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Verstappen takes F1 Championship lead with win in Spain as Leclerc retires

Verstappen takes F1 Championship lead with win in Spain as Leclerc retires

22 May - 15:40
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After winning the Spanish Grand Prix, Max Verstappen has regained the Formula 1 World Champion lead. His rival for the title retired with an engine issue, and Verstappen kept up his 100% winning record when he has finished in 2022. Red Bull Racing applied team orders after Sergio Perez put in one of his best performances in a Red Bull car. George Russell demonstrated his worth in his Mercedes car and finished on the podium for his efforts. 

It was all going smoothly for Leclerc in free air, but on lap 27 the Ferrari driver experianced a sudden loss of power. A moment that has provided a big swing in the World Championship battle. The man from Monaco refused to be disappointed and insisted he will focus on the positives going into his home Monaco Grand Prix next weekend. 

Merecedes might have solved the porpoising, but it was another frustrating start to the day for Lewis Hamilton who even asked Mercedes to retire him. The seven-time World Champion had contact with Kevin Magnussen in the opening sequence of corners. A puncture pushed him to the back of the grid leaving him hoping for a safety car. That safety car never came, but Hamilton demonstrated good pace to claw back plenty of points and finish in fifth. Carlos Sainz rounded out the top four. 

Meanwhile Russell really demonstrated his value in the second Mercedes seat after engaging in a brilliant duel with Verstappen. Though the British driver was aided by a troublesome DRS for Verstappen. The Brit finished on the podium to give the Mercedes team a strong points haul. Former Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas impressed by running in the podium places for a long period of time. He eventually finished sixth. 

Williams had a quiet day and didn't trouble the points despite the red hair. With a brand new car and a place at the top of the headlines in the build up to the race in Barcelona, Aston Martin also failed to trouble the points. McLaren also had a quiet day, but Norris will be happy with P8. Alpine had one of their best races with both drivers in the points. 

Hot Hot Hot

With temperatures touching 36c, tyres were already overheating on the laps to the grid. Russell reported a very hot cockpit with reliability warnings up and down the grid. The heat also had strategies scratching their heads, with Toto Wolff suggesting even a four-stop could be on the cards. Verstappen came out of his garage late with the Red Bull mechanics having to work hard on the rear wing following a DRS failure in Q3 of qualifying. Hamilton was the only driver to start the race on the medium tyre, with everyone else starting on softs. 

Hamilton's medium tyres didn't last long with a puncture after contact with Kevin Magnussen in the opening sequence of turns. Mercedes opted for a set of softs and later suggested Mercedes retired him to save a fresh engine. Leclerc and Verstappen got off the line equally well. Russell had a small touch with Perez before securing third place. Home favourite Alonso, who started from the pit lane, gained five places on the opening lap. 

On lap seven, Sainz's woes got worse. He lost control and spun into the gravel but managed to keep it going. This added to his gettaway off the line. One lap later, Verstappen also went off at turn four to drop down to fourth. On lap 14, Verstappen and Russell pitted and held order. Meanwhile, Leclerc had opened up an 14 second lead. 

Russell and Verstappen engaged in a brilliant battle that once again proved that the new regulations are achieving their purpose. Russell defended well against Verstappen, though the Brit was helped with Verstappen's intermitant DRS. With Leclerc driving in free air, Ferrari pitted him on lap 22 for medium tyres. 

Angry Verstappen

Red Bull suggested they had found a way around the DRS issue and Verstappen opened the wing down the home straight. On lap 25, he overtook Russell going into turn one, but Russell battled back through turns two and three. Though stewards noted whether or not Russell left the Dutchman enough space. A lap later, the DRS didn't work down the home straight. 

Whilst that was engaging, Leclerc had a power issue. He pitted on lap 27 for DNF. With it now turning into a battle for the lead, Verstappen pitted for an undercut on the medium tyres as Perez advanced up the field. With a working DRS, Perez was able to overtake Russell for the lead. By lap 37, Verstappen caught Russell. Mercedes reacted with a pitstop. Verstappen made his final scheduled pitstop on lap 45 who returned to the track ahead of Russell. 

Red Bull Racing applied team orders on lap 49, allowing Verstappen to take the victory. 

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