Spanish Grand Prix: Leclerc leads, Verstappen has momentum


Defending Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen has chipped away at Charles Leclerc’s advantage by stringing together consecutive victories, reducing the difference to 19 points ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday.

The sixth round of the 2022 F1 World Championship season promises to be yet another episode of the Red Bull vrsus Ferrari rivalry that has completely eclipsed Lewis Hamilton’s struggling Mercedes.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has hinted that his engineers will use the two weeks between races to introduce important upgrades: “It’s not a surprise that we may have a package in Barcelona, which will be important for us.

“I hope the package we are introducing is working as expected and in that case, it can be a good boost in order to try and catch up the current gap we’ve got to the Red Bull,” Binotto added.

Leclerc started the season with a victory in Bahrain, leading a 1-2 finish with Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz. After Verstappen leveled it with a win in Saudi Arabia, Leclerc breezed to a dominant performance in Australia and Ferrari had reason to finally believe it had returned to the top.

But back-to-back victories by Verstappen — with Red Bull humbling Ferrari in front of its home fans at Imola before adding a win in Miami — have more than halved the 46-point lead Leclerc had going into the Italian Grand Prix.

spanish grand prix preview

Max trails Charles despite leading him in victories after six rounds

With three to Leclerc’s two — because he failed to finish both in Bahrain and Australia because of car trouble. Leclerc, meanwhile, has finished runner-up two times, with his worst result being a sixth-place finish in Italy.

When Verstappen’s car has not failed him, he has managed to get the better of Leclerc, a rival of his since the days they drove go-karts as youngsters.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said last week. “There’s a long, long way to go, it’s so tight with Ferrari and there’s been some great racing. You can see there is great respect between Charles and Max, they are enjoying racing each other and I think you can see that.

“I was rather hoping we weren’t set for another competitive year like the last one, but it looks like this one could go all the way as well,” predicted Horner.

Formula One - Spanish Grand Prix - Barcelona-Catalunya racetrack, Montmelo, Spain - 15/5/16 Red Bull F1 driver Max Verstappen (R) of The Netherlands celebrates in front of Ferrari F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland after winning Spanish Grand Prix. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Verstappen returns to the venue of his first-ever victory in F1

The Barcelona race marked a milestone in Verstappen’s rise to glory. In 2016, with Verstappen still a teen, he won his very first grand prix to become F1’s youngest ever race winner.

Since then, it has been a race that Hamilton has devoured The man who ruled F1 for years before Verstappen snatched away his crown in dramatic fashion last year, has won the Spanish GP six times, including each of the last five years.

But given Mercedes’ embarrassing inability to even keep pace with Ferrari and Red Bull, Hamilton’s likely goal this weekend is just getting ahead of his upstart teammate. George Russell, 13 years Hamilton’s junior, has so far outperformed the seven-time champion with 59 points to Hamilton’s 36.

The 4.6-kilometer (2.8-mile) Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya track is well known to the drivers thanks to both the race and the winter preseason testing normally held at the venue. In February’s tests, Ferrari had the fastest cars on the circuit.

The local fans will be hoping for good showings from both Sainz, who is fifth in the standings ahead of Hamilton, and Fernando Alonso. The two-time former champion has struggled so far and only notched two points in his Alpine. (Report by Joseph Wilson)