Max Verstappen has taken the lead of the F1 World Championship for the first time in 2022 after fighting back from an early-race spin to win the Spanish Grand Prix.
The Red Bull racer, who at one stage saw his car skate across the gravel, had to fight hard for his 24th career win but was helped by a power unit problem for his title rival, Charles Leclerc.
Leclerc had built himself a healthy lead at the front when he hit trouble midway through the Grand Prix. Ferrari were forced to retire his car.
Sergio Perez came home in second after being asked to move aside to allow teammate Verstappen, on a quicker strategy, to take the chequered flag first.
George Russell took third ahead of Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton who, with an astonishing recovery drive following a first-lap clash, showcased the progress that Mercedes have made.
Result Race - Spanish
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Hamilton gambled; clash forced early stop
Verstappen was facing problems before his car had made it to the grid with the same DRS problem that scuppered his chances of taking pole position re-emerging. Red Bull were confident they had found a fix for the issue as he followed Leclerc through Turn 1 at the start.
All the paddock talk centred around the high temperatures in Barcelona and the havoc that could play on tyre degradation. Pirelli were expecting all 20 drivers to start the race on the Medium tyres but only Hamilton stuck to the script with his 19 rivals opting for the Soft tyres.
Those Medium tyres did not last, however, when a brave move from Kevin Magnussen saw a collision with the Mercedes driver; Magnussen bounced off into the gravel while Hamilton was forced to pit with a puncture, leaving him with a mountain to climb.
Russell made the best start of the front-runners when he charged past Sainz and swooped around the outside of Perez at Turn 1 to snatch third on his way to the podium.
Verstappen's DRS problems left him stuck behind Russell
The Alpine cars of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon made solid progress during the opening laps. Alonso started the race from the back of the grid but was up to 14th after just five laps. He finished the race in ninth, with Ocon in seventh.
But the cheers of the Spanish fans were brought to an abrupt halt when Sainz lost his car at high speed and slid into the gravel on Lap 8. The incident took him from fifth to 11th and offered yet further evidence that the pressure of fighting for wins with Ferrari is getting to the Spaniard.
He wasn't alone, however, as World Champion driver Verstappen spun in identical fashion two laps later. Red Bull blamed a sudden gust of wind for the incident as Verstappen fell back to fourth and lost over 10 seconds of time on track. The Dutchman's woes were exacerbated moments later, with the team reporting yet more DRS problems that left him stuck behind the slower Russell, even after the pit-stops.
That handed Leclerc a healthy lead out front, with which he used to pit later than his rivals. When the Monegasque driver returned to the track on new Medium tyres, he counted a six-second advantage and set about only building that gap.
Disaster strikes for Leclerc and Ferrari
By Lap 25 of 66, Verstappen found his way alongside Russell for the first time as the pair traded blows through the first sector in a fight for second. As they did so, Perez closed in on the duo with his DRS working without a hitch.
But then disaster struck for race leader Leclerc as his Ferrari lost power without warning, forcing him to retire and losing him an almost guaranteed 25-point haul in the race for the title.
The team have since described the problems as a "yet unidentified power unit issue". Their search for more detailed answers will run on into the evening.
Verstappen responded by pitting for Soft tyres in an attempt to undercut Russell, while Perez, now on a one-stop strategy, then passed the Mercedes on track to lead the race.
Red Bull swap cars; Verstappen takes title lead
But Red Bull soon made the decision to swap their cars, as Perez moved aside to allow Verstappen to take the lead and disappear into the distance. An unhappy Perez told his race engineer after the race: "I'm happy for the team, but we need to speak later."
Russell followed the Red Bull cars home in third, with Hamilton, who had fought his way through almost the entire field, heading for fourth before his team called on him to lift and coast during the finals laps. He ended the day in fifth, behind Sainz in fourth.
Valtteri Bottas finished in sixth, with Ocon, Lando Norris, Alonso and Yuki Tsunoda all scoring points, while Mick Schumacher narrowly missed out once again.
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