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Max Verstappen has taken an astonishing victory in the Spanish Grand Prix after making a risky tyre strategy pay off to win on his Red Bull Racing debut, while Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg eliminated one another by colliding on the opening lap. Max Verstappen

In a remarkable race full of tension, the encounter started with a bang when Hamilton and Rosberg collided controversially on the opening lap, paving the way for a thrilling four-way scrap between the Red Bulls and the Ferraris.

However, while Daniel Ricciardo led initially over Verstappen, a strategic misstep by Red Bull Racing to focus its attentions on the approaching Sebastian Vettel by mirroring his three-stop strategy with the Australian, would allow Verstappen on a two-stop strategy prevail instead, completing one of F1’s most extraordinary shock results.

On a remarkable day for the sport, 20 years after Michael Schumacher’s iconic first Ferrari win in sodden conditions around the Circuit de Catalunya, though Verstappen had looked a potentially strong bet for a podium challenge in his first race as a Red Bull driver, a victory challenge seemed very much off the table by comparison.

However, the race would ultimately come to the youngster, a remarkable series of events beginning moments after the start when Hamilton and Rosberg came together controversially and eliminated one another.

Hamilton had started on pole position but having lost the lead to Rosberg as they rounded the opening turn, attempted to respond by attacking on the run down to the turn four right-hander.

With Hamilton moving to the inside of Rosberg, the German would defend the line and force his team-mate onto the grass, albeit with no contact. However, with no grip, Hamilton lost control of his W07, spinning back onto the track at the apex of turn four and swiping out Rosberg.

Putting both out of the race, it would unleash Red Bull into an unlikely 1-2, Ricciardo leading Verstappen at the end of the lap, with Vettel and Raikkonen putting their Ferraris into position in third and fourth once they had dispatched of Carlos Sainz, the home hero running third initially after a quick start.

With Ferrari closing on the Red Bulls ahead following the first round of pit-stops but unable to pounce on track, Vettel would get the gap to Verstappen down to less than two seconds, while the Dutchman kept Ricciardo honest ahead too.

With a battle brewing, Ferrari would subsequently activate an alternative three-stop strategy with Vettel in an attempt to play him into contention, an earlier second stop on lap 28 achieving the aim of leapfrogging Verstappen initially before he made a third stop just eight laps later in an effort to run to the end with fresher tyres, albeit with less favourable track position.

The move would force Red Bull to attempt to see off Vettel’s threat with Ricciardo, the Australian stopping for a third time on lap 43 to come out behind Vettel in third and fourth positions but with significantly fresher rubber.

Their strategic play would subsequently release Verstappen and Raikkonen into a closely-matched 1-2, the pair sticking with their two-stop strategy in an effort to cling on to the end, with the emphasis turning to Vettel and Ricciardo to see if they could catch the drivers up front.

Setting up a potentially thrilling four-way fight in the closing stages, the challenge from Vettel and Ricciardo however wouldn’t materialise, Vettel’s pace little better than the cars in front as he robustly defended from Ricciardo. With the pair almost coming to blows with six laps go when Ricciardo swept up the inside at turn one, only to run wide, their tussle would simply widen the gap to the front and ultimately end their challenge.

As a result, despite persistent but not threatening pressure from Raikkonen was still under pressure, Verstappen simply had to maintain his faultless performance to complete his historic result.

The result makes him the youngest ever race winner at just 18 years-old and marks his first Red Bull Racing win since the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix.

Raikkonen’s second place, meanwhile, see him leapfrog Hamilton in the overall standings for second place, the Mercedes’ ‘incident’ post-mortem taking place during the race as both were forced to meet the stewards to discuss the clash.

In the fight for third, Vettel would ultimately win out as Ricciardo was slowed by a puncture on the final lap, the Australian nonetheless able to retain fourth place.

In a fairly uneventful race behind the leading four, Valtteri Bottas endured a lonely afternoon in fifth place for Williams, ahead of Sainz, the Spaniard clinching his best-ever F1 result in sixth position.

Sergio Perez picked up more points for Force India in seventh, ahead of Felipe Massa – recovering from 18th place on the grid -, Jenson Button and Daniil Kvyat, the ex-Red Bull driver securing a point on his Toro Rosso return.

by Ollie Barstow

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