Max Verstappen won an action-packed Spanish Grand Prix in which his championship rival Charles Leclerc retired, Red Bull employed team orders to ease Verstappen’s path to victory and George Russell secured his second podium of the season for Mercedes.
Verstappen recovered from a mistake on lap nine — which saw him run through the gravel at Turn 4 and lose position to Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez — and secured the victory on lap 49 when Perez was ordered to move over and let Verstappen pass for the lead.
The controversial decision from the pit wall was labelled “very unfair” by Perez over the team radio, but he still obeyed the order when his teammate appeared in his mirrors and lined up a pass.
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Verstappen’s conquest means he holds a six point lead over Leclerc heading to the Monaco Grand Prix after the Ferrari driver was forced to retire from a comfortable race lead on lap 27 with a power unit issue.
Verstappen ended the race 17 seconds clear of Perez once the second Red Bull driver made an additional pit stop to secure the fastest lap towards the end of the race.
Russell finished third, a further 10 seconds behind Perez and one place ahead of Carlos Sainz, who recovered to fourth after a mistake at Turn 4 on lap seven dropped him from fifth place to 11th.
Lewis Hamilton took a remarkable fifth place finish after a collision on the first lap with Kevin Magnussen punctured his front left tyre and dropped him to the back of the field. Hamilton initially recovered to fourth place, but lost a place back to Sainz after his Mercedes team told him to back off in fear of the car overheating and failing to make the finish.
Valtteri Bottas took sixth for Alfa Romeo ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Lando Norris, who battled flu-like symptoms in 35 degrees Celsius heat to finish eighth.
Fernando Alonso crossed the line a lap down in ninth ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, who took the final point on offer in 10th.
Team orders are allowed in Formula One, but are rarely used so early in a season when both drivers are still in contention for a title and both fighting for a win. However, with Ferrari appearing to have the fastest car all weekend, Red Bull clearly wanted to capitalise on Leclerc’s power unit failure and bank maximum points with minimum risk.
The next round of the championship will take place in Leclerc’s home country of Monaco next weekend.
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