Nothing was going right for Max Verstappen at the Spanish Grand Prix: the wind blew his car, his Red Bull was fighting, and top rival Charles Leclerc seemed to be heading for a sure victory.
His fortunes change when Leclerc loses power and his Ferrari suddenly stops.
Worstapen’s own Red Bull team then intervened, instructing Sergio Perez to stay out of Worstapen’s path. The reigning Formula One champion went on to win the race and regain a point lead from a loss on Sunday.
Read more: Aussie Olympic champion holds epic world record
Mole: Why wouldn’t a cowboy gun win a prestigious award?
Read more: Mbopp’s 600 600 million deal has been branded an ‘insult to football’
“The start of the race wasn’t easy, but we turned it around,” Verstappen said after the fourth win of the season and the third win in a row.
The Dutchman then thanked Perez, who may have won himself but was second when the Red Bulls issued a team order.
“He’s a great teammate,” said Verstappen.
Leclerc, who started from the pole and led the first 27 laps, took the lead after losing power. But with 17 laps left, Red Bull tells him to get out of the way of Worstapen.
“It’s unfair but okay,” said Perez, who was denied the right to race for the third F1 win of his career.
The stakes were high for the Red Bull and Verstappen, who put Lecler 19 points ahead of the race but now have a six-point advantage in defending their first World Championship. Perez, who registered the fastest lap in Sunday’s race, is third in the standings and 19 points behind Leclerc.
“I’m happy for the team, but we’ll talk later,” Perez told his team on the radio after the end of the 1-2 Red Bull.
Meanwhile, Leclerc made a great start and easily cleared Verstapen and controlled the race until lap 27.
“No! No! No! What happened?” He shouted on his radio.
Once he got out of his Ferrari, he said it was an engine failure.
“I lost engine power and had to stop,” Leclerc said. “I still don’t know the problem, but it hurts.”
This put off a terrible day for Ferrari, which started first and third but Carlos Senz scored early and dropped to sixth before the first turn. In search of a victory at his home Grand Prix, Sainz was later blown away by the wind in the same place as Verstapen but eventually rallied for fourth place.
Signe lost to George Russell, who finished third for the second podium of his season with Mercedes. Russell had an impressive fight with Perez and Verstapen, and Verstapen held on to the champion as he tried to recover from his own spin.
Mercedes won five consecutive races with Lewis Hamilton and the seven-time champion was fifth on Sunday. He initially fell behind the grid in the early lap due to contact with Kevin Magnusen and Hamilton had to stop for new tires.
Mercedes has fought through the first six races of the F1 season as its new 2022 car is still running. Russell, in his first season with Mercedes, finished more than Hamilton in five of the six races.
“It was a very happy weekend with many positive signs, although I’m still not happy,” said Toto Wolf, head of Mercedes. “We probably had the fastest race car with Lewis. He had a spectacular defense to George Max, the way he parked the car was spot-on, the kind of racing we like to watch, and he managed the car well.
“We unlocked the potential of the car by tweaking things at the stops and so today was the most valuable race for us to compare the two cars. Our understanding took a big step and of course a lot more must come.”
The circuit is notoriously difficult with limited passing area and the pole-sitter has won 23 out of 32 times on the 4.6-kilometer Barcelona-Catalunya circuit. If not for Leclerc’s power failure, Verstappen probably wouldn’t have gotten a chance.
Although seen vomiting just before the start of the race, Voltaire Botas was sixth for Alfa Romeo, Esteban Oaken was seventh in his alpine and Lando was eighth for Norris McLaren.
Norris said he was suffering from tonsillitis and combined with the heat, it was “one of the hardest races I’ve ever done.”
“I was feeling really sick before the race,” Norris said. “I was a bit on the backfoot this weekend because most of my energy was spent fighting the disease. I missed a lot of engineering sessions that compromised my weekend and I certainly wasn’t. I was as ready for the Grand Prix as I could be. “
Local favorite Fernando Alonso, who has fought all season, has recovered nicely from the start of the last-place after Alpine changed the engine of his car. He is ninth in his Alfatouri over Yuki Sunoda.
“From the end to the point, I can’t ask for anything more,” Alonso said.
Next: Leclerc’s home race in Monaco.
To get a daily dose of the best breaking news and exclusive content from the Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter Click here!