18-year-old Max Verstappen wins Spanish Grand Prix in first race as Red Bull driver
Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg crash out on first lap
Just 10 days after Max Verstappen was promoted to Red Bull from sister team Toro Rosso, the 18-year-old raced to an unlikely victory at the Spanish Grand Prix – becoming the youngest winner of a Formula One race.
Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg initially stole the headlines, after a second-corner collision left the two drivers out of the race – the first time the German marque has ever lost both its cars on the first lap.
But the incident should take nothing away from the teenager, who sped to the front alongside Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo after the safety car had been deployed.
Verstappen showed maturity beyond his years, as he led for the final 21 laps of the race on deteriorating tires and with far more experienced drivers on his tail.
“It feels amazing,” Verstappen said on the podium. “I can’t believe it.
“It was a great race – I have to say thank you to the team for giving me such a great car. To win straight away in the first race is a great feeling.”
When asked if he thought his father, Jos, a former Formula One driver himself, would be proud, Verstappen replied: “I think so. From a very young age my dad helped me a lot and to achieve this amazing.”
If it was a day of jubilation for Red Bull, for whom Ricciardo took fourth place after being switched to a three-stop strategy – the feeling couldn’t have been more different in the Mercedes camp.
Following the collision, legendary driver Niki Lauda, the team’s non-executive chairman, immediately blamed Hamilton.
“It is stupid, we could’ve won this race,” Lauda told British radio. “Lewis is too aggressive. I need to talk to them and hear their explanation and then we will see what happens.”
Despite Mercedes expecting full points from the race, with Hamilton and Rosberg starting on the front row of the grid, the team’s executive director Toto Wolff was far calmer during his post-race interview.
“It’s not a situation where you can attribute 100% of the blame to either one of the drivers,” he said.
“Both drivers are pretty upset, we need to talk with them and look at the pictures and data. We let the drivers race and sometimes this can happen.
“We won’t change our approach,” Wolff added. “We owe it to Formula One and to the fans to let them race.
“Both drivers were apologetic to the team because a lot of effort has gone into the building of the car and the engine.”
On Lauda’s comments, Wolff said: “Lauda’s driver perspective means he has an opinion. This is his instinct and that’s fair enough.
“In my opinion this was a racing incident, with the drivers racing for position.”
Runner-up Kimi Raikkonen moved up to second in the overall drivers’ standings, while Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel – the previous youngest race winner as a 21-year-old at the 2008 Italian GP – finished third.