Only 12 days ago, Max Verstappen was a member of the Toro Rosso team and drove the Toro Rosso in the Russian F1 Grand Prix at Sochi on May 01, 2016. Soon after Sochi, Red Bull management announced that Verstappen would replace Daniil Kvyat in the Red Bull team and Kvyat would come to Toro Rosso in Verstappen’s place. No one thought at that point that the Belgian-Dutch driver, who drives under the Dutch flag, would end up at the top of the podium at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. While Max Verstappen should consider himself lucky to win the Spanish GP, he has already become F1 History’s youngest winner at 18 years 227 days. This honor earlier belonged to Sebastian Vettel, who had won the 2008 Italian F1 GP as a 21-year old. On Sunday, Vettel was there on the podium as well after his third-place finish behind teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who finished second behind Verstappen. The new champion was helped to a large extent as two F1 race leaders, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton collided with each other in the first lap. Besides Verstappen emerging as the most unlikely hero of an F1 event, the media limelight was hogged by Rosberg and Hamilton for their first-lap collision and sad exit from the event.
Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg looked set for another two podium places for Team Mercedes in the Spanish GP at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya. They had done extremely well in the qualifying and taken their spots on the front row. Behind Hamilton and Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo was third with newly promoted Red Bull driver Max Verstappen being fourth, Ferrari’s Raikkonen and Vettel were fifth and sixth, Williams’s Valtteri Bottas seventh, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr eighth, Sergio Perez of Force India ninth and McLaren-Honda’s Fernando Alonso was tenth.
On race day, Hamilton and Rosberg were quickly in the lead at the very start. But an extraordinary string of event finished the top two race leaders in the first lap itself. After Hamilton lost his lead early to Rosberg at turn 1, the British driver attempted to regain his position from inside of Rosberg at the second corner. Rosberg tightly defended his line and forced his teammate to the grass though there was no contact between the two. But on the grass, Hamilton lost the grip and lost control of his car. As he spun back on the track at turn four, he finished the race for Rosberg as well. With the 2016 race leader and 2015 champion out of the way, the two Red Bulls and two Ferrari drivers got engaged in a fierce battle. Ricciardo led Verstappen followed by Vettel and Raikkonen in third and fourth places.
Ferrari drivers followed Red Bull’s pit strategies. Ricciardo pitted on Laps 11 and 28 and Vettel did that on Laps 15 and 37. Verstappen’s stops were on Laps 12 and 35 while Raikkonen pitted on 13 and 36. The three-stop strategy followed by the drivers was based on Pirelli’s earlier prediction of medium tyres lasting for a maximum of 23 laps. But after all this, Verstappen went in front at Lap 43 and kept going on and on to prove his mettle. Raikkonen tried to close the gap but couldn’t get past the young driver. After 66 laps of the race, Verstappen crossed the line ahead of Raikkonen and Vettel with Ricciardo taking the fourth place. Williams’ driver Valtteri Bottas was fifth, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr was sixth, Force India’s Sergio Perez finished seventh, Felipe Mass in the second Williams eighth, McLaren’s Jenson Button ninth and Daniil Kvyat in Toro Rosso ended up at tenth place.
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