Verstappen nailed the start to head off Leclerc’s run to the inside for the first corner and then dropped him again following an early safety car needed to clear debris from contact between cars back in the pack at Turn 1.

The early phase was Verstappen simply driving clear of Leclerc and Sainz, who was initially told he had to sit behind his team-mate and not attack, a call he got frustrated with after a few laps.

The race picture was changed when Nico Hulkenberg retired in the Turn 1 run-off after losing power immediately after his lap 13 stop to change the mediums all the top 10 runners, bar Fernando Alonso for hards, had started on.

This caused the virtual safety car to be activated, which initially appeared to come just too late for the Ferraris to take advantage of as they were just passing the pit exit, but as it was still in place a lap later they came in when Verstappen did not.

That created an off-set between the two leaders, with Leclerc able to start to close in on Verstappen and then lead the phase approaching half-distance once the Red Bull was brought in to take hards on lap 24.

He immediately used that new rubber to erase Leclerc’s 6.4s lead in just 10 laps, with Verstappen getting by at Turn 3 on lap 35 with a move to the inside that appeared to catch the Dutchman out a touch as Leclerc stayed so wide.

From there, Verstappen pulled easily clear once again, opening up a 10s lead in the same number of laps as Ferrari considered switching its driver to a three-stopper only to be rebuffed by Leclerc.

He came in again on lap 47 having been 13.3s adrift, taking the hards for the first time.

Red Bull then closed any hope of a strategic battle late on, as Verstappen was brought in to go back to the mediums only two laps later and he subsequently ran smoothly clear.

He had built a 24s lead by the time he demanded a late stop for softs to take the fastest lap away from Perez on the final tour, which he did by over a second on 1m07.012s – and this all made his winning margin 5.1s.

Leclerc took second 12.0s clear of Perez, who put in a battling drive from his 15th place starting spot, which was aided by several drivers ahead getting five-second time addition penalties for abusing track limits – the topic becoming a major theme just as it had in both qualifying sessions here.

This included Sainz, who had also returned from his VSC stop behind Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris, who had switched places from their fourth and fifth starting spots when the Mercedes shot ahead on the outside line at the first corner.

Sainz battled by but had to get Norris twice once he had fallen behind while serving his penalty at his second stop – like Leclerc for hards but two laps before the leading Ferrari.

Norris had repassed Hamilton by this stage, the seven-time world champion another to get a track limits abuse penalty while he was vocally unhappy with the race pace of his W14.

Sainz and Norris were soon joined by Perez and after he cleared the McLaren he engaged in a lengthy fight with Sainz, who kept picking up DRS by being ahead of the Turn 3 detection point and then fighting back against the Red Bull to Turn 4.

While Sainz felt Perez was “intimidating” him, there was nothing he could do once Perez finally got DRS out of Turn 4 and shot ahead on the run to the downhill right-hander.

The scrap cost Perez three seconds to Leclerc, who was at this stage with nine laps to go 12.4s clear and the expectation of a final Perez chance never came.

Sainz and Norris came home fourth and fifth, with Alonso sixth after gaining that spot when Hamilton served his penalty at his second stop, with George Russell eighth in the other Mercedes having also battled back from a lowly starting spot to score points.

Pierre Gasly was ninth for Alpine, while Lance Stroll ended up 10th – the Canadian completing a three-stop strategy after losing out to Alonso at the start and then losing places when his VSC stop backfired as the neutralisation ended while he was still in the pits.

Other drivers to get track limits penalties included 11th place finisher Alex Albon, while behind Esteban Ocon was hit with the same time addition but for an unsafe release at his first stop when he was released into the path of Logan Sargeant, who had to brake his Williams and allow Ocon through in order to enter his bit box.

The other drivers penalised for track limits abuse were Sargeant, Kevin Magnussen and Tsunoda, who got a second five-second hit for continued running wide at the final corners.

AlphaTauri was cleared of not allowing the full five seconds of Tsunoda’s first penalty to pass before working on his car at his second stop, while its second driver – Nyck de Vries – was given a five-second penalty for forcing Magnussen into the Turn 6 exit gravel during their battle over the minor places at the halfway stage.

Hulkenberg was the race’s sole retirement and every driver veryone up to Albon was lapped – Gasly, Stroll and the Williams earning a reprieve thanks to Verstappen’s late stop.


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