Youngest ever Formula One winner crowned

BARCELONA: Teenager Max Verstappen became the youngest ever Formula One winner on Sunday when he took full advantage of a spectacular first lap crash that eliminated both Mercedes cars and drove to triumph in the Spanish Grand Prix.

In his maiden outing with the Red Bull team following his unexpected promotion from Toro Rosso, the 18-year-old Dutchman showed supreme composure under pressure as he resisted all attacks to claim a memorable victory in only his 24th F1 race.

He became the youngest race winner, replacing four-time champion Sebastian Vettel who had also taken that record as a Red Bull driver.

Verstappen, heralded as the sport’s hottest property, proved he has everything required to be a future world champion, but owed some of his good fortune also to Red Bull’s decision to put him on a three-stop strategy while his senior team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was on a two-stop plan.

That prevented the Australian from turning his early control of the race into victory after the opening lap collision between championship leader Nico Rosberg and his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton had left them fuming in a gravel trap at Turn Four and out of the race.

Ricciardo eventually came fourth, despite suffering a puncture on the penultimate 65th lap, behind the two Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen who finished second ahead of Vettel.

Verstappen’s maiden win on his Red Bull debut was the first in the sport by a Dutchman and the first by the team without Vettel involved in one of their cars.

“It’s unbelievable, I can’t believe this,” said Verstappen’s father Jos, who on Saturday had announced he had stood down as his son’s manager.

Valtteri Bottas came home fifth for Williams ahead of Carlos Sainz in a Toro Rosso, Sergio Perez of Force India, Felipe Massa in the second Williams, Jenson Button of McLaren and Daniil Kvyat on his return to Toro Rosso.- AFP

Hamilton, Rosberg collision in Spanish GP

BARCELONA:  World championship leader Nico Rosberg and his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton collided and retired in a sensational crash on the opening lap at Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.

The two were scrapping for the lead and came together in a fashion that wrecked the team’s hopes of another one-two triumph and revived the bitter memories of their collision in the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix.

“We have spoken to both drivers and it is not a clear cut decision – we have lost 43 points after lots of effort by the team in the last few difficult weeks,” said a strained Toto Wolff, the team chief.

Non-executive director Niki Lauda said: “It is stupid. We could have won this race… Lewis was too aggressive.

“I need to talk to them myself, listen to the explanations, and then we will see….” Wolff said Lauda’s comments were the instant emotional reaction of a former driver.

“We have to see all the data and take a considered view,” he said. Defending three-time champion Hamilton took the lead from pole position, but was passed at Turn One by the German who took the initiative with a sweeping pass round the outside.

Briton Hamilton then gained speed on his run from Turn Three and attempted to pass inside Rosberg at Turn Four where, in defence of his position, the German driver ‘closed the door’ and forced his team-mate onto the grass.

Hamilton then lost control and went into a spin and as his car slewed back across the circuit he clipped Rosberg, taking the pair of them off into a gravel trap less than 30 seconds into the race.

A furious Hamilton hurled his steering wheel out of his car after he came to rest and then slumped with his helmeted head in his hands.

Both men were unhurt and climbed from their cars to learn quickly that the stewards would investigate the accident after the race.

A Safety Car was deployed immediately and the field ran behind it for three laps before racing resumed, with Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull in the lead ahead of his team-mate Dutch teenager Max Verstappen.

As the two Mercedes drivers were taken back by scooters, their collision divided opinion in the paddock where emotions ran high in the Mercedes garage.

Hamilton was distraught in the knowledge that he had thrown away a chance of claiming his first victory in eight races since he won his third title in Texas last year.

In that period, Rosberg has won all seven races and taken a dominant lead in this year’s championship while Hamilton, having suffered a series of misfortunes including two other first lap collisions and two engine failures.

The accident was witnessed by several of the Mercedes board’s senior directors, who had flown in for the race.- APP