Max Verstappen says it would be "completely wrong" to introduce a salary cap for Formula One drivers who "put our lives at risk".

F1 introduced a budget cap at the start of last season and that figure was reduced to $140m (£119m) a team this year.

There has been talk of a limit being place on the wages drivers are paid, but world champion Verstappen made it perfectly clear what he thinks about the prospect of that being implemented.

"It's still a bit vague. I think no one really knows where it is going to go but from my side, it's completely wrong," he said ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix: 

"I think at the moment, F1 is becoming more and more popular and everyone is making more and more money, including the teams and FOM [Formula One Management].

"Everyone is benefitting, so why should the drivers, with their IP rights and everything, be capped? We actually bring the show and put our lives at risk, because we do, eventually. So for me, it's completely wrong."

Verstappen says youngsters making their way in junior categories would also be affected.

He added: "Also, in all of the junior categories, if you see how many of the drivers have a sponsor or a backer who will have a certain percentage of their income in F1 or whatever.

"I think it's going to limit that a lot because they'll never get their return in money and if you get a cap, so it will hurt all the junior categories as well and I don't think you want that."

Sebastian Vettel does not believe there has been a "changing of the guard" in Formula One, saying older drivers would thrive with "the right tools" 

Max Verstappen won his first F1 world title last season, dethroning Lewis Hamilton in the most dramatic fashion in the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

Red Bull's Verstappen leads Charles Leclerc by nine points in the battle for the 2022 title, with the 37-year-old Hamilton sixth.

Vettel, 34, has picked up only five points for Aston Martin, while the 40-year-old Fernando Alonso having 10 points to his name

Verstappen, Leclerc and George Russell – all aged 24 – have emerged as a new generation of drivers with long careers ahead of them.

Four-time F1 champion Vettel says they are fortunate to have cars that enable them to challenge for victories. 

Asked about the young drivers coming through, the German told Stats Perform: "I think it very much depends how competitive your environment is.

"Obviously, usually you're saying that there's a changing of the guard, Lewis has been arguably fighting for the title until the very last lap last year, so it's not too long ago.

"I think it depends always on the situation you're in for sure. There's drivers that are a little bit older like Fernando and Lewis then myself, but I'm sure that you give us the right tools, we still can do the right work."

Vettel hopes Ferrari can give Leclerc every chance of winning his first F1 title.

He said: "Obviously, Charles is one of them and in a good car he deserves to be up there. Hopefully the car will be good enough for him to fight for the title this year until the end.

"We will see, throughout the field you have more that one or two drivers that will be able to battle for victories.

"But usually the right drivers get the right package at the right time, so I'm very happy for him and hopefully he has the car to do it until the end."

 

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Sebastian Vettel has questioned how much Lewis Hamilton is enjoying racing amid his struggles in the 2022 Formula One season.

Hamilton, a seven-time world champion, and Mercedes have battled issues with the new design of their car during the early throes of the campaign.

The 37-year-old has just 50 points to his name in the drivers' standings, and sits 75 behind leader and defending champion Max Verstappen heading into the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Hamilton has just one podium finish this campaign, a third-place finish at the Bahrain Grand Prix opener, from seven races as Mercedes have failed to keep the pace with Red Bull and Ferrari.

Aston Martin driver Vettel pondered whether Hamilton is still getting the same joy he previously did.

"He had a package where he was able to win," four-time world champion Vettel said. "Obviously, it's been a little different for myself the last few years, but that's how it goes sometimes.

"You still try to make the most of it, but for sure, in terms of how much you enjoy it, when you get used to winning there is no feeling that can replace that.

"But having said that you have to work together as a team to try and get back up."

Mercedes have repeatedly struggled with 'porpoising' – bouncing at high speed – and not racing at the optimum height with their W13 car.

That has left them in the wake of a dominant season so far for Red Bull and Ferrari, and Vettel acknowledged the difficulties as he suggested Aston Martin are having problems of their own.

