F1 | SPAIN GRAND PRIX
Verstappen becomes youngest ever F1 winner in Spain
Max Verstappen took full advantage of a first lap crash that eliminated both Mercedes cars to claim a memorable triumph in the Spanish Grand Prix.
Teenager Max Verstappen became Formula One's youngest winner on Sunday when he took full advantage of a spectacular first lap crash that eliminated both Mercedes cars to claim a memorable triumph in the Spanish Grand Prix.
In his maiden outing with Red Bull following his unexpected promotion from Toro Rosso, the 18-year-old Dutchman showed supreme composure under pressure as he resisted all attacks to claim a stunning victory in only his 24th F1 race. He became the youngest race winner, at 18 years and 228 days, replacing four-time champion Sebastian Vettel who had also taken that record as a Red Bull driver.
“It feels amazing, I can't believe it,” Verstappen said. “It was a great race and it felt like an endurance race. To win straight away, in my first race, it's an amazing feeling. From a very young age, my dad has helped me a lot - it's just amazing”.
Verstappen, heralded as the sport's hottest property, proved he has everything required to be a future world champion, but owed some of his good fortune also to Red Bull's decision to put him on a two-stop strategy while his senior team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was on a three-stop plan. That prevented the Australian from turning his early control of the race into victory after the opening lap collision between championship leader Nico Rosberg and his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton had left them fuming in a gravel trap at Turn Four and out of the race.
Ricciardo eventually came home fourth, despite suffering a puncture on the penultimate 65th lap, behind the two Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen who finished second ahead of Vettel. Verstappen's maiden win on his Red Bull debut was the first in the sport by a Dutchman and the first by the team without Vettel involved in one of their cars.
“It's unbelievable, I can't believe this,” said Verstappen's father Jos, who on Saturday had announced he was standing down as his son's manager.
Valtteri Bottas came home fifth for Williams ahead of Carlos Sainz in a Toro Rosso, Sergio Perez of Force India, Felipe Massa in the second Williams, Jenson Button of McLaren Honda and Daniil Kvyat on his return to Toro Rosso. Ricciardo was understandably frustrated. “It's mixed emotions for me,” he said. “I was leading and then was pulled to a three-stop strategy and had to pass three cars - that wasn't the plan. In hindsight, it was wrong. Not to be on the podium - that sucks for me. The puncture at the end was just salt in the wounds. I don't want to come across as a bad sportsman and, whatever happened on the track, Max crossed the line first. I'm bitter, but not at Max”.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: “We are as much in shock as anyone is... We knew there was a chance when both Mercedes went off, but what Max has done is unbelievable. He made a two-stop, which was right on the limit, and it worked beautifully for him. It is fantastic for F1 to have a new winner - a youngster on the top step at 18. He can't even drink the champagne!”
Vettel was generous to his successor as the youngest winner, saying, “Many congratulations to Max, it is a great achievement to win your first race and this is his day.”
Raikkonen, whose second place finish lifted him to second behind Rosberg in the drivers' championship, said: “I am happy for Max, but disappointed for myself. But that's racing. We tried and we tried. I was fast and I got close, but it was not enough”. The 36-year-old veteran added: “I raced against his father. In Formula One! And that is scary...”
In an extraordinary race, there was drama from start to finish. World championship leader Rosberg and Hamilton were scrapping for the lead when they wrecked the team's hopes of another one-two triumph and revived bitter memories of their collision in the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix on Turn Four. “We have spoken to both drivers and it is not a clear cut decision - we have lost 43 points after lots of effort by the team in the last few difficult weeks,” said a strained Toto Wolff, the team chief. Let's see what the stewards decide”.
Another reprimand for Hamilton, if it was to come, would be his third of the season and signal an automatic 10-place grid penalty for the Monaco Grand Prix, diminishing his ability to revive a serious title defence. On the day of Verstappen's emphatic arrival, it seemed also to be a signal that times are changing and a new era may be about to unfold.