Dutch teenager Max Verstappen stunned Formula One with victory at the Spanish Grand Prix. He took advantage of a crash by Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to become the sport’s youngest winner only a few days after being promoted by his team Red Bull.
The 18-year-old Verstappen drove like a veteran to secure the victory after fending off a late challenge
by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who not long ago was racing against Verstappen’s father, former F1 driver Jos Verstappen.
“It feels amazing. I can’t believe it,” Verstappen said. “To win straight away in my first race with Red Bull is incredible.”
The spectacular victory – the first ever by a Dutchman in F1 – comes with Verstappen nearly three years younger than the previous youngest winner, Sebastian Vettel, who was 21 when he won for the first time.
“It’s a very big surprise, of course I didn’t expect that,” Verstappen said. “I couldn’t believe that I was leading the race. Today everything went well. Unbelievable.”
Verstappen was in second place behind Daniel Ricciardo after the Mercedes crash, but moved to the front after a round of pit stops with less than 25 laps to go and stayed there until the end despite pressure from Raikkonen, who finished less than a second behind.
“Max Verstappen, you are a race winner, fantastic,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said over team radio after his driver crossed the finish line. “What a great debut. Fantastic. Great, great job.”
Verstappen had been attracting all the attention in the run-up to the Spanish GP after Red Bull made the surprise announcement that he was replacing Daniil Kvyat. He answered the challenge with victory in only his 24th career race in F1.
Hamilton was winning but was overtaken by Rosberg at the start. When the British driver tried to regain the lead, he was blocked by his teammate and both cars touched. They spun across the track and into the gravel. The safety car arrived and both drivers retired.
Mercedes boss and former driver Niki Lauda blamed Hamilton for being “too aggressive”. Though he did not blame Hamilton, Rosberg said he himself didn’t do anything wrong. He added that the crash ruined what seemed a certain victory after he jumped to the front at the start. Hamilton said it was “unfortunate” and a “big loss for the team”.