F1 takeaways: Verstappen, Red Bull maximize after Leclerc exits Spanish GP

Red Bull's Max Verstappen overtook teammate Sergio Perez on lap 47 to pick up his fourth victory of the 2022 Formula 1 season at the Spanish GP after Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was forced to retire with an engine failure earlier in the race.

Max Verstappen and Oracle Red Bull Racing maximized their advantage during Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix following Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc's early retirement due to engine failure.

Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez crossed the finish line 1-2 as the reigning world champion reclaimed Formula One's points lead while Red Bull surpassed Ferrari for the top spot in the constructors' standings.

Here's what you need to know from Sunday's Spanish GP:

Running of the (Red) Bulls in Spain

Top challenger Leclerc could only watch from the paddock as Verstappen and Perez coasted to an uncontested finish.

It wasn't a perfect day for Verstappen, however, as the Dutch driver was blindsided by an unexpected gust of wind at Turn 4 early into the race that caused the rear of his Red Bull car to swing out like a pendulum and force the vehicle off of the track. Verstappen wasn't the only one caught off guard by that corner as Ferrari's Carlos Sainz also went for a dig into the gravel. Both managed to recover just fine with Sainz finishing fourth.

More concerning for Red Bull though is Verstappen's problem with his DRS flap not opening properly. Fortunately for them, it wasn't much of an issue but had Leclerc not retired Verstappen would have been at a critical disadvantage.

It also takes a true team player like Perez, who was asked to step aside and concede the lead to Verstappen under team orders with 17 laps to go. Perez did snag the fastest lap bonus point late for what it's worth.

Re-writing the record books

A third consecutive Grand Prix victory sees Verstappen continuing his ascent on the all-time wins list. The site of his first career race win in 2016 also played host to No. 24 as Verstappen broke a tie with Nico Rosberg and Nelson Piquet to leapfrog into 11th, where he's now all square with Juan Manuel Fangio.

Another win and Verstappen will join Jim Clark and Niki Lauda in a tie for ninth.

Ferrari's engine woes cause for concern?

When the season started in Bahrain, it was smooth sailing for Ferrari, finishing 1-2 while Red Bull was questioning the reliability of their power units.

Well, well, well, how the turntables.

Leclerc had a solid start to the weekend as the fastest through practice and locked down pole position during the final minute of qualifying Saturday to get the head-start on Verstappen. The Monégasque driver was cruising along in P1 until Lap 28 when an abrupt engine failure brought a disappointing end to his race.

What's troubling is it's still a relatively new power unit, having only been installed ahead of the previous race in Miami.

Double worrisome is that Alfa Romeo's Zhou Guanyu, whose team also uses Ferrari power units, retired from the race just one lap later for similar issues.

Leclerc will have little time to dwell and Ferrari will have to sort out things out fast as the Monaco Grand Prix — Leclerc's home event — is next weekend.

Summer of George

Victoria Day long weekend is seen as the unofficial start of summer here in Canada, so are we about to see the "Summer of George" for Mercedes driver George Russell?

Russell finished P3 to earn his third career podium and second of the 2022 campaign in his first season with Mercedes.

Of course, Russell benefited from Leclerc's retirement and Sainz's hiccup, but the 24-year-old British driver also outperformed Mercedes teammate and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton for the fifth consecutive race.

Driver of the day?

Hamilton was voted driver of the day after finishing fifth, which was odd as he only gained one spot from his qualifying position and he's had better days at the track entering as the five-time defending race winner.

Spain's very own Fernando Alonso was the biggest mover Sunday on his home track starting at the back of the pack in P20 following a power unit swap and finishing P9 in the points for the Alpine team.

Pit Stops

• There was controversy earlier this week with Aston Martin accused (and subsequently cleared) of copying Red Bull's design for their cars. It's not the first time such complaints have been levelled against the team, if you recall the "Pink Mercedes" drama during their days as Racing Point. Well, Aston Martin certainly didn't imitate Red Bull on the race track. Neither Sebastian Vettel nor Lance Stroll made it out of the first session of qualifying. Both finished the race down a lap with Vettel just outside of the points in P11 while Stroll ended up P16.

• Some kudos for Toronto's Nicholas Latifi, who never trailed Williams Racing teammate Alexander Albon and passed Kevin Magnussen's Haas to finish 16th. With top prospect Nyck de Vries waiting in the wings, the pressure is on Latifi right now to deliver ... or at least outperform his teammate. It's like not needing to outrun the bear, you just need to outrun the other guy beside you.

• It was another dreadful day for McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo, who came in 12th to end up outside of the points for the fifth time through six races this season. Teammate Lando Norris was dealing with a bout of tonsillitis but managed to cross the line in eighth place.

Up Next

The 79th running of the iconic Monaco Grand Prix awaits next Sunday.

Verstappen is the defending race winner, after Leclerc — who had secured pole position — was forced to drop out prior to the start last year. Leclerc crashed his car late in qualifying and his team was unable to make the necessary repairs in time. Just a hunch, those two will dominate the headlines for this year's race as well.

When submitting content, please abide by our  submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.
We use cookies to improve your experience. Learn More or change your cookie preferences. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies.