Formula One: Max Verstappen, 18, makes history as Mercedes stars crash out

Red Bull's debutant Max Verstappen basking in the adulation of the crowd at the Catalunya circuit after winning the Spanish Grand Prix. The 18-year-old had just been promoted from Toro Rosso to replace Daniil Kvyat, who was dropped after an awful dri
Red Bull's debutant Max Verstappen basking in the adulation of the crowd at the Catalunya circuit after winning the Spanish Grand Prix. The 18-year-old had just been promoted from Toro Rosso to replace Daniil Kvyat, who was dropped after an awful drive in his Russian home race.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Dutch teen is F1's youngest race winner on Red Bull debut after Mercedes drivers collide

BARCELONA • Dutch teenager Max Verstappen made history as Formula One's youngest race winner yesterday in a sensational Spanish Grand Prix that saw dominant Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg collide and crash out on the opening lap.

Verstappen, only 18 years and 228 days old and making his debut for the former world champions after being promoted from junior team Toro Rosso a week earlier, beat Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen - twice his age at 36 - by 0.616sec.

Verstappen was also the youngest driver to stand on the podium and the first Dutch race winner since the championship started in 1950.

His proud father Jos, who was twice on the podium with Benetton as Michael Schumacher's team-mate in 1994 and raced against Raikkonen later in his career, declared it the best day of his life.

 

"This is really something unbelievably special," he told reporters, while others acclaimed an exceptional talent.

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, the previous youngest race winner thanks to his astonishing 2008 Italian Grand Prix victory for Toro Rosso at the age of 21 years and 74 days, was third for Ferrari.

  • RUSSIAN GP RESULTS

  • 1 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1hr 41min 40.017 2sec

    2 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari +0.616sec

    3 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari +5.581 4

    4 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull +43.950

    5 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams +45.271

    6 Carlos Sainz Jr (Esp) Toro Rosso +1:01.395

    7 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India +1:19.538

    8 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams +1:20.707

    9 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 1 lap

    10 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso 1 lap

    DRIVERS' STANDINGS

    1 Nico Rosberg 100 points

    2 Raikkonen 61

    3 Lewis Hamilton 57

    4 Vettel 48

    5 Ricciardo 48.

    CONSTRUCTORS' STANDINGS

    1 Mercedes 157

    2 Ferrari 109

    3 Red Bull 94

    4 Williams 65

    5 Toro Rosso 26.

Rosberg had his lead trimmed to 39 points, with Raikkonen moving up to second ahead of Hamilton.

The German's dream of an eighth successive win, and fifth of the season, had disappeared in the gravel on the opening lap as he and reigning champion Hamilton crashed out while battling for the lead.

That looked like being the talking point of the day at a circuit that has seen processional races in the past, until Verstappen rewrote the script.

His was a remarkably assured performance for a youngster who could not drive on public roads until last year and whose precocious entry into the sport was questioned by many.

"I was targeting a podium but to win straight away is an amazing feeling," said Verstappen, who had qualified fourth with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo third.

The Australian might have joined him on the podium but a late puncture left him fourth.

"I can't ever remember seeing a debut performance like that," gushed Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. "The kid's just done an unbelievable job.

"Max hasn't put a wheel wrong all weekend. To win the race, I don't think anyone can have dreamt of that."

Verstappen soaked up the moment, lingering on the podium after the Ferrari drivers had gone and holding the winner's trophy aloft. While Red Bull celebrated, and Ferrari rescued a race that had looked like being one to forget after Raikkonen and Vettel qualified fifth and sixth, dominant champions Mercedes were licking their self-inflicted wounds.

Triple world champion Hamilton had started on pole position, with Rosberg alongside, but their race imploded after three corners.

The German passed Hamilton around the outside of turn one and the Briton was then squeezed on to the grass as he tried to regain the lead.

His car skewed sideways and smashed into Rosberg's, with both drivers ending up in the gravel and the safety car deployed.

"It is stupid, we could have won this race," Mercedes' non-executive chairman Niki Lauda told the BBC.

"Lewis is too aggressive. I need to talk to them and hear their explanation and then we will see what happens."

Mercedes motor sports director Toto Wolff refused to apportion blame, however. "From a team's perspective we've looked at the pictures and the data and it's not clear cut.

"Nico had a really good turn one and turn two, Lewis tried to dive in, Nico closed the door.

"I'd say let's wait and see what the stewards say. It's not a situation where you can attribute 100 per cent of the blame."

When asked if Mercedes would change their view on the two racing each other, Wolff was very clear.

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."

The collision ended Mercedes' hopes of extending the team's winning run to 11 races and equalling McLaren's 1988 record streak of success.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2016, with the headline 'Early crash, Max makes history'. Print Edition | Subscribe