MAX Verstappen took a strong win in Barcelona on Sunday overcoming both an off-track excursion and a technical fault on his Red Bull to move into the lead of the Formula 1 World Championship for Drivers. With team mate Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez finishing second following team orders to allow Verstappen past, it was a perfect 1-2 result for Red Bull, moving them into the lead of the teams’ World Championship.
George Russell claimed a podium finish for Mercedes, the Englishman racing strongly throughout the 66 lap race. Underlining Mercedes return to a more competitive position, 7-times World Champion Lewis Hamilton recovered from a puncture on the first lap to finish a strong 5th.
After starting from pole position and dominating the early part of the race Charles Leclerc suffered the disappointment of a power unit failure on lap 27 in his Ferrari. Team mate Carlos Sainz suffered a similar off-track moment to Verstappen but recovered to finish 4th.
“This was another really strong win for Max Verstappen,” said Mika Hakkinen. “His engineers worked well to give him the right strategy to take the win, especially when the Drag Reduction System on his car was faulty and they realised that a 3-stop strategy was the right way to go.”
“Checo could easily have won this race but Red Bull’s strategy handed the win to Max because they know every point counts in the World Championship. They also know that Max was delayed by the technical issue. It is teams that win World Championships and Checo is the ultimate team player for Max – even though it must have been extremely difficult for him to give up the win.
”Hakkinen is confident that Mercedes performance in Spain reflects a return to form for the team which has won the World Championship for Constructor for the last 8 years.
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“Here in Spain Mercedes showed just how hard they have been working to solve the porpoising problem which has robbed the car of so much speed in the first five races. We could see the positive step on Friday, rather like we did in Miami, but this time they continued their form through Saturday and into the race. In race set-up the Mercedes looked very strong. In fact Lewis and George set the 2nd and 3rd fastest laps of the race.”
“Mercedes have now given Lewis and George a car they can have confidence in and really race. You could see it from the way George was able to defend from the Red Bulls during the race. Meanwhile Lewis’s recovery from last place on lap 1 to finish 5th was just brilliant. His collision with Kevin Magnussen’s Haas looked terminal but neither he nor the team gave up.”
“We know Lewis would have finished 4th except that a water leak meant he had to back off in the last couple of laps. We now have three teams competing for podiums. The question is whether Mercedes can take another step and start racing to win. I believe they will.”
The extreme disappointment Charles Leclerc felt when forced to retire while leading the race is something Hakkinen understands only too well.
“I had the same thing happen to me in Spain in 2001, only on that occasion I was leading the race on the last lap – 42 seconds ahead of Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari – when a hydraulic leak caused my car’s clutch to explode.”
“I remember telling the media that I wanted to have a punch-bag installed in my motorhome – it was so very frustrating. To see Charles go around the garage and thank all the Ferrari mechanics for their hard work was really something. He must have felt incredible disappointment, but he knows that is shared across the whole team. Ferrari must now regroup, understand the issue and come back with a reliable car in Monaco next week. They now have a challenge on their hands from both Red Bull and Mercedes. But for the fans it’s absolutely fantastic.”