A first-lap tangle involving standings leader Nico Rosberg and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton left the Spanish Grand Prix wide open. Max Verstappen, 18, capitalized to claim a victory in his first race for Red Bull.
In claiming his maiden Grand Prix win ahead of veterans Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel in a thrilling race, Dutchman Verstappen became the youngest race winner in Formula One history.
Verstappen is the son of Jos Verstappen, who drove for a number of teams in a nine-year Formula One career. He was stunned by his son’s maturity:
“He is only 18,” he said. “And the way he raced was unbelievable. I can’t believe it.”
Verstappen was promoted to Red Bull from junior team Toro Rosso after the last race in Sochi, at the expense of Russia's Daniil Kvyat. He managed to hold off Ferrari's Räikkönen in a mammoth final stint at the Circuit de Catalunya, stretching out a set of medium compound tires for 32 laps to become the first Dutch driver ever to win in F1.
The early collision ruined Rosberg’s chances of an eighth win in a row. The German driver, on the front row alongside Hamilton in pole position, passed the reigning champion around the outside of turn one. The Briton was then squeezed on to the grass as he tried to regain the lead at turn three.
Hamilton’s car was sent sideways and smashed in to Rosberg’s, leaving both drivers in the gravel and forcing the deployment of the safety car.
Soon after, the team's non-executive chairman Niki Lauda, a triple world champion himself, blamed Hamilton before going to see the drivers.
"It is stupid, we could've won this race," the Austrian told the BBC. "Lewis is too aggressive. I need to talk to them and hear their explanation and then we will see what happens."
However, Mercedes' executive director Toto Wolff was more cautious to assign blame after the incident, describing Lauda's comments as "his drivers' opinion." Both of the Mercedes drivers were unusually slow in appearing for the media, speaking first to team management and then the race stewards, who were to investigate the crash after the grand prix. Daimler chairman of the board of directors Dieter Zetsche had traveled to Barcelona and was in the garage at the time of the crash.
Rosberg still has a comfortable lead in the championship standings. He is now 39 points above Raikkonen, with Hamilton in third. Verstappen moves up to sixth in the standings.
In the constructor's championship, Mercedes have a 48 point lead over Ferrari.