Sainz wins 1st career F1 race with victory at British GP

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SILVERSTONE, England — Carlos Sainz Jr. won his first career Formula One race on Sunday with victory at the British Grand Prix — the most spectacular race so far this season. It started with a scary crash on the first lap and ended in intense wheel-to-wheel battles for the podium spots.

Sainz was in the lead with Charles Leclerc close behind and, while Ferrari initially said they were “free to fight”, the Italian team then asked Sainz to let Leclerc pass to avoid wasting time at Lewis Hamilton.

But a safety car came out and Ferrari brought Sainz into the pits for cooler, more grippy soft tyres. Leclerc was left on older, harder tires and Sainz quickly passed his team-mate to reclaim the lead and pull away for his first victory in his 150th F1 start.

“Today’s victory is a bit of a relief,” said Sainz. “Honestly, I never stopped believing that this dream was going to come true, even though this year has been difficult for me.” He had finished second or third 11 times before winning and was a frustrating second behind Verstappen in the last race in Canada.

Sergio Pérez overtook Hamilton and Leclerc after the restart and finished second behind Sainz. Hamilton was briefly second after passing Pérez and Leclerc in a three-man move, but he couldn’t hold his position and fell back to fourth.

Hamilton then overtook Leclerc in a fierce battle for third place. He also led laps on Sunday for the first time this season.

“I gave it my all,” said Hamilton, who was third in Canada two weeks ago and hoped Mercedes would be back. The team were unable to challenge Red Bull and Ferrari for wins this season, but a further Mercedes upgrade ahead of this weekend held promise.

“We have some improvements to make but it’s a huge bonus for us to be on the podium,” added Hamilton.

Leclerc was then seen speaking privately with Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto. Leclerc said he was “very, very disappointed” with the result and had discussed with Binotto why the team left him on old tyres.

“We could have (changed the tyres) but I was asked to stay on track. So that’s what I did,” he told French channel Canal Plus.

Max Verstappen, the reigning F1 champion and current leader of the standings, lost the lead with damage to his Red Bull after driving over debris. He struggled for grip and finished seventh.

Pérez said his run was a “great comeback” after crashing at the rear early in the race following damage to his front wing as he ran past Leclerc and Verstappen.

The race was red flagged almost as soon as it started when a crash at the first corner left Zhou Guanyu and Alex Albon in need of medical attention.

Zhou’s car overturned and crashed through a tire barrier before hitting a fence. Pierre Gasly had thrown George Russell’s Mercedes into Zhou’s rear wheel, knocking over the Chinese driver’s Alfa Romeo. As the drivers tried to avoid this accident, Albon was thrown sideways against the pit wall.

Zhou was treated at the circuit’s medical center, and Alfa Romeo said he was not seriously injured, while Williams said Albon was taken to hospital by helicopter for “precautionary checks”.

Russell, who left his car to rush to Zhou’s aid, was also unable to restart the race.

The “halo” device protecting Zhou’s head was scraped to bare metal after being dragged through the gravel, and part of the air intake behind the driver was torn off.

A group of protesters against the oil industry ran down the runway after the crash and sat down. Northamptonshire Police said seven arrests were made during the protest.

Speaking after the race, Hamilton signaled his support for the protesters. “Big up these guys,” he said. Mercedes said Hamilton was not fully aware of the circumstances at the time and “approved of their right to protest but not the method they had chosen which jeopardized their safety and that of others”.

Verstappen had passed Sainz at the initial start but had to start all over again when the race resumed after the multi-car crash involving Zhou. Sainz held on to the lead on the second start, but Verstappen took the lead on lap 10 when Sainz lost control and ran off the track.

Verstappen quickly fell behind the two Ferraris after reporting a possible debris puncture.

Verstappen said his car was “100% broken” with little grip and likened it to “driving on ice”, but his Red Bull team said it was safe to continue.

The crowd cheered on Verstappen’s misfortune as he was passed by the Ferraris. The Dutch driver is unpopular with some British fans after a bitter rivalry with Hamilton for the title last year when the two crashed at Silverstone.

Former champion Nelson Piquet used a racial slur and homophobic language to describe Hamilton, F1’s only black driver, in interviews last year that drew attention this week. Verstappen is dating Piquet’s daughter, Kelly, and came under fire from fans when he said Piquet was not racist despite using “very offensive” language.

Verstappen retains the championship lead but his advantage over second-placed Pérez fell from 46 points to 34 as Sainz ended a six-game winning streak for Red Bull. Leclerc is nine points behind Pérez in third.

Two-time champion Fernando Alonso – with 32 race wins, the only other Spanish driver besides Sainz to win in F1 – finished fifth for Alpine on Sunday in its best result of the season. Alonso was ahead of Lando Norris for McLaren then Verstappen. Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, picked up his first career points in eighth for Haas, with Sebastian Vettel ninth for Aston Martin.

Team USA Haas completed their first double since 2019, with Kevin Magnussen finishing 10th.

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