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Max Verstappen wins and returns to the top of the standings; heartache for Ferrari

Max Verstappen leads the Formula 1 World Championship for the first time this season after victory in the Spanish Grand Prix.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc looked assured of an easy win, dominating the race from pole position until his engine let go with an unspecified problem on lap 27.

As such, Red Bull earned a one-two with Sergio Pérez second, followed by George Russell who had another blistering race to finish third. Local hero Carlos Sainz was fourth, but only after Lewis Hamilton suffered a coolant leak that meant he had to slow in the final laps, allowing the Ferrari past. He ended up fifth.

Verstappen pace looking formidable

When he’s finished a race this year, Verstappen has won it. Despite not quite having the pace in qualifying yet again, the Dutchman made it count when it mattered to emerge six points ahead in the overall championship standings.

Not that he made it easy for himself. An uncharacteristic spin - in exactly the same place as Sainz - saw him drop behind Mercedes’ Russell. A faulty DRS on the Red Bull meant he struggled to pass on the straights and had to resort to the undercut in the pits to get past the Briton.

But once Leclerc retired, and Pérez was ordered to move aside, victory was only going to one man. It means that Verstappen now has four wins to Leclerc's two, as well as three on the bounce - it's a run of form that Ferrari will need to break.

Mercedes making gains

Although their pace is still behind the front two, the Mercedes pairing looked stronger in Spain. The team arrived with a raft of upgrades to the floor and looked better in Friday practice, suffering from less porpoising down the straights.

Unlike in Miami, that uptick in speed continued throughout the weekend as Russell showed by holding up Verstappen with a masterful defensive driving display during the race. If nothing else, that battle proved the future of the sport is in rude health, with talents like Russell and Leclerc able to take the fight to the 2021 world champion.

Hamilton was also upbeat after the race, telling reporters that his fightback from the back of the field (after he was hit by the Haas of Kevin Magnussen on the first lap) felt “better than a win”.

Looking ahead to Monaco

The crown jewel in the F1 calendar is this weekend and Ferrari should be on form. The red cars looked strong all weekend in Spain's slow and medium-pace corners, and that sort of bend is hardly in short supply in Monaco. Plus, Leclerc carries home advantage. Can he break his Monaco bogey?

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si73 23 May 2022
With Verstappens pace advantage, it is somewhat surprising that he couldn't pass Russell's Merc, whilst his DRS was temperamental he did successfully engage it at least twice and still couldn't pass, there were other overtakes that didn't use DRS, so I was expecting his Redbull to hold a reasonable advantage over the Mercedes without having to be reliant on DRS or put tactics.
He was certainly gifted the win and his tantrums behind the wheel were not very world champion like.

Surprised Hamilton was such a defeatist after being sent to the back of the pack, but then I suppose on recent experience, the hope of any points was small and the risk to the engine high, but still surprised to hear him effectively throw in the towel. Good job his team had other ideas, wonder how he would have fared without that lap one collision and subsequent puncture, as that was a brilliant recovery drive.

A real shame for LeClerc, fingers crossed his luck returns.

I really want to see the McLaren's back up towards the front as they were steadily improving before this regulation change.

Peter Cavellini 23 May 2022

 Only slightly better than Miami?, Ferrari dropped the ball again,home advantage for LeClerc?, eh, don't think so, Monaco will be just a parade of cars going fast around peoples houses and Yachts with little opportunity to overtake, it could be just a pit stop race, whoever gets that right wins, Monaco could be the dullest race on the Calender, yep, a first corner race.