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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Verstappen shocks the world // Mercedes calamity and poor Ferrari strategy pave the way for Verstappen to become youngest ever winner

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What a race! For the first time in a long time, no one knew who would win throughout the Grand Prix. Would a two-stop work for Verstappen and Räikkönen before their tyres fell off a cliff? Could Max keep his nerve? How fast would Ricciardo be on fresher tyres in the final stint? In the end, it was the teenager who came out on top and to be fair, the Mercedes incident had no impact on the Red Bull/Ferrari fight, though it did highlight it and raise the stakes with a rare opportunity of a win, rather than just a podium, as Mercedes failed to score a point for the first time since the 2012 US GP.

The Flying Dutchman

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing: Started 4th, Finished 1st

A performance like that only amplifies the Scuderia’s frustration in not signing Verstappen before Toro Rosso
Credit: Dan Istitene/Getty

Where else can we start but with Max Verstappen? It was a great win for the 18-year-old as he became the youngest ever of the 106 winners of a Grands Prix. To be fair, teammate Ricciardo could easily have been the victor but Red Bull split their strategy and the Dutchman’s riskier two stop strategy proved the better option and Verstappen did everything he had to to win his maiden GP.

However, the most impressive thing about Verstappen is that this was his first competitive outing in a new car with a new team and he was instantly on Ricciardo’s pace, within the top 8 throughout the weekend and in the top four throughout qualifying. In fact, up until a mega lap from Ricciardo at the end of Q3 it looked as though Verstappen would have the dream debut, qualifying best of the rest behind the Mercedes before Ricciardo pulled at an incredible lap to beat the Dutchman by four tenths.

Come race day opportunity knocked with the Mercedes' colliding ahead. Verstappen lost out to Vettel into turn one, boxed in behind his teammate, but got the position back brilliantly around the outside of turn three before getting his elbows out to hold Carlos Sainz back exiting turn four, just as the Safety Car was called.

Verstappen maintained the gap behind Ricciardo throughout the first stint, as the Ferraris closed up after passing Sainz. Red Bull chose to avoid the undercut, pitting both cars early and leaving Ferrari to choose their own strategy, creating an intriguing race. Verstappen came out in fourth as Ferrari ran a longer first stint with Vettel, but the Dutchman then made short work of passing Grosjean for third. Then came the defining moment for Red Bull, as they moved Ricciardo on to a three stop strategy, which was in theory the quicker strategy, leaving Verstappen out front until lap 34, pitting for a new set of medium tyres.

This was his first competitive outing in a new car with a new team and he was instantly on Ricciardo’s pace

The question then became, what was Verstappen’s strategy? Could the Dutchman make the tyres last? The Ferraris soon pitted, meaning that they wouldn’t have much fresher tyres for their final stint and Ricciardo pitted nine laps later. What followed was an incredible performance, as Verstappen didn’t break a sweat defending from Kimi Räikkönen, 18 years his senior, and showed the maturity to preserve his tyres. Gradually it became clear that he could not be beaten.

With Sergio Marchionne’s claims earlier this week about Ferrari needing to win, Verstappen holding them off will only add to the pressure, and a performance like that only amplifies the Scuderia’s frustration in not signing Verstappen before Toro Rosso.

Overlooked Sainz performs to impress Ferrari

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Toro Rosso: Started 8th, Finished 6th

Credit must go to Carlos Sainz for coming out fighting. I expected him to be rather downbeat this weekend after being overlooked in the Red Bull swap but instead it galvanised the Spaniard as he put himself in the shop window for a top team.

Toro Rosso were inconsistent in practice but Sainz was ahead of Kvyat on Friday, as the Russian learnt the new car, but Sainz’s potential was highlighted by finishing fifth in second practice. And while Kvyat beat his teammate in final practice it was all Sainz when qualifying started, in the top ten throughout and gradually improving: 10th in Q1, 9th in Q2 before a great lap put him eighth on the grid, just over a tenth behind Valtteri Bottas and ahead of Pérez and Alonso.

Sainz had a great start, beating Räikkönen off the line before being sensible in turn one
Credit: Peter Fox/Getty

Sainz had a great start, beating Räikkönen off the line before being sensible in turn one, passing Bottas around the outside of turn two and then Vettel around the outside of turn four, nearly passing ex-teammate Verstappen in the same move but the Dutchman’s aggressive defence kept Sainz in third before the Safety Car. The challenge now became to hold off the Ferraris, with an interesting conundrum: desperate to impress Red Bull but with Ferrari power in his Toro Rosso. Sainz held off as long as possible but DRS saw Vettel past into turn one on lap 8. Sainz was then very robust defending against Räikkönen, being firm but fair as he forced the Finn off the track at turn one, before Kimi got past a lap later.

Sainz pitted early, coming in on lap 10 to fit medium tyres but traffic allowed Bottas to get ahead. From there Sainz was locked in sixth between Bottas and Pérez, maintaining strong pace but preserving his tyres well to run two long stints on the medium compound, with a rather lonely final stint. He showed great pace and secured a third points finish in five races, as he looks to prove Red Bull wrong.

Super Swede Ericsson on top form

Marcus Ericsson, Sauber F1 Team: Started 19th, Finished 12th

Sauber are really struggling, both for pace and finances but that didn’t stop Marcus Ericsson putting in a great performance in Spain. Ericsson was 19th on the grid, three tenths ahead of teammate Nasr and close to Palmer and Massa. That being said, Ericsson was eight tenths off qualifying from Q2, so there is still a way to go for the Swiss team.

Ericsson maintained position at the start, up to 17th before an early stop on lap nine, like most of the field, but went contra to the rest, fitting another set of the softs as the Swede looked to do a three-stop strategy. The faster soft tyres allowed Ericsson to move up to 15th, ahead of Gutiérrez and Haryanto. The earlier second stop then saw Ericsson move up from 18th to 13th through the undercut and fresher tyres.

However, after a short stint on the medium tyres, Ericsson still needed to stop once more, pitting on lap 41 for medium tyres, and giving Ericsson a quick car for the final push, passing Nasr, Magnussen and Palmer, profiting from Alonso’s retirement to equal his and Sauber’s best result of the season.

Ericsson maintained position at the start
Credit: Sauber AG

Massa recovers for more points

Felipe Massa, Williams Martini Racing: Started 18th, Finished 8th

Felipe Massa had a difficult weekend, struggling for pace throughout, and featuring in the bottom six in FP2 & FP3. The Brazilian’s mood was not helped as traffic hindered him on his one run in Q1 leaving him in the drop zone, with no time to improve.

It was a tactical masterstroke as Massa leapt up to 10th by the time the pitstops had played out

While there was a considerable amount of egg on Williams’ face after a strategy screw up in qualifying, they redeemed themselves on Sunday. Massa had lost out to the Saubers and Wehrlein at the start but gained the places back before a very early stop on lap eight in an attempt to undercut the midfield. It was a tactical masterstroke as Massa leapt up to 10th by the time the pitstops had played out.

The early stop committed Massa to a three stop, so he still needed to use the Williams’ pace to maintain position, let alone go forward. However, the fresher tyres, meant Felipe could close on those ahead, getting passed the McLarens, Kvyat and Gutiérrez on alternative strategies to rescue eighth place and maintain his 100% points scoring record in 2016.