"I don't think Mercedes pulled back voluntarily; I think they are obviously having difficulties extracting the most from their car just like many other people have," he added.

"But others that have got it together more so the balance has shifted a little bit. But for us that’s not what is most important, the most important is about looking at ourselves where we are.

"And as I said at the moment, we are not happy with where we are, we would like to be further up but there’s a lot of work going into the project and hopefully we will see some better results soon."

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Sebastian Vettel is confident Aston Martin can improve their results after a disappointing start to 2022 amid doubts over his future in Formula One.

The four-time world champion is nearing the end of his contract with Aston Martin and it remains to be seen whether he will continue in the sport beyond this season.

Aston Martin's form has done little to quieten talk of retirement.

Vettel was 12th in the drivers' championship with 43 points in 2021. After missing the first two races of this season with COVID-19, he has claimed only five points from five grands prix.

However, as F1 returns to Baku, the scene of a second-placed finish for Vettel last season, he is hopeful changes to the car - which provoked controversy and questions from Red Bull due to the similarities the two cars now share - can spark an upturn in fortunes.

He told Stats Perform: "Obviously we are not aiming to be where we are now. But yeah let's see, we still have some races ahead of us and the team is pushing hard to improve the car.

"With the new set of regulations, there's always a risk you might get it wrong and I think that we have changed our path with a different car that we have adopted now and we believe that it is a better option for the races in the future.

"At the moment, we are not happy with where we are, we would like to be further up but there's a lot of work going into the project and hopefully we will see some better results soon."

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Max Verstappen is looking to settle some "unfinished business" at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as he sets out to further extend his lead in the Formula One drivers' championship.

Verstappen is nine points ahead of Charles Leclerc after a chaotic Monaco Grand Prix in which the Dutchman finished third ahead of his Ferrari rival.

Leclerc was apoplectic as a Ferrari miscue that saw them double stack the Monegasque and team-mate Carlos Sainz in the pits cost him the chance of a home victory.

Red Bull have won each of the last four races, with Leclerc's loss in Monte Carlo the gain of the victorious Sergio Perez, who will be out to replicate his 2021 triumph in Baku.

That win for Perez came after a rear tyre failure caused Verstappen to crash from the lead on lap 47, a piece of misfortune for which he is keen to make up.

"I'm looking forward to returning to Baku, we have some unfinished business there after last year," said Verstappen.

"It's a tricky track with big braking zones and a tight run-off, finding the best set-up for the car will be difficult in terms of making sure we get the correct wing level.

"It will also be interesting to see if we can make our one-lap performance better for qualifying as we’ve been lacking a little."

Ferrari have never tasted victory at the street circuit in the Azerbaijan capital, which presents one of the most challenging tests on the F1 calendar.

Leclerc finished fourth from pole last year and failing to back up qualifying performance on race day has been a persistent problem for Ferrari in 2022.

Luckless Leclerc

Leclerc has claimed pole in five of the first seven races this season and could become the first Ferrari driver to record six poles in the opening eight races since Michael Schumacher in 2001.

Yet he has only two victories to his name this campaign, with wins snatched from his grasp in Barcelona and Monaco.

For his career, Leclerc has won just four of the 14 races in which he has taken pole position. His win percentage of 29 per cent in those races is the second-lowest behind Jarno Trulli (25), who won one of the four races he started on pole.

Given the prevalence of fast straights in Baku, this is a track more likely to favour Red Bull, meaning it could be another frustrating weekend for Leclerc even if he continues his dominance of qualifying.

A Perez title push

Perez is himself only 15 points behind Verstappen in the title race and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner recently said the Mexican is "in this championship just as much as Max is".

That statement runs contrary to the call Red Bull made in Barcelona, ordering Perez to let Verstappen through en route to victory there.

Perez made his dissatisfaction in Spain clear, and Verstappen's father Jos expressed his irritation after Monaco that the Red Bull strategy went against the reigning world champion.

"Max was not helped by the chosen strategy. That was disappointing for me and I would have liked it to be different for the championship leader," he wrote on Verstappen.com.

