It's all changed in Formula One as Max Verstappen and Red Bull replaced Charles Leclerc and Ferrari at the top of the championship standings. In a race where everything seemed to go wrong for Ferrari, Red Bull was more than happy to pick up the pieces. However, it wasn't all smooth sailing for eventual race winner Verstappen after a trip through the gravel and technical issues with his DRS.
F1 might've left Miami behind, but the Miami heat (no, not the basketball team) followed the sport over the Atlantic to Barcelona. The Spanish sun beating down had the Grand Prix see track temperatures reach a scorching 51.2°C/124°F. As a result, tire degradation was high, and the lesser-spotted three-stop strategy proved the quickest way around the 66 laps.
As has often been the case in 2022, it was a Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen front row, and the pair led in that order out of the first corner. Meanwhile, home hero Carlos Sainz endured another disappointing first lap after struggling to get off the line and falling back from P3 to P5. However, George Russell didn't need any excuse to put his much-improved Mercedes into third place, with Sergio Perez in hot pursuit in fourth.
Russell's teammate Lewis Hamilton didn't have such a strong start, as the Brit collided with Kevin Magnussen on the first lap. While Hamilton suffered a puncture, Magnussen slid over the Turn 4 gravel – the first car of several to do so in the race. Both pitted and fell to the back of the pack, with Hamilton soon radioing his team to request an early retirement from the race.
Turn 4 soon became a hive of activity. First, Sainz spun under braking on Lap 8 to fall off the track and into the gravel and fell to P11. Then, one lap later, Verstappen replicated the error to drop from second place to fourth. The Dutch driver's race engineer let him know it was thanks to a strong gust of wind, but the damage was already done, and he now sat behind his teammate
The order of the two Red Bulls didn't stay that way for long, though. With Perez unable to pass Russell through the opening dozen laps, the team made the call to swap positions and let their world champion have a go. However, Verstappen's task wasn't straightforward, thanks to his DRS not working correctly. On some laps, it would open wide, while on others, it would briefly move before shutting a split second later. Some exasperated radio messages between Verstappen and his pit wall didn't resolve the problem, and he couldn't make his way past the Mercedes.
The stakes of their battle for second place suddenly were raised much higher when Charles Leclerc unexpectedly began slowing down from the lead. His Ferrari suffered an engine failure, and although he limped back to the pits, Charles' day was over. Verstappen immediately pitted from what was now second place to try the undercut, and Perez was let loose on Russell once again, but this time with new tires to fight with.