An incredible Spanish Grand Prix saw Max Verstappen become Formula One’s youngest race winner on his debut with the team.
At 18 years and 227 days old, the Dutch teenager beats the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel to the flag at the Circuit de Catalunya. Early race leader Daniel Ricciardo was forced to settle for fourth after suffering a late-race puncture.
From a fourth-corner collision that removed the championship leader and his chief rival from the race to a fascinating mid-race strategic conundrum to the spectacle of seeing Max Verstappen become F1's youngest ever winner, the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix thrilled from start to finish.
It's a very special feeling! I didn't expect to win.
Within seconds of the lights going out at the start there was drama. Pole position man Lewis Hamilton made a poor getaway and was passed by team-mate Nico Rosberg. Attempting to claw back the position, Hamilton closed on his rival out of Turn 3 and went to dive down the inside of Rosberg's car. The title leader closed the door swiftly and Hamilton went onto the grass. He lost control and spun into the back of Rosberg, pitching both into the gravel trap and out of the race.
The collision meant that Daniel Ricciardo, who had started third, swept through to seize the race lead. New Red Bull Racing recruit Max Verstappen, starting fourth, slotted into second place, while Carlos Sainz took third for Toro Rosso, up from eighth on the grid. Behind Sainz, however, were the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen and it was they who would become the antagonists in a fascinating race-long battle with the Red Bulls.
Daniel led through a first short stint, eventually pitting on lap 11 to abandon his starting soft tyres for a set of medium tyres in a move that appeared to be designed to dictate the strategic pace of the race and avoid a potential Ferrari undercut.
OUR RACE IN NUMBERS:
- 1 – That's Max Verstappen's first ever Formula One victory
- 18 yrs, 227 days – Max Verstappen is the youngest ever Formula One race winner, breaking Sebastian Vettel's record, set in 2008 when he was 21 years and 73 days old.
- 1 -Max is the youngest driver to lead a lap.
- 1- Max is the first Dutch driver to win a grand prix.
Max was brought in a lap later for a set of medium tyres and he was joined in pit lane by Raikkonen who would shadow the youngster throughout. Vettel though stayed on track, seeking to maintain pace in the hope of gaining an advantage in the next phase of the race. The German eventually headed for the pit lane on lap 15 and like those around him he also took on medium tyres.
At this stage the gaps at the front saw Daniel lead Max by 2.3s with Vettel a further 2.4s back and Raikkonen 3.8s behind his team-mate. By lap 25 the gaps were closing. Daniel became lodged behind the backmarking Manor of Rio Haryanto and lost time. The gap to Max closed to 1.0s with Vettel now 1.1s behind Verstappen.
Daniel then made his second stop on lap 28, taking on a set of soft compound tyres in a 2.9s stop. Ferrari immediately responded, bringing Vettel in on the next lap for the same compound. Meanwhile, Max and Raikkonen continued to circle, with Max quickly becoming the youngest driver to ever lead a grand prix.
On soft tyres, Daniel and Vettel would need to make another stop, but as the laps ticked away it become increasingly clear that Max and Raikkonen would attempt a two-stop race.
It's a big day for Max, so congratulations to him.
Max made his final stop on lap 34 for more mediums and Raikkonen made the same swap a lap later. They would now race for the flag, hoping that their tyres would make the distance. Ferrari then made an aggressive third stop with Vettel, pitting the German after just eight laps on his soft tyres. Daniel, though stayed out, trying to make the most of the tyres. He eventually pitted on lap 43, taking on another set of medium tyres.
Max now led from Raikkonen, with Vettel third and Daniel fourth. Raikkonen piled on the pressure, but Max remained ice-cool and the Dutch teenager delivered a flawless final stint to bring the car home in first place. Behind he and Raikkonen, the battle was intense.
Daniel pushed and probed, closing right up behind Vettel and seeking a way past. A handful laps from home Daniel saw his chance. Daniel launched an attack down the inside at Turn One. He almost made the move stick but was then forced to run wide through Turn One and though he drew alongside the Ferrari, Vettel has better traction on the exit and held position.
Daniel's bid for the podium was then ended by a puncture on the penultimate lap. The Aussie had enough time in hand, however, to make a stop for new tyres and hold the position to the flag.
Ahead, however, Verstappen was making history. A very bright new star is born.