Should Perez triumph again in Baku, any talk of Red Bull playing favourites may have to give way to an in-team title tussle.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 125
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 116
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 110
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 84
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 83

Constructors

1. Red Bull 235
2. Ferrari 199
3. Mercedes 134
4. McLaren 59
5. Alfa Romeo 41

Sergio Perez will race for Red Bull until at least the end of the 2024 Formula One season after signing a new deal following his triumph at the Monaco Grand Prix.

The Mexican put pen to paper on fresh terms during race weekend, as he went on to earn the third victory of his career in a rain-soaked race at the weekend.

The 32-year-old sits third in the driver standings this season, just 15 points off team-mate and leader Max Verstappen.

"For me, this has been an incredible week," Perez said in an official statement.

"Winning the Monaco Grand Prix is a dream for any driver and then to follow that with announcing I will continue with the team until 2024 just makes me extremely happy.

"I am so proud to be a member of this team and I feel completely at home here now. We are working very well together and my relationship with Max, on and off the track, is definitely helping drive us forward even more.

"We have built tremendous momentum as a team and this season is showing that, I am excited to see where that can take us all in the future."

Initially entering F1 in 2011 with the Australian Grand Prix, Perez worked through a succession of teams in the sport, including Sauber, McLaren, Force India and Racing Point.

The Mexican looked poised to be without a seat for 2021 after the latter confirmed he would be replaced by Sebastian Vettel following the team's transition to Aston Martin.

But a shock maiden victory at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix earned him a drive with Red Bull and saw him set a record for the most races before a first win in F1, with 190.

Since his move to Red Bull, he was won two more, including Monaco, and will seek to defend the trophy he won in Baku last year at next month's Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

"Since joining Red Bull, Checo [Perez] has done a fantastic job," said Red Bull boss Christian Horner.

"Time and again he has proved himself to not only be a magnificent team player but as his level of comfort has grown he has become a real force to be reckoned with at the sharp end of the grid.

"This year he has taken another step and the gap to world champion Max has closed significantly, evidenced by his superb pole position in Jeddah earlier this year and by his wonderful win in Monaco just last weekend.

"For us, holding onto his pace, race craft and experience was a no-brainer and we are delighted that Checo will continue to race for the team until 2024. In partnership with Max we believe we have a driver pairing that can bring us the biggest prizes in F1."

Sergio Perez has called winning the Monaco Grand Prix a "dream come true" after his triumph from third on the grid to take the top step.

Perez put in an assured and calculated drive in tricky conditions on Sunday, which meant only 66 laps could be completed on the streets of Monte Carlo after a late start, and further delays following a big crash for Mick Schumacher.

Perez claimed only his third race victory from 220 starts. Admittedly for the Mexican driver, the prestige of taking the race victory at Monaco is different to his other two wins, in Sakhir and Azerbaijan.

"Well, certainly very high up there, winning Monaco, it's a dream come true as a driver," Perez told a news conference.

"When you come into Formula One and when you come to Monaco, when you drive it for the first time, you always dream about one day winning the race or racing here. So it's just incredible.

"It's such a big day for myself. I was driving with Pedro Rodriguez's helmet today, and I'm sure that there he will be super proud of what we have achieved in this sport."

Perez pitted from fourth place for a set of intermediates before both Charles Leclerc and team-mate Max Verstappen came in, putting him in position to take the race lead as the track dried, albeit with the help of poorly executed Ferrari strategy.

He was eventually able to hold off a late charge from Carlos Sainz, becoming the first Mexican driver to win in Monaco.

With only six drivers from Mexico to ever drive in Formula One, Perez did not lose perspective on the gravity of such an achievement.

"Certainly, in terms of history of the sport, I'm a big fan of my sport," he said. "So, certainly knowing what it means to win a race like this. I mean, they're all very important, but certainly this is very special. And it goes very, very high on the list for my country.

