Text: Anton Andres / Photos: Formula 1 | posted May 16, 2016 12:09
Mercedes-AMG team mates take each other out
For the first time this season, the Mercedes-AMG duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton fail to make the podium. Instead, it was Red Bull Racing and a pair of Ferraris that took the top three spots in this year's Spanish Grand Prix with Max Verstappen on top of the podium.
Drama began as early as the first lap when the Mercedes-AMG team mates collided with each other on fourth corner of the Circuit de Catalunya. Rosberg moved to defend to the right, all while Hamilton was charging to gain the lead he lost to his team mate. The move sent Hamilton into the grass, spinning him out and smashing into his team mate, taking both out and handing the lead to Daniel Ricciardo with Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. behind him. Sainz was able to hold back the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen for the leading Red Bull Racing cars to capitalize on the lead. The rest of the field remained intact following the first lap incident.
Ricciardo was holding off his team mate by keeping a gap of over a second but Verstappen, on his debut race with Red Bull Racing, was slowly closing in the gap. Vettel briefly took the lead after the first round of pitstops. Max Verstappen then took the lead but with Ricciardo going for the undercut pit strategy, the Australian was in the lead yet again. Nico Hulkenberg suffered from yet another failed power unit, making it his second DNF this season.
The second round of pitstops would see Ricciardo, the pair of Ferraris and most of the field pitting for a fresh set of tires. This left Verstappen running a quiet race in the lead with most of the field slowed down by pitstops. Verstappen took eventually took his pitstop but was soon coming under pressure from Kimi Raikkonen. The final round of pitstops saw the top two staying out while the rest of the field took their sets of fresh tires. Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso was forced to retire on lap 47.
With more worn out tires, the gap Verstappen had held from Raikkonen was soon disappearing with the Finnish driver cutting down the two second lead to less than a second. Meanwhile, Vettel and Ricciardo were fighting it out for the final podium place with Ricciardo doing a series of bold maneuvers to snatch third from his former team mate. Vettel was not pleased with Ricciardo's first attempt but the move saw no contact from the both of them.
Unfortunately for Ricciardo, heartbreak would happen on the final lap as his left rear tire blew out, giving third to Vettel. Luckily, Ricciardo was able to limp the car back to the pits and cross the line through there. Valteri Bottas ran a quiet race and finished fifth while Carlos Sainz Jr. finished a career high sixth place. Seventh went to Sergio Perez with Felipe Massa in tow for eighth. Jenson Button scored two points for McLaren by finishing ninth and rounding up the top ten was Daniil Kvyat, now driving for Red Bull Racing's junior team, Torro Rosso.
Verstappen was now defending his lead from Raikkonen who was now within striking distance from the sophomore driver. Raikkonen attempted a move on turn one but was unable to get to the inside of the Red Bull. However, this made Raikkonen even closer to Verstappen but had to slow down his pace to preserve his tires. Verstappen was also preserving his tires, retaining a half second gap from Raikkonen. The gap would not change until the checkered flag and giving Max Verstappen his first career GP win. He also became the youngest driver to win a grand prix at 18 years old, the youngest driver to step on the podium and The Netherland's first ever GP winner.
Despite the collision, Nico Rosberg retains his lead in the championship standing. The race could not have gone worse for Lewis Hamilton as he drops to third in the points race. Raikkonen's podium on the other hand promotes him to second in the standings. Vettel also moves up a spot and overtakes Ricciardo in the standings for fourth place.