Max Verstappen reclaimed the Formula One points lead as the reigning world champion won the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday for his third consecutive victory after Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari broke down while he was comfortably in front.
Verstappen needed an assist from Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez to get his fourth victory of the season, however. Pérez was leading the race after Leclerc had abandoned it when his team told him to let Verstappen pass on Lap 49 of 66.
“It’s unfair but OK,” Pérez told his team.
Pérez, who could have taken just his third career win, finished second ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell in third.
Verstappen overtook Leclerc in the standings and now leads by six points after six races.
“Not an easy start to the race, but we turned it around,” said Verstappen, who had enjoyed previous victories in Imola and Miami. “Thanks to the team for their great job and thanks to Checo (Pérez), he is a great teammate.”
Leclerc defended his pole position at the start, and Verstappen spun off the track early. But disaster struck when Leclerc’s car lost power on Lap 27, as he screamed “No! No! No! What happened?”
Lewis Hamilton, who had won here for the previous five years, had a fine drive to finish fifth behind Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz after the seven-time world champion was dropped to the back of the pack on Lap 1 when his Mercedes needed a tire change following a knock with Kevin Magnussen’s Haas.
Verstappen looked like he would have to settle for a podium place to limit the damage after he went off the track and into the gravel — an incident his team blamed on a gust of wind — in the opening laps, knocking him back from second to fourth.
It got worse for the Dutch driver when the same DRS flap malfunction that had ruined his chances to try for a last flying lap in Saturday’s qualifying cropped up again. He was unable to pass Russell at the time in an exciting duel.
“We can’t even make the (expletive) DRS work, unbelievable,” Verstappen shouted on team radio as Leclerc pushed ahead and took fresh tires without losing his lead.
But after Leclerc’s race imploded, Verstappen’s fortunes drastically changed.