"I certainly feel like at the moment, I'm the only Mexican – or even Latin American – driver on the grid. So, it just shows how difficult it is for us - not saying that for European drivers it's easy, but it just shows how difficult it is for us to make it into the sport and to have a successful career. It is quite hard, but I have to say I'm extremely proud of it."

Charles Leclerc could not understand Ferrari's strategy during the Monaco Grand Prix, as he lost ground on Formula One leader Max Verstappen.

Leclerc finished fourth in his home race on Sunday after an eventful, rain-soaked grand prix.

Ferrari had closed out the front of the grid and seemed all set to go on and claim a big win, but Red Bull's Sergio Perez clinched victory.

Carlos Sainz finished second ahead of Verstappen to restore some pride for Ferrari, but the Dutchman's lead in the driver's standings grew to four points over Leclerc.

Some strange tactical decisions cost Ferrari, who delayed putting Leclerc on intermediate tyres before then accidentally instructing the Monegasque driver to come in and change to slicks.

Before Ferrari realised their error, Leclerc had already entered the pit lane, allowing Verstappen to overtake him and hold on for a place on the podium.

"Let down is not the word," Leclerc told reporters.

"Sometimes mistakes can happen – but there have been too many mistakes.

"I'm used to getting back home disappointed but we cannot do that, especially in a moment now where we are extremely strong.

"We need to take opportunities. I love my team. We will come back stronger, but it hurts a lot.

"We cannot afford to lose so many points like this. It's not even from first to second, it's from first to fourth because after the first mistakes we've done another one.

"I don't understand what made us change our minds. We got undercut and then stuck behind Carlos [Sainz]. There were a lot of mistakes and we cannot afford to do that.

"The first [radio message for the first pit stop] was a clear decision and a very wrong one. From that moment onwards, the mess started.

"I don't know if it was panic – I don't hear all the background stuff between the team so it's not up to me to judge.

"The last message I had was not clear because I was told to come in and then to stay out but I was already in the pit lane and that's when I let it out on the radio and screamed because I knew it was done."

Sergio Perez won an extraordinary Monaco Grand Prix as Charles Leclerc endured more misery in his home race on Sunday.

Perez claimed his first victory on the streets of Monte Carlo ahead of Carlos Sainz after a late start due to heavy rain and the loss of further time following a big crash for Mick Schumacher, who was fortunate to walk away unharmed.

Leclerc had started on pole but could only finish fourth after paying the price for poor Ferrari pit-stop strategies and so Max Verstappen extended his lead over the Monegasque to nine points in the battle for the title after taking third.

Verstappen’s Red Bull-mate Perez took the chequered flag in the sun on lap 64, as there was not enough time to complete the full 77 in the Principality as a result of the poor weather earlier in the day.

There was eventually a rolling start behind the safety car an hour and 10 minutes after the race was due to begin, with the red flag having earlier been waved during a deluge.

Leclerc maintained his lead ahead of team-mate Sainz on a drying track ahead of a Red Bull duo of Perez and Verstappen.

Perez pitted from fourth place for a set of intermediate tyres before both Leclerc and Verstappen came in for intermediates.

Leclerc was not happy when he was called in again at the same time as Sainz for hard tyres only three laps later, with Red Bull also opting for a double stack soon after and it was Perez who was leading after a string of pit stops.

The second-placed Sainz produced a great save to avoid crashing into the barriers on a wet part of the track, but the virtual safety car was deployed and subsequently another red flag following a big smash for Schumacher on lap 26.

Leclerc found himself in fourth behind Verstappen following some puzzling decision-making from the Scuderia and there were only 40 minutes of racing to go when the race restarted again on a significantly drier track.

Mexican Perez fended off Sainz to celebrate his first victory of the season. George Russell was fifth, with his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton only eighth behind Lando Norris and Fernando Alonso.

Charles Leclerc was "incredibly happy" to claim pole position in Monaco Grand Prix qualifying, leading a Ferrari one-two – although Carlos Sainz felt he could have pipped his team-mate if not for a dramatic crash.

