Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) came into the race on a 7-contest winning streak and carrying a 43-point lead on teammate Lewis Hamilton. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) was third in the point standings (-57) followed by Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull). The starting grid at Circuit de Catalunya had Hamilton on pole, followed by Rosberg, Ricciardo, and Max Verstappen: newly elevated to the team in a swap that saw Daniil Kvyat relegated to Toro Rosso.
Hamilton and Rosberg took each other out as Hamilton tried to retake P1 between Turns 3 and 4. Ricciardo and Verstappen ran 1-2 under the safety car, followed by Carlos Sainz Jr. (Toro Rosso). Green-flag racing resumed to start Lap 4. Sebastian Vettel passed Sainz for third during Lap 8. Meanwhile, Mercedes in-house guru Niki Lauda placed blame for the collision on Hamilton.
Ricciardo pitted from the lead at the end of Lap 11 (of 66), Verstappen following one lap later. Vettel held a 16-sec lead running in P1. Vettel pitted in 2.4 sec during Lap 16, reentering the fray in third. He ran 3.4 sec behind Ricciardo in Lap 19. Verstappen closed to within 1 sec of Ricciardo during Lap 26.
Ricciardo took his second stop two laps later. Vettel followed on Lap 29. Verstappen pitted in Lap 35, returning to competition in third behind Ricciardo and Vettel. Vettel pitted again on Lap 38, holding an 11-sec lead Verstappen. Ricciardo led Verstappen and Raikkonen, but Vettel set fastest lap with his 39th.
Ricciardo pitted from the lead during Lap 44. Verstappen led Raikkonen by just more than 1 sec. Each of them had pitted twice, compared with three for Ricciardo and Vettel. Raikkonen closed to inside 1 sec in Lap 51. Ricciardo tried to take P3 from Vettel during Lap 59, the two nearly making contact and Ricciardo momentarily taking the spot before the German took it back.
Ricciardo suffered a rear-left failure on the second-to-the-last lap, pitting at the start of final lap to take a new tire, but with enough of a lead to retain P4.
Verstappen took the win to become the youngest F1 winner ever, nearly 3 years younger than previous record-holder Vettel. Raikkonen finished second and Vettel third. Raikkonen passed Hamilton to take second in the driver standings. Ricciardo finished fourth, Valtteri Bottas (Williams) fifth, and Sainz sixth. Sainz and Kvyat’s (P9) combined results moved Toro Rosso into fifth in the constructor standings, ahead of Haas F1.
Driver standings (Top 10)
Nico Rosberg (Germany), Mercedes – 100
Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari – 61
Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain), Mercedes – 57
Sebastian Vettel (Germany), Ferrari – 48
Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull – 48
Max Verstappen (Netherlands), Red Bull – 38
Felipe Massa (Brazil), Williams-Mercedes – 36
Valtteri Bottas (Finland), Williams-Mercedes – 29
Daniil Kvyat (Russia), Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 22
Romain Grosjean (France), Haas-Ferrari – 22
Mercedes (Rosberg, Hamilton) – 157
Ferrari (Vettel, Raikkonen) – 109
Red Bull Racing (Ricciardo, Verstappen) – 94
Williams-Mercedes (Massa, Bottas) – 65
Toro Rosso-Ferrari (Carlos Sainz Jr., Kvyat) – 26
Haas-Ferrari (Grosjean, Esteban Gutierrez) – 22
Force India-Mercedes (Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez) – 14
McLaren-Honda (Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button) – 12
Renault (Kevin Magnussen, Jolyon Palmer) - 6
Next event: Grand Prix of Monaco – Monte Carlo, May 26-29, 2016