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Verstappen Tears Up Record Books

Max Verstappen ended Nico Rosberg’s winning streak by winning the Spanish GP on his debut for Red Bull. In doing so, Verstappen broke countless records in F1, something that was bound to happen sooner or later. Kimi Raikkonen finished 2nd behind the Dutchman, with Ferrari team mate, Sebastian Vettel rounding off the podiums with a 3rd place finish. Verstappen’s team mate, Daniel Ricciardo finished 4th after a puncture spoilt his chances of a podium finish. Valtteri Bottas ran a very lonely race coming in 5th, with local boy Carlos Sainz coming home 6th in the Toro Rosso, ahead of Sergio Perez in the Force India. Felipe Massa mounted a great recovery race from 18th after a poor qualifying to finish in 8th just ahead of Jenson Button’s McLaren and Toro Rosso’s Dani Kvyat rounding off the top 10. Both Mercedes retired on lap 1 after colliding with each other at turn 4, allowing for a very refreshing race, one that will live long in the memory of Max Verstappen.

Verstappen became the youngest ever grand prix winner at just 18 years and 228 days, eclipsing Sebastian Vettel’s previous record of 21 years and 73 days. He also beat Vettel’s record of the youngest podium finisher by the same margin. When Verstappen led his first full lap of the Spanish GP, he became the youngest leader of a Formula 1 race, again beating Vettel’s record of 20 years and 89 days (Japanese GP 2007). Moreover, Verstappen became the first Dutchman to win a Formula 1 race, which in turn will surely raise the sports popularity in the Netherlands.

After the Mercedes pair took each other out, it was a straight fight between Ferrari and Red Bull, but not between Ricciardo and Vettel like many would have predicted. Both teams decided to split their strategies, putting Ricciardo and Vettel on a 3 stopper, with Raikkonen and Verstappen going for a 2 stopper. This raised eyebrows due to the early nature of the second stops, as the tyres were not predicted to go too far. However both Verstappen and Raikkonen managed their medium compound tyres superbly and made their two stoppers work to take the top 2 steps on the podium. What we saw in the battle between Verstappen and Raikkonen was just how good Verstappen is, holding off the 2007 World Champion brilliantly with some great race craft. It also showed how good the Red Bull car actually is. In the final sector, Verstappen was able to bridge just enough of a gap, because of the Red Bull’s superiority, coming out the final corner.

Although had Raikkonen been more aggressive at turn 1 on the occasions he was close, it could have been Raikkonen on the top step. Behind them, a brilliant battle between Vettel and Ricciardo unfolded with some fantastic racing between the pair. A puncture to Ricciardo spoilt a fight to the finish with Vetter, and again had Ricciardo managed to make a move on Vettel stick, it could have been a 3 horse battle for victory. This was not the case however, and the scenes at the end were of a jubilant teenager and a very proud father. Monaco should be a cracker in two weeks time because it is not a track where the Mercedes will run off into the distance. Red Bull will be there or there abouts due to the high downforce nature of the track.


Mercedes Implode

The incident on lap 1 at turn 4 between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg has been coming since mid 2014. We have seen flash points on track between the pair, notably Spa in 2014 where they touched wheels, causing a puncture to Hamilton, and again in Austin last year where an aggressive Hamilton hit Rosberg at the 1st corner. What we saw in Spain though was a Senna/Prost style collision, that could have been avoidable. Hamilton had a poor start from pole which allowed Rosberg to get the initial jump on Hamilton. Coming out of turn 3, Hamilton was so much quicker than Rosberg who went on the defence. The rest is history. Rosberg keeps his advantage over Hamilton, but team relations surely must be strained by the latest scuffle. The race stewards put it down as a racing incident, something the two drivers agreed with, although Rosberg seemed to agree through gritted teeth. Personally, I believe it was a case of over aggressive attacking against over aggressive defending, which is not necessarily a bad thing, it just needs to be managed now by Mercedes. Both drivers want to beat each other so badly, but there will be a time when the Mercedes team will have to do something before it ruins their own championship goals.

The Kvyat Fallout

Before the Spanish GP, it was announced that Dani Kvyat would drop down from Red Bull to Toro Rosso to make way for Max Verstappen. Kvyat’s indifferent form since joining Red Bull at the start of 2014 has ultimately cost him. His antics at his home race in Russia were not the reason for the switch, but certainly would have had an effect. Kvyat was clearly torn up by the demotion over the weekend but to see Verstappen win on his debut would have been a tough pill to swallow. Had it been Kvyat in Verstappen’s place, I don’t think Red Bull would have came away with a win in Spain. Kvyat has shown glimpses of how good he is with two podium finishes for Red Bull, but the ruthless Dr Helmut Marko felt a change was needed. Marko has had a history of wielding the axe on young Red Bull drivers, even when they have done a solid job, take Jean-Eric Vergne for example. What this has done also is put to rest the speculation that Verstappen will be racing for Ferrari or Mercedes in the near future, a smart move for everybody at Red Bull. Kvyat will have to pick himself up and prove that he should be back in that team, although I do not see that happening any time soon.

Report courtesy of Simon Gray

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