Verstappen leads Red Bull 1-2, Ferrari implodes

Verstappen leads Red Bull 1-2, Ferrari implodes

The defending champion extended his lead in the standings from nine to 34 points over Leclerc – who had started from his sixth pole position of the season – as he took his fourth win in five races over team-mate Sergio Perez by 20.8 seconds.

Verstappen’s 25th F1 triumph came after overtaking early leader Perez for the provisional lead, with Leclerc out of sync due to pitting in response to a VSC before his engine shockingly exploded.

With Sainz also eliminated as part of an extreme attrition rate for Ferrari-powered cars, the way was open for Verstappen to win as George Russell completed the podium.

Most of the grid is assembled with brand new medium compound C4 tires except for Sebastian Vettel and Kevin Magnussen (used tyres) plus Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas and the back row of Lance Stroll and Mick Schumacher who were all shod with hard C3 rubber.

Perez was encouraged over the radio to get his “elbows out in turn 1” and duly delivered.

Leclerc’s initial getaway was solid enough, but wheel spin in the second phase allowed Perez to line up at Verstappen after the best launch of the lot.

The Ferrari driver then locked his front left considerably into the opening 90-degree left-hander to run well past the top and ensure Perez took the race lead.

Verstappen was able to peek inside Leclerc but changed his mind as Sainz tried to get in on the act before falling adrift of the three leading cars.

Perez finished the opening lap 1.3 seconds ahead of Leclerc to immediately escape the DRS zone and extended that by half a second over the next two laps to cement the lead.

With Leclerc slipping, Verstappen was able to stay within 0.7s of his title rival.

Leclerc suffered a hustle out of Turn 16, the final set corner, to allow Verstappen to get even closer with the DRS before a yellow flag and then a virtual safety car halted play.

The Ferrari attack was reduced to one car when Carlos Sainz took the escape route from Turn 4 with possible power unit failure when he was 5 seconds behind Verstappen and 5 seconds behind Russell.

Ferrari rolled the dice to secure a theoretically cheaper pitstop by calling Leclerc for a set of hard tires on lap 10, but despite no obvious mistakes, the Scuderia took 5.4 seconds to service Leclerc.

Red Bull didn’t cover the strategy, giving Perez a 2-second lead over Verstappen as Leclerc clawed back 11 seconds behind the pair – but from lap 13 he started to set the fastest laps of the race .

Verstappen was able to eat away at Perez’s advantage before the Mexican, who lost 2 seconds on a lap, was told ‘no fight’ to allow his DRS-assisted teammate to take the lead on lap 15 in the turn 1.

At the end of the following tour, Perez pitted for the softs but like front row rival Leclerc, was hampered by a massively slow 5.7 second stoppage due to a problem with the right front wheel.

Red Bull called Verstappen for his leap to the hards just two laps later, and he too endured an under-average 3.5 second serve to regain the lead with a 13-second deficit for Leclerc – dealing with overheated tires rear – as Perez set the fastest Ferrari lap while running 4s behind Verstappen.

But overheated tires were the least of Leclerc’s problems soon after, as at the end of lap 20 his engine blew up during the final and he pulled into the pit lane to end the disaster of Ferrari.

After the MGU-H turbo failure in Spain, it was the second engine-based retirement for Leclerc in three races to add to the Ferrari 1-2 loss – due to strategic errors – in Monaco.

That left Verstappen in the lead by 5.2 seconds over Perez as fifth-starter Russell took the podium ahead of Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly and Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen would negotiate target lap times with his engineer as they tried to strike a balance between preserving the car but not cooling the tires too much.

Then the virtual safety car made its second appearance to account for 16th starting Kevin Magnussen, who had moved up to 11th to battle with Ocon for the points.

But then the Ferrari engine in the back of the Haas also exploded, to accompany Ferrari customer Alfa Romeo having to stop Zhou Guanyu eight laps before.

Magnussen parked on the approach to Turn 15 and waved to the marshals to help him retrieve the Haas VF-22, which started down the hill to the top.

Red Bull responded by pitting Verstappen a second time to take a set of hard tires to the flag, eventually pulling off a 2.7 second stop, before Perez made his hard stop on the same lap 34.

But a delay at left-back meant more time wasted in the pit lane thanks to a 4.4-second pit stop, to give Verstappen a 10-second lead at the end of the four-minute VSC interlude.

Although it was Perez who walked away with the fastest lap of the evening, Verstappen’s second-half pace stretched the gap north of 20 seconds to the flag.

Russell strapped in for a solitary race but took advantage of the Ferrari nightmare to seal a podium despite a troubled weekend for the porpoising and trailing Mercedes W13.

Despite back pain, Lewis Hamilton climbed to fourth place thanks to spirited driving with notable passes over the one-stop trio of Ricciardo, Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly.

Gasly managed his hard tires for the long haul, sealing fifth place as the racy Sebastian Vettel recovered strongly from an early mistake to climb to sixth.

Although he started on a used set of mediums, Vettel had battled with Hamilton for seventh place before battling for the toughs to then pursue Ocon.

The Aston Martin passed the Alpine for ninth on lap 13 before locking up at Turn 3 to abort the turn and turn into the escape lane, narrowly missing Tsunoda on the rebound in 12th.

Fernando Alonso was another strong climber, sealing seventh for Alpine as Ricciardo just managed to keep eighth over Lando Norris by just three tenths as the McLaren pair each had to defend their track position in the opening phase and final of the race as they raced on split strategies.

Ocon’s long opening stint on the hardliners netted the final point as Valtteri Bottas in 11th scored the best result for a Ferrari-powered car.

Alex Albon climbed to 12th ahead of Tsunoda, who had to stop for tape on his rear wing after his DRS flap split in two. Schumacher crossed the line in 14th.

Latifi’s afternoon was ruined before he had really started as the Williams driver was handed a 10 second stop-start penalty when a team mechanic rolled back his car, illegally touching the car.

He then receives a new penalty of 5s for not respecting the blue flags.

Stroll joined Magnussen, Zhou and the two Ferraris as retirees.

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