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Formula 1: The Chequered Flag race review: Spain

22 May 2022 13:48:29 EST
Verstappen won in Barcelona

Max Verstappen leads the F1 driver's championship for the first time in 2022 after winning the Spanish Grand Prix in which his main title rival Charles Leclerc retired with mechanical troubles.

In a topsy-turvy race, where the lead swapped multiple times, it was the reigning champion who came out on top with team mate Sergio Perez completing a Red Bull one-two in what was a hugely satisfactory day for Christian Horner's team.

Mercedes' George Russell took another podium after valiantly holding off Verstappen for much of the race with Carlos Sainz fourth after an early mistake dropped him down the order.

Lewis Hamilton rounded out the top five after surging back into the points following a first-lap collision with Kevin Magnussen which sent him to the back of the field.

Verstappne is 1.083 to win his second title while Leclerc is 8.50 to pick up his maiden crown.

Red Bull dominate after tricky start to the weekend

On Friday, it looked as though Red Bull were going to have to contend with Ferrari outpacing them at the front of the grid following the two practice sessions.

Verstappen was four-tenths behind the rest of the field after the second session and Ferrari locked out the front row with Red Bull only third and fifth.

Mercedes' slight improvement in pace between the last race was evident and if they keep that up then there could be a titanic three-way battle.

But Verstappen and Perez took firm advantage of Ferrari's gremlins and the Dutchman ended up finishing at a canter despite suffering DRS problems through the race.

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Will the real Mercedes please stand up

He now leads the driver's standings by six points with Perez on 85 points - 25 off the lead.

Leclerc retirement blows season open

Of the two teams fighting it out at the top of the championship, Ferrari's reliability has generally been superior to that of Red Bull, with Verstappen already retiring from two races.

However, it was the Scuderia who suffered in Spain as Leclerc retired with power unit problems midway through the race.

At the time, he had been leading for the entire contest and looked to be cruising towards his third win of the season but now Ferrari will have something to ponder heading into Monaco.

That, coupled with Sainz's unforced error earlier on, which dropped him down the field.

Hamilton's surging comeback gives Mercedes hope

Lewis Hamilton was very open in admitting that he is currently struggling to get the most out of the Mercedes car and his results this season, particularly in qualifying, have been a reliable indicator.

He started sixth but the first lap proved disastrous as contact with Kevin Magnussen sent him to the back of the field.

However, a combination of Hamilton's racecraft and the ability of the car took him as high as fourth before Sainz overtook in the latter stages.

Despite the fact it already looks very unlikely he will be involved in the title race, the 37-year-old proved there is more life in him.

And Russell continues to blossom in his first season with the Silver Arrows after another top-three finish - the duel between him and Hamilton will be one to keep a keen eye on for the rest of 2022.

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