MONTMELÓ, Spain (AP) – Max Verstappen warned that his Red Bull team has the ability to win every race of the Formula One season. The Dutch driver took another step in his attempt to complete an ambitious sweep by winning the Grand Prix of Spain. surprisingly easily.
The reigning champion dominated from pole position and never needed it at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya after stopping the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz Jr. at the first corner.
“It’s a great pleasure to drive a car like this and to show it on a day like this,” said Verstappen. “Hopefully we can maintain this level for the rest of the year.”
Lewis Hamilton crossed the line in second place in his Mercedes and equaled his best result of the season. George Russell, at the wheel of the other Mercedes, completed the podium.
Verstappen has won five of the seven races held this season. His teammate, Mexican Sergio Pérez in Red Bull, who came fourth, took the other two.
But Verstappen warned that Red Bull must be careful not to become complacent.
“We have to focus on what we have and keep improving our car,” he added. “Obviously everything is great right now, but you can’t stand still in this world.”
His 40th career win left Verstappen one win behind the late Ayrton Senna’s total of 41. The Dutchman is also set to match Senna’s tally of three world titles.
With his third win in Barcelona, Verstappen extended the gap to Pérez in the drivers’ standings to 55 points.
“We stayed close to the podium. Mercedes’ pace was very good and it was difficult to catch them,” said Perez. “Now we have to start. This weekend has been surprising, because we had no rhythm in qualifying or the race.
Sainz had to settle for fifth after being passed by both Mercedes and Pérez.
“We didn’t expect this result,” said Hamilton. “Hats off to the team and everyone in the factory. Red Bull still has a long way to go, but we are taking steps in the right direction.”
Local idol Fernando Alonso disappointed his army of Spanish fans by entering seventh, just behind his Aston Martin team-mate Lance Stroll.
Verstappen’s performance confirmed a comprehensive performance in qualifying on Saturday. The Dutchman set the fastest lap which was impossible to emulate and then had the pleasure of watching others fight for other places on the grid.
Verstappen said before practice in Barcelona that although Red Bulls have the pace and the guarantee to win each race, he understands that “we will always find circuits where things don’t go the way we want, bad luck, some force majeure”.
Nothing went wrong for Verstappen this weekend.
As predicted given Red Bull’s superior pace, the 66-lap race was initially decided at 595 meters of the first corner.
On the soft tyres, Sainz tried to overtake Verstappen on the outside line. Verstappen, with moderate compounds, knew how to defend himself on the inside against the onslaught of Ferrari. It was the only time the Red Bull driver was in trouble during the race.
Esteban Ocon (Alpine) finished eighth ahead of Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo) and Pierre Gasly (Alpine), who rounded out the top 10.
Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari was 11th after starting the race from the pitlane after a change in the rear of his car, caused by a disastrous qualifying session, which saw him finish 19th on Saturday.
The season gets underway in two weeks for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.