Max Verstappen consolidated his already commanding lead in the F1 title with a commanding victory in the Spanish Grand Prix ahead of Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.
Verstappen’s advantage was only challenged at Turn 1 when Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz came up alongside him, but after that he galloped away.
The reigning champion crossed the finish line 24 seconds clear of 2021 title rivals Hamilton.
Verstappen’s victory was completed by the fastest lap bonus point, which put him 53 points clear of his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, meaning he could retire in the next two F1 races and still lead the championship.
Perez failed to join his teammate on the podium as Mercedes showed real progress after their recent upgrade.
Hamilton and Russell earned a double podium finish for Mercedes, the first for the team since winning last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
Mercedes started the year with a setback but appears to be heading in the right direction in terms of vehicle design.
Perez, who only qualified 11th, showed a solid comeback to fourth but has now transitioned from a potential title contender to a man likely to finish a distant second in three straight Verstappen wins.
The final laps showed just how comfortable Verstappen was as he received a final black and white flag warning for repeated track limit violations.
Despite Red Bull reminding him that he didn’t have to take any chances to win the race, Verstappen set the fastest lap just before the checkered flag.
After doing so, Verstappen’s race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase said to him: “OK, can you take it home inside the white lines now?”
Ferrari driver Sainz finished fifth at his home race ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso.
This is the first weekend that Stroll has overtaken his two-time World Champion teammate in qualifying and the race.
Aston Martin appeared to be the second-fastest team at most races this year but were in a solid fourth place in the leaderboard on Sunday, behind Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari.
Sunday’s result put Mercedes in second place ahead of Aston Martin in the constructors’ championship.
Esteban Ocon finished eighth ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu and his Alpine teammate Pierre Gasly.
Charles Leclerc started from the pit lane after changes were made to his car overnight, but he endured a lonely race and finished 11th, outside of the points.
Lando Norris looked well placed to challenge a strong result but the McLaren driver damaged his front wing on the first lap after colliding with Hamilton, resulting in an early pit stop that ruined his Grand Prix.