Tue, 28 Jun 2022

By F1 correspondent Michael Butterworth

BEIJING, May 22 (Xinhua) -- Max Verstappen survived an early spin and a DRS problem to win the F1 Spanish Grand Prix and take the lead in the 2022 Drivers' Championship, as title rival Charles Leclerc retired from an early lead with a power unit issue on Sunday.

Starting from pole position, Leclerc held off the advances of Verstappen in the early stages of the race, and looked set for a comfortable win when the Dutchman made an uncharacteristic error and spun on lap nine.

Verstappen's spin put him behind a resurgent George Russell in his Mercedes, and with his DRS not functioning properly, the Dutchman was unable to find a quick way past the Briton, taking to the radio to vent his frustration.

However, the race turned on its head when Leclerc suddenly slowed and retired on lap 27. Still unable to force his way past Russell, Verstappen dived into the pits for an early second stop and emerged in clear air.

The Dutchman then used his superior pace to catch up to Russell, before overtaking the Briton when he went for his second stop on lap 37, and then vaulting teammate Sergio Perez, with the Mexican on a different strategy.

From then on, Verstappen had an easy run to his fourth Grand Prix win in six races and his third in succession, with the Dutchman taking the lead in the standings from Leclerc.

"[The spin] made it very tough, but we managed to get ahead again and do our own race, and eventually win the race. It was a difficult beginning, but a good end," said Verstappen afterwards.

"I tried to stay focused; of course, it's not nice when stuff like that happens, but I'm very happy to win and very happy for Checo [Perez]. It was a great result for the team."

Behind Verstappen, Perez took second place and fastest lap, but was seemingly annoyed at being asked to move over for Verstappen as the Dutchman scythed through the field.

"I think it was close, but at the end it is a great team result and I am happy with that," said Perez.

"We went on different tyre strategies and I let Max by in the beginning, but then I thought I could go by and not lose crucial seconds to make my strategy work."

"But anyway, it is a team result."

George Russell took third place for Mercedes, on a weekend where the Silver Arrows gave their most competitive showing of the season so far.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz recovered from an early spin to take fourth place, ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who had fallen to the back of the field early on after a tangle with Kevin Magnussen.

Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas continued his strong season with a fine run to sixth, ahead of Esteban Ocon in his Alpine.

Lando Norris took eighth in his McLaren, with Ocon's teammate Fernando Alonso recovering from the back of the grid to finish ninth, and AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda rounded out the top ten.

In the Drivers' Championship, Verstappen now leads with 110 points, with Leclerc dropping to second on 104. Perez sits third with 85 points.

In the Constructors' Championship, Red Bull vault Ferrari to go top with 195 points. Ferrari drop to second with 169 and Mercedes are third with 120 points.

The seventh round of the 2022 F1 season is the Monaco Grand Prix next weekend.

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