Monegasque driver Leclerc qualified fastest at his home race after the final session was cut short due to a red flag.

Sergio Perez hit the barrier, prompting a yellow flag that Sainz saw only in time to brake as he careered into the Red Bull.

That brought a premature end to proceedings but ensured a fine result for Ferrari and, in particular, Leclerc, who secured a precious pole; while he has converted only four of his 13 previous poles into wins, some 15 of the past 17 winners in Monaco have started from the front row, including 12 from first place.

For Leclerc to add his name to the list of winners, he will have to overcome an awful record which has seen him never manage to finish the Monaco race. Despite taking pole last year, his car also crashed heavily in qualifying, and it meant Leclerc could not take an active part on race day.

This time it could be a different story.

"It is very special. I'm so incredibly happy," Leclerc said. "It's been a very smooth weekend until now – I knew the pace was in the car; I just had to do the job, and it went perfectly.

"That last lap, before the red flag, was really, really good, but it didn't change anything for us."

That may be true for Leclerc, but Sainz felt he was on course to top the timesheets prior to the collision with Perez.

"It's a shame – another year that a red flag cost us the end of a session, and we could not go for pole position," he said, "but it's typical Monaco."

Sainz added: "I think we are in a great position to score a great result for the team. The car has been amazing all weekend, so we'll go for it."

Perez still qualified in third, ahead of an out-of-sorts Max Verstappen, while Lewis Hamilton's practice woes shifted only enough for him to make eighth before his final flying lap was halted.

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:11.376
2. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.225s
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.253s
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.290s
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.473s
6. George Russell (Mercedes) +0.736s
7. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +0.871s
8. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1.184s
9. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1.356s
10. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +1.671s

Lewis Hamilton suggested the problems with his Mercedes W13 were being exacerbated in Monaco on "the bumpiest track I've ever driven".

Seven-time Formula One champion Hamilton has endured a difficult season, complaining right from the outset about his "bouncing" 2022 car.

There had been some signs of progress in recent weeks, however, with Hamilton finishing fifth in Barcelona despite a first-lap puncture.

But things have taken another turn for the worse for the Silver Arrows in Monaco, where Hamilton finished in P10 in Friday's first practice session and P12 in the second.

The circuit itself has contributed, the Briton says, as he said: "Firstly, it's the bumpiest the track [has] ever been. It's probably the bumpiest track I've ever driven.

"So, one, that makes it difficult, and two, just generally our car bounces a lot.

"It's different bouncing to what we've experienced in the past; it's in the low speed also, but it's not aero[-related]. I think the bumps on the track just make it worse.

"I'm not really having to learn the track differently, just fighting the car. To put a lap together is... wow, holy c**p! I don't remember experiencing it like that before."

Team-mate George Russell was only a little better in P8 and P6, beaten in both sessions by McLaren's Lando Norris (P5 twice).

"I'm a little bit surprised to say we're ahead of Mercedes," Norris said. "I expected them to maybe be ahead of us at the minute.

"But the plan is to be ahead of them, and if we can be, I'll be very happy with that."

Yet McLaren colleague Daniel Ricciardo has work to do after hitting the barrier in FP2.

"We pushed a little too far probably in a couple areas with the set-up," Ricciardo said. "We had a good morning, and obviously you try a few things for FP2 to try to maximise a bit more performance, but let's say we overstepped it – you don't know until you try it.

"It was my first lap, so I couldn't really get much of a read on it; it happened straight away.

"I tried my best to save it, but I couldn't. We missed all of the session, but I'm okay. We'll be ready to go tomorrow."

Formula One has arrived at the most prestigious race on the calendar, and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc would be desperate to end an awful run of form at his home race.

Born and raised in Monaco, Leclerc's string of bad luck on the historic circuit dates back to his days in Formula Two, where he set the F2 lap record in 2017 before suspension problems caused a DNF.

The next year, in F1, he was in the points for Sauber before brake failure led to a crash with Brendan Hartley.

