World champion Max Verstappen has taken a dramatic victory at the Spanish Formula One grand prix to take over the drivers’ championship lead from Charles Leclerc, who had to retire his Ferrari when first.
Verstappen’s third successive triumph puts him on 110 points to Leclerc’s 104.
Verstappen needed an assist from Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez to get his fourth victory of the season, however.
Perez was leading Sunday’s race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya when his team told him to let Verstappen pass on Lap 49 of 66.
“It’s unfair but OK,” Perez told his team. “I am happy for the team. We need to speak later.”
Perez, who could have taken just his third career win, finished second ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell in third. Fourth was Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari.
Lewis Hamilton was fifth in the second Mercedes despite a first lap collision with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen dropping him to the back of the grid after needing a tyre change.
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo finished 12th in his McLaren, outside the points..
Leclerc defended his pole position at the start, and Verstappen spun off the track early. But disaster struck when Leclerc’s car lost power on Lap 27 of 66. Leclerc, who was leading by 11 seconds, screamed “No! No! No! What happened?”
“I don’t know anything more than what happened,” he said later. “I had no indications and then it broke.
“It is a shame. In those moments I believe there is nothing else I can do except look at the positives which there are plenty.
“It gives me the confidence for the rest of the season. On the other hand we will look at this issue.”
I”t was a sudden issue,” team principal Mattia Binotto said.
“I think we learned it first from Charles going into the radio and then from the engineers looking at the data, it was sudden.
“We do not yet have an explanation, it will travel to Maranello during the night and we will disassemble it in the morning.”
The timing could not have been much worse, with Leclerc’s home race in Monte Carlo and a showcase of the calendar coming next weekend.
“Not an easy start to the race, but we turned it around,” said Verstappen, who had had problems with his DRS system and briefly spun off in the opening laps. “Thanks to the team for their great job and thanks to Checo (Perez), he is a great teammate.”
Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo), Esteban Ocon (Alpine), Lando Norris (McLaren), Fernando Alonso (Alpine) – who started last having changed parts – and Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri) were also in the points.