10222021

Max Verstappen benefits from crash between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to win Spanish Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton has been blamed by his Mercedes boss for the spectacular collision with team-mate Nico Rosberg that ended their participation in the Spanish Grand Prix, which was won by Red Bull’s 18-year-old sensation Max Verstappen.

The accident happened between the third and fourth corners of the first lap. Hamilton, who had started on pole but was passed on the outside by Rosberg at the opening corner, was trying to force his way into the lead on the straight. Rosberg then moved over aggressively but legally to block him. Hamilton, perhaps a little rashly, kept coming and they entangled, spinning off into the gravel.

Both men clambered out of their cars, neither speaking to the other. Hamilton threw his steering wheel away.

Max Verstappen celebrates winning the Spanish Grand Prix on his Red Bull debut at the Circuit de Catalunya

Max Verstappen celebrates winning the Spanish Grand Prix on his Red Bull debut at the Circuit de Catalunya

Max Verstappen took advantage of a huge first-lap crash involving Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to win the Spanish Grand Prix

Max Verstappen took advantage of a huge first-lap crash involving Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to win the Spanish Grand Prix

Rosberg left the scene more quickly, getting on to a scooter back to the Mercedes engineering offices. He was followed by Hamilton before being joined for a debrief by team principal Toto Wolff and technical director Paddy Lowe while Verstappen, the Dutch prince of the track, was steering into the pages of history.

Before speaking to either driver, Mercedes F1 chairman Niki Lauda talked to a host of microphones, pinning the blame on the world champion. ‘Completely unnecessary, he said. ‘It is stupid, we could’ve won this race. Lewis is too aggressive. I need to talk to them and hear their explanations and then we will see what happens.

‘Why should Nico give him room – he was leading? It was a miscalculation in Lewis’s head. I blame him more than Nico.’

The Red Bull debutant benefited from a dramatic pile-up involving both of the two Mercedes cars on turn four of the opening lap

The Red Bull debutant benefited from a dramatic pile-up involving both of the two Mercedes cars on turn four of the opening lap

Hamilton had lost first place to Rosberg and was trying to reclaim top spot when he collided with his team-mate in Catalunya 

Hamilton had lost first place to Rosberg and was trying to reclaim top spot when he collided with his team-mate in Catalunya 

Hamilton started the race on pole but lost top spot to Rosberg on the first lap as both drivers showed no fear to compete early on

Hamilton started the race on pole but lost top spot to Rosberg on the first lap as both drivers showed no fear to compete early on

Hamilton was forced onto the grass as he immediately tried to retake first place from Rosberg on the opening lap in Spain

Hamilton was forced onto the grass as he immediately tried to retake first place from Rosberg on the opening lap in Spain

The world champion appeared to lose control of his car, with the Mercedes turning sideways and careering into his team-mate

The world champion appeared to lose control of his car, with the Mercedes turning sideways and careering into his team-mate

The British driver's car took Rosberg with him as he left the track, as his early aggression in the race failed to pay dividends

The British driver’s car took Rosberg with him as he left the track, as his early aggression in the race failed to pay dividends

Debris was scattered over the track as Hamilton and Rosberg's cars flew into the gravel and were subsequently ruled out of the race

Debris was scattered over the track as Hamilton and Rosberg’s cars flew into the gravel and were subsequently ruled out of the race

The Mercedes of Hamilton sustained significant damage as a result of the crash but the driver emerged unscathed from the wreckage

The Mercedes of Hamilton sustained significant damage as a result of the crash but the driver emerged unscathed from the wreckage

Both cars were quickly removed from the gravel beside the track, as the remainder of the field were managed by the safety car

Both cars were quickly removed from the gravel beside the track, as the remainder of the field were managed by the safety car

Hamilton is escorted from the track on the back of a scooter as he contemplates the latest blow to his difficult start to the season

Hamilton is escorted from the track on the back of a scooter as he contemplates the latest blow to his difficult start to the season

But disagreement broke out among the Mercedes management when Wolff offered a different viewpoint, saying: ‘Niki Lauda has the drivers’ opinion and instinct reaction and it is fair enough. From a team’s perspective we have looked at all the pictures and looked at the data and it is not clear cut.’

Both drivers are due to see the stewards at the end of the race. If neither is penalised, Rosberg will maintain his lead of 43 points. His advantage has changed the dynamic of the championship – he can afford to crash into his team-mate all season long and still be crowned champion.

They were fighting hard for a piece of tarmac that wasn’t big enough for the two of them. Even in a 69-lap race overtaking is tricky at the Circuit de Catalunya, and Hamilton may have thought it was now or never, a miscalculation as it happens.

Wolff added: ‘Lewis tried to dive in, Nico closed the door so I would say let’s wait for what the stewards say.

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia was the immediate beneficiary of the incident, as he moved into first ahead of rookie Max Verstappen

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia was the immediate beneficiary of the incident, as he moved into first ahead of rookie Max Verstappen

The safety car led the remaining drivers around the track while the wreckage of the two Mercedes was cleared by race marshals 

The safety car led the remaining drivers around the track while the wreckage of the two Mercedes was cleared by race marshals 

Nico Hulkenberg cuts a dejected figure after engine problems with his Force India forced him to retire early from the race

Nico Hulkenberg cuts a dejected figure after engine problems with his Force India forced him to retire early from the race

Verstappen took the lead off team-mate Ricciardo and then held off the challenge of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen to record his first race win

Verstappen took the lead off team-mate Ricciardo and then held off the challenge of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to record his first race win

‘Both of them were upset about the situation and they know what effort went into building the car and there was not any finger pointing.’

Asked if he would be tempted to change his driver line-up, he said: ‘No. We didn’t have such an incident for a long time. If you let them race and if you don’t have team orders there will be contact. I am upset and angry about it but I don’t think I will change the approach.”

Hamilton is already on two reprimands this season – for reversing in Bahrain and not going round a bollard in China – and a third ‘yellow card’ would see him moved 10 places back on the grid at the next race, in Monaco.

This was the pair’s first serious coming together since Spa in 2014, and it was met by a huge cheer and much clapping in the media room. People here had seen enough Mercedes dominance to last them a lifetime and a change of pattern was seemingly welcome.

Hamilton knows that his latest mishap means that more questions will be asked about his focus. His report card is mixed: on the credit side, three poles in five races (as many as he could achieve given problems with his car in the other two); but on the negative side, three flunked opening laps when he was favourite to win the race. He has not won since October 25 – a streak of eight blank races straddling two seasons.

Out on the track Verstappen, who was only called up to Red Bull last week, continued to set record after record. He was already the youngest driver and youngest points scorer in Formula One history. Here, aged 18 years, seven months and two weeks old, he became the youngest man to lead a race and the youngest to win one, ahead of the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel in second and third.

Verstappen led for some 20 laps at the end of the race, having made one fewer stops than team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who suffered a cruel puncture on the penultimate lap but limped home to keep fourth.

Verstappen was promoted from Toro Rosso to Red Bull only last week, in place of Daniil Kvyat, for two very good reasons: 1) he a brilliant talent; and 2) so that Mercedes and Ferrari, who were both sniffing around, could not prise him away from the Red Bull family.

Verstappen belied his tender years with a sure-footed display. It was Red Bull’s first victory since Ricciardo triumphed after the Rosberg-Hamilton smash at Spa in 2014. It was a fine race.

The local hero Fernando Alonso stopped on his 46th lap, his McLaren-Honda engine giving up the ghost when he was lying 12th.

‘Fantastic,’ said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner over the radio to his new star. ‘Great, great job.’

‘Thank you very much, Christian,’ came the reply.

 

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