After poor strategy and Q1 elimination in his first Monaco Grand Prix for Ferrari in 2019, Leclerc charged up the field early on but pushed a little too hard and collided with Romain Grosjean at Rascasse.

In 2021, he surprisingly stuck an inferior Ferrari on pole position but crashed at the end of Q3, and extensive drive-shaft damage led to him cruelly retiring on the formation lap.

The 24-year-old became the first Monegasque to claim pole, but his three DNFs – from as many F1 entries – are his most at any circuit.

Despite ending up in the barriers on a demonstration lap in Niki Lauda's Ferrari last week, another pole could finally put Leclerc on the top step in his home race.

Twelve of the past 17 winners at Monaco have started from pole, as little room to overtake with bigger cars on Monte Carlo's notoriously tight streets makes track position critical.

It would be a welcome way for Leclerc to buck his trend of failing to convert poles into race victories, winning only four times from 13 starts at the front of the grid.

The title race adds another dimension, with Max Verstappen taking a six-point lead from him in the drivers' standings after successive victories at Imola, Miami and Barcelona.

In-form Red Bull with records in sight

Monaco has been a happy hunting ground for Red Bull, and this weekend could bring a number of records for the team.

This weekend could see Red Bull claim their highest number of race wins (six), pole positions (six), podiums (24, with both drivers) and points earned at a circuit, surpassing the 356 collected in Spain.

Meanwhile, reigning world champion Verstappen has the chance to record the longest winning streak of his career, beating last year's three wins between France and Austria.

Ricciardo in need of renaissance

Daniel Ricciardo has come under criticism from McLaren team principal Zak Brown for his recent performances, with a clear need for improvement.

The 32-year-old suffered one of the lowest points of his career last year in Monte Carlo, when he was lapped by teammate Lando Norris.

Ricciardo is suffering his worst streak of finishes outside the points (three) since 2012, when he had five consecutive empty-handed returns for Toro Rosso.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 110
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 104
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 85
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 74
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 65

Constructors

1. Red Bull 195
2. Ferrari 169
3. Mercedes 120
4. McLaren 50
5. Alfa Romeo 39

Lewis Hamilton says his fifth-placed finish at the Spanish Grand Prix felt "better than a win" after he recovered from a first-lap puncture that left him in 19th position.

Starting from P6, Hamilton suffered the puncture following contact from Haas driver Kevin Magnussen on the first lap in Barcelona and suggested to his Mercedes team he should retire from the race to preserve the car's engine after rejoining at the back of the field.

But the seven-time champion produced an excellent drive after his enforced pit-stop and looked on course to finish fourth before a coolant leak allowed Ferrari's Carlos Sainz to edge him out late on.

Speaking after the race, Hamilton considered the circumstances he was forced to overcome en route to a strong points finish.

"To have that problem and come back, it felt like some of the older races I've done," Hamilton said. "It feels amazing.

"I was thinking it was impossible to get back into points, but the team said 'no, you're on for eighth'. I thought they were being super-optimistic.

"I'm glad we didn't [retire] and it just shows you never stop and never give up, and that's what I did.

"A race like that is like a win, and it actually feels better than a win when you have come from so far back."

Since losing out on a record eighth world title in the closing seconds of the final race of the 2021 campaign, when Max Verstappen clinched his first championship in controversial circumstances, Hamilton has endured a frustrating time.

The 37-year-old, who has only secured one podium this campaign, has been critical of Mercedes' W13 car on numerous occasions this year, calling it "undriveable" after finishing 13th at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix last month. 

But Hamilton believes the team's work on the car has improved it greatly, and he suggested he could have joined team-mate George Russell – in third – in challenging the two Red Bull drivers, who secured their second one-two in three races, if not for his early problems.

"We have made a lot of improvements with the car and the race pace is much better, the car is much nicer in the race," he added. "We have some improvements to make in qualifying.

"If I hadn't had that [issue], I would have been fighting with the Red Bulls."

Max Verstappen tried to keep his frustration at bay as he overcame a "not nice" start to the Spanish Grand Prix before ultimately recovering to earn a crucial win.

