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Dutch teen sets Formula One ablaze

AFP
Published : May 16, 2016, 6:20 am IST
Updated : May 16, 2016, 6:20 am IST

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after winning the Spanish GP at the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo, Barcelona. (Photo: AFP)

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after winning the Spanish GP at the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo, Barcelona. (Photo: AFP)

Teenager Max Verstappen became the youngest ever Formula One winner on Sunday when he took full advantage of Mercedes’ first lap crash to claim a drama-laden Spanish Grand Prix.

In his maiden outing for Red Bull following his unexpected promotion from Toro Rosso, the 18-year-old Dutchman showed supreme composure under pressure as he resisted all attacks to claim a memorable victory in only his 24th F1 race.

At 18 years and 228 days he became the youngest race winner, replacing four-time champion Sebastian Vettel who had also taken that record as a Red Bull driver at 21 years and 74 days in 2008.

“It feels amazing, I can’t believe it,” said Verstappen.

“It was a great race and it felt like an endurance race. To win straight away, in my first race, it’s an amazing feeling.

“From a very young age, my Dad has helped me a lot — it’s just amazing.”

Verstappen, heralded as the sport’s hottest property, proved he has everything required to be a future world champion.

But he owed some of his good fortune also to Red Bull’s decision to put him on a three-stop strategy while his senior team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was on a two-stop plan.

That prevented the Australian from turning his early control of the race into victory after the opening lap collision between championship leader Nico Rosberg and his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton had left them fuming in a gravel trap at Turn Four and out of the race.

Ricciardo eventually came home fourth, despite suffering a puncture on the penultimate 65th lap, behind the two Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen who finished second ahead of Vettel.

Verstappen became the first Dutchman to win a F1 Grand Prix.

“It’s unbelievable, I can’t believe this,” said Verstappen’s father Jos, who on Saturday had announced he had stood down as his son’s manager.

Valtteri Bottas came home fifth for Williams ahead of Carlos Sainz in a Toro Rosso, Sergio Perez of Force India, Felipe Massa in the second Williams, Jenson Button of McLaren and Daniil Kvyat on his return to Toro Rosso.

Location: Spain, Katalonia, Barcelona