Max Verstappen has completed a dream début for the Red Bull Racing team by taking victory in the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix and in doing so become the youngest driver to take victory.
The race started with excitement when pole sitter Lewis Hamilton was overtaken by team-mate Nico Rosberg around the outside of the first corner. Two corners later there would be controversy when Hamilton was forced out on to the grass by his German team-mate, a move which saw Hamilton’s car spin around on the grass and ultimately take both Mercedes AMG Petronas Racing cars out of the race as they came to a halt in the gravel trap.
The incident brought out the safety car and handed the lead over to Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo with team-mate Verstappen and Scuderia Toro Rosso‘s Carlos Sainz in third place. Drivers would only stay under caution until lap 3 and Australian immediately showed his intent by posting the fastest lap.
It wouldn’t be long before Sebastian Vettel would pounce on Sainz, taking third place from the Spaniard on lap 8, a lap later and there was more bad news for Toro Rosso as Daniil Kvyat was forced to concede two places or risk exclusion after he was deemed to have overtaken under the safety car.
As the first round of pitstops started, Verstappen was briefly handed the lead as Ricciardo pitted, Sainz would be the biggest loser during this period as he lost positions to Kimi Raikkonen and Bottas.
Felipe Massa was fighting back from his disastrous qualifying performance that saw him out in Q3, at this point of the race he was fighting Fernando Alonso for a top 10 position.
Yellow flags flew again on lap 22 when Nico Hulkenberg‘s Sahara Force India suffered a fire, he reported seeing smoke to the team who immediately told him to retire near to a marshals post with a fire extinguisher. The marshals were slow to react and the German would have to wrestle the extinguisher from one of them to put the fire out.
Raikkonen started to close the gap to team-mate Vettel as Ricciardo pitted for a surprise stop, a lap later and possibly a reaction to Red Bull, Vettel would also pit in a bid to undercut Verstappen. The move failed to reward the German as both Verstappen and Raikkonen pitted and returned to track in front of him.
With the race ticking over the half way point the positions at the front remained static, the next round of stops saw Verstappen take on the medium compound tyres with 32 laps of the race remaining, this left many wondering if the tyres would hold out for the full distance.
There was brief excitement further down the field when Romain Grosjean took a trip through the gravel trap on lap 37. A lap later and Vettel would stop to change from the soft compound which only saw him out for 8 laps.
Jolyon Palmer sounded frustrated on the team radio when being told the leaders would be passing him soon and he would need to make room for them to pass, “I can barely see them in my mirrors” exclaimed the Brit.
The two Sauber’s of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson were battling it out in the mid-field, the Swede almost took out his team-mate in to the first corner when he locked up on lap 44, narrowly missing the rear of the other Sauber as he overshot the corner.
There was disappointment for Alonso on lap 47, the former champion had been running in the points as he battled with team-mate Jenson Button. A mechanical failure would lead to a loss of power in his McLaren-Honda as he was forced to pull out of the race at Turn 3.
Raikkonen was closing in on Verstappen but seemed to lack the power to get past the Dutchman, meanwhile the Sauber battle for fourteenth place was continuing to the point where Ericsson was forced to exclaim his frustration over the radio “He is moving everywhere in the braking zone, dangerous, Team mates! Come on!” shouted the Swede.
Further up the field Button was having frustrations of his own as he tried to pass the Manor Racing car of Rio Haryanto, “Get the car out of hte way, it’s going to cost us time, I know he thinks he’s quick but he’s not.” Button told the team over the radio.
Vettel’s recent bad luck with Red Bull cars seemed to continue Ricciardo almost crashed in to him, “****. If I don’t avoid that, he crashes straight in to my car. What are we doing, racing or ping pong?!” shouted the German to the pitfall. This battle would continue until the penultimate lap when the Australian was forced to pit as he suffered a puncture.
As the laps counted down it was looking more like Verstappen was on for a victory, Raikkonen closed in at points but ultimately couldn’t get close enough to make a move of the Red Bull driver, who would go on to become the first Dutchman to win a race and also become Formula 1’s youngest ever victor.
Raikkonen followed Verstappen over the line as Vettel finished in a comfortable third place, while Ricciardo was forced to consolidate fourth place after his puncture.
Williams Martini Racing’s Bottas finished the race in fifth place after going the distance pretty much untroubled, there was local love for Carlos Sainz as he brought home his Toro Rosso in sixth place, picking up a Spanish flag on the cooling down lap to show his support for his home country. Sergio Perez, Felipe Massa, Jenson Button and Daniil Kvyatt rounded out the top 10.
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