The reigning world champion claimed his third consecutive Formula One victory in Barcelona on Sunday, profiting after title rival Charles Leclerc retired with a technical issue when seemingly on course to win.

Verstappen now holds a six-point lead at the top of the standings, an outcome that did not look likely when the Dutchman dropped from second to fourth after spinning in the early stages, as Leclerc built a huge lead.

The Dutchman also voiced his concerns on team radio as persistent issues with his DRS system hindered his attempts to pass Mercedes' George Russell during a thrilling tussle between the duo.

Verstappen, though, kept his focus and, after some help from team orders, recorded his first win in Spain since 2016, when he took his first-ever F1 victory at the same circuit.

Team-mate Sergio Perez was second in a great result for Red Bull, with Russell taking the final spot on the podium ahead of Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton.

"Of course I went off - I suddenly had a lot of tailwind, so I just lost the rear and went off," Verstappen said about his ninth-lap error.

"Then I was obviously in the train and trying to pass but my DRS was not always working. That made it very tough.

"But we managed use strategy to get ahead again [with three pit stops]. We tried to do our own race and eventually we got the win. So it was a difficult beginning but a good end.

"I just tried to stay focused - of course it is not nice when stuff like that happens - but at the end I am very happy to win and happy for Checo." 

Verstappen insisted his anger on team radio related to his car issues, not at the way Russell was defending his position. 

"It was more frustration because of my DRS," he said. "It is a great result for the team. The behaviour of the car was good on the softs."

As for Russell, third place represented a continuation of his strong start to the F1 season with Mercedes even as the team lacks its normal pace.

The Briton has finished in the top five for all six races so far, with this being his second podium.

"I gave everything I could do to hold Max off," he said. "I would love to say that [that Mercedes are back], I am proud to be standing here [in the top three]. 

"It hurt us a lot but when I had the Red Bull in the mirrors all I was doing was the maximum to keep them behind. It is a lot of points on the board for us and well done to Max."

Next up for the drivers is the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix, which will take place on May 29.

Max Verstappen recovered from an early spin to win a dramatic Spanish Grand Prix and take the championship lead after Charles Leclerc retired.

Leclerc looked set to increase his advantage over Verstappen in searing heat at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, but the Ferrari driver's race was over when he lost power while leading comfortably on lap 23.

Verstappen had been in the gravel on lap nine and also suffered DRS issues, but the Dutchman led a Red Bull one-two for his third consecutive win to move above Leclerc in the driver standings after Sergio Perez let him through under team orders on lap 49 of 66.

George Russell finished third, with his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton worked his way back through the field to take fifth place behind Carlos Sainz despite suffering a puncture on the first lap.

Leclerc got a good start to retain his lead, but Hamilton's miserable start to the season was summed up when his he made contact with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen - who went into the gravel - at Turn 4 on the opening lap.

Hamilton limped to the pits with a front-left puncture and was told to continue after suggesting over the team radio that he retires from the race, having returned to the track in 19th place.

Sainz was back in 11th after spinning off at Turn 4 on lap seven and Verstappen was in the gravel at the same section of the circuit two laps later, dropping back from second to fourth.

Russell pitted from second place and Verstappen was also called in on lap 14, with Leclerc leading by over nine seconds.

Verstappen was furious as he was hampered by DRS issues attempting to pass Russell, who fended the Dutchman off to keep second place as they went wheel-to-wheel.

It was all going so well for Leclerc until he lost power with a win there for the taking and Perez soon passed Russell on fresher tyres to take the lead after Verstappen pitted for a new set of softs.

Verstappen was out in front on lap 38 after team-mate Perez and Russell pitted for mediums, then a quick stop for the defending champion put him back on track in third place behind his team-mate.

Perez allowed Verstappen to pass him under team orders and there were no further twists in a pulsating race, with a surging Hamilton passing Sainz to finish fourth until a late technical issue caused him to concede the place back.

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