In the heat drama of Barcelona, world champion Max Verstappen has seized the Formula 1 lead. Despite a slip in the gravel and technical problems, the Red Bull star clinched victory in the sixth race of the season on Sunday, benefiting from the engine failure of his title rival Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari driver had to retire on lap 28 while clearly in the lead. With his fourth win of the season, Verstappen was able to take the overall lead for the first time this year.
With 110 points, the Dutchman is now six points ahead of Leclerc. “I hope we come back stronger and that doesn’t happen again,” said Leclerc. Second in boiling hot Spain was Sergio Perez of Mexico. It was the second double win of the season for Red Bull. Mercedes driver George Russell finished third. Six-time Barcelona winner Lewis Hamilton was still racing in fifth place after an early accident and fuel problems.
Mick Schumacher, who was sixth shortly after the start, missed his first World Championship points again in 14th place in the Haas. Sebastian Vettel finished eleventh in the extensively modified Aston Martin.
The high temperatures bothered all teams even before the start. Head of Mercedes Motorsport Toto Wolff warned of melting tires on the 49 degree asphalt. “The heat makes things a little more unpredictable,” said Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko on Sky. His chief pilot Verstappen rolled onto the track just a few seconds before the pit lane closed. problems? “There were some,” said Marko.
At the start there was little to see. Verstappen got off to a good start and put pressure on his World Cup rival Leclerc from second place. The day before, the Monegasque had conquered pole position with a fabulous lap when Verstappen was no longer able to counteract due to a technical defect. Mercedes driver Russell also got off to a good start, moving up to third place.
His teammate Hamilton, on the other hand, had to go to the garage after lap one. Haas driver Kevin Magnussen collided with the Brit and caused tire damage on the Silver Arrow. Hamilton was initially far behind, having always won in Barcelona in the previous five years. The 37-year-old advised his team to take it easy on the engine instead of trying to catch up. But Mercedes refused the record champion the early end of the day.
Things didn’t go well for local hero Carlos Sainz either. First he lost two places at the start and was only fifth. Then on lap seven he spun and slid into the gravel bed. To the horror of the tens of thousands of spectators, the series of accidents, mistakes and bad luck of the past few weeks continued for the Madrilenians.
The shock for the Verstappen fans followed a little later: The 24-year-old was pushed into the gravel by a strong gust of wind and fell back to fourth place. Although his team-mate Perez let him past quickly, he got stuck behind Russell’s Mercedes due to a defective overtaking aid. “We can’t even get the DRS to work, unbelievable,” Verstappen raged on the radio.
Everything pointed to an easy win for Leclerc. But then the drama: On lap 28, the Ferrari driver suddenly slowed down. “No, no, I’ve lost power,” shouted the Monegasque. With the last of his engine power, he rolled into the pits, his race was over. The Ferrari mechanics gave Leclerc a comforting hug, and he waved to the audience again from the pit wall. “It came out of nowhere. I didn’t feel anything before,” said Leclerc.
This suddenly paved the way for Verstappen, who won his first Grand Prix in Barcelona in 2016 as an 18-year-old. The Dutchman got fresh tires, colleague Perez passed Russell and took the lead. When these two also had new rubber compounds applied for the second time, Verstappen took first place.
What had long looked like a day of frustration for the world champion became a triumph in the last 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.