle with Hamilton.