Spanish GP 2022 Review

Verstappen leads Red Bull 1-2 as Leclerc suffers retirement

May 22, 2022

Reigning World Champion Max Verstappen secured back-to-back wins as he took home his 24th career victory at the venue where he had scored his maiden win six seasons ago. Verstappen led Sergio Pérez for a Red Bull one-two, with Mercedes’ George Russell taking the final podium spot.

Pole-sitter Charles Leclerc suffered a shock retirement, which meant the only remaining Ferrari of Carlos Sainz finished a commendable fourth following his disastrous start. Lewis Hamilton charged back through the field after a first-lap incident to take P5 ahead of his former teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, McLaren’s Lando Norris, Ocon’s teammate Fernando Alonso and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda rounded off the points places. 

Verstappen’s win and Leclerc’s DNF mean that the Dutchman now has a six-point lead in the Drivers’ standings, while Sergio Pérez’s second-place finish puts him eleven points clear in third place from George Russell.

With a Red Bull one-two and only one Ferrari finishing the race, Red Bull also took the lead in the Constructors’ standings, while a strong afternoon for Mercedes put them just 49 points behind Ferrari in third place.

It was an eventful start in Spain as pole-sitter Leclerc managed to cut off a charging Verstappen to hold on to his lead, with Sainz losing two places to Pérez and Russell in the opening lap.

Further down the grid, Hamilton and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen made contact, which saw the Dane go onto the gravel while Hamilton suffered damage on his front left tyre. The collision with Magnussen meant Hamilton had to dive into the pits the very next lap for an extremely early stop and join the race right at the back of the grid.

Russell, meanwhile, had passed Pérez to take P3 behind Leclerc and Verstappen. Leclerc’s teammate, Carlos Sainz, who had a shocker of a start, saw things go from bad to worse as he spun onto the gravel due to a driver error on Lap 6 and rejoined in P11.

A couple of laps later, another one went onto the gravel as Verstappen spun off at Turn 4 in a manner similar to that of Sainz, but he managed to recover quickly and rejoin in P4. 

Sainz’s early off-road adventure saw him come into the pits on Lap 11, while Haas’ Mick Schumacher, who started P10, was enjoying a race in the points in P8. Verstappen, meanwhile, who had gotten past his teammate and was trying to hunt down the top two, had his own problems: a DRS issue saw the system work sporadically and hamper his chances of overtaking the Mercedes ahead of him.

Race leader Leclerc came into the pits for his stop on Lap 22, and his handy start meant he rejoined in P1, a good two seconds clear of Russell and Verstappen behind him. Verstappen, meanwhile, was trying everything he could to go past Russell, but with no DRS on the main-straight and a relatively quicker Mercedes compared to the previous races due to the upgrades, he just couldn’t make the move stick.

Verstappen almost went past Russell on Lap 25 going into Turn 1, but the young Brit placed his car just in the right spot to reclaim the position heading into Turn 2 and managed to hold Verstappen off.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who seemed to be cantering to a win, had his hopes dashed on Lap 27 when his engine gave away and he had to retire. With Leclerc retiring, Verstappen sensed an opportunity to take the win and immediately came in for a pit stop to attack Mercedes on a fresher set of tyres. His teammate Sergio Pérez continued the Red Bull charge on Russell, who was desperately trying to hold on the first place with a much slower car than the ones behind him. Pérez managed to pip Russell on Lap 31 and took the race lead, while Verstappen stormed through behind them.

Lap 32 saw the second retirement of the race as Alfa Romeo’s Guanyu Zhou suffered a technical issue that saw the Chinese rookie’s race end prematurely.

Russell came into the pits on Lap 36, while race leader Sergio Pérez was called in two laps after him. This meant Verstappen took the lead of the race and was now looking to build a gap to the rest, though he did come in for what would be his final pit stop on Lap 44 and had enough of a gap ahead to come out in P2, ahead of Russell and behind his teammate Pérez.

Meanwhile, Russell’s teammate Lewis Hamilton, who had fallen right to the back of the field earlier in the race, was putting together a stunning comeback drive. By Lap 46, the seven-time World Champion had overtaken Esteban Ocon for P5.

Verstappen re-took the lead of the race on Lap 49 as Pérez let him through after his team informed him that on fresher tyres the Dutchman was clearly the quicker one. Russell came in for his third stop and rejoined in P4 behind the former Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, but he wasted no time in taking back the final podium place. Hamilton, meanwhile, continued his charge through the field, and on Lap 60, the veteran breezed past the only remaining Ferrari of Carlos Sainz to take P4. However, just as the third- and fourth-place finishes were starting to look likely for Mercedes, the team informed both Russell and Hamilton of a technical issue which meant that the latter had to slow down, which saw Sainz retake P4.

Up ahead, Verstappen had a relatively easy end to an eventful race that saw him take the chequered flag and win once again in Spain, the venue where he scored his first-ever Formula One win. 

After suffering two DNFs in the opening three races, Verstappen has not only bounced back in spectacular fashion but has now won every race of the season that he has finished. He now takes the championship lead for the first time in the season and will hope that he can build on this as he prepares to defend the title.

For Leclerc, even though he suffered a DNF, there were plenty of positives to take from Spain, especially his pace; barring any reliability issues, Ferrari should bounce back.

Up next is the iconic Monaco Grand Prix, which has not been a happy hunting ground for Leclerc, the home hero, who interestingly has never finished a race in the Principality. Will he be able to break his Monaco curse and take his first-ever win in the street of his hometown, or will the Verstappen dominance continue? It’s all to race for in a week’s time. 

Aditya Chaudhuri

Hailing from the City of Joy, the things that bring me joy are cricket, a good non-tilt CS:GO session, F1 and movies.

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