The chances of a repeat win for Verstappen appear to hang on the weather.
Max Verstappen has good memories of the Spanish Grand Prix.
He enjoyed his first Formula One victory at Barcelona in 2016, benefiting after Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg crashed into each other. The Dutchman became the youngest GP winner that day at the age of 18 years and 228 days.
His latest win came last weekend when the Red Bull driver again took advantage of a Mercedes mistake. This time it was tyre strategy which Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas got wrong at the 70th Anniversary GP at Silverstone.
It was the first time Mercedes have failed to win in five races so far in a season delayed by the coronavirus. Verstappen moved above Bottas into second in the standings, 30 points behind defending champion Hamilton.
The problem for Verstappen (22)is that he won last weekend after Pirelli offered softer tyres than usual to make racing different compared to the previous week’s race at the same British track, where tyres had exploded towards the end of the race.
The hot Silverstone weather and demanding track shredded Mercedes’ softer tyres, whereas Verstappen was on slightly harder rubbers. In Barcelona, a much harder compound will be available to both teams.
“Of course we go back to harder tyres in Barcelona and on the harder tyres we are still quite a bit off, so I don’t expect miracles there,” Verstappen said.
The chances of a repeat win for Verstappen appear to hang on the weather. It is set to be even hotter in Barcelona than it was at Silverstone and tyre degradation is likely to be a major factor and pit strategy should again come into play.
“We knew that (tyre) blistering was an issue. We know what sort of temperatures that it will occur at,” said Mercedes race engineer Andrew Shovlin.
“There’s an element of urgency here because we’re in Barcelona … it’s forecast to be 30 Celsius.”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner believes that with the final number of races not yet clear because of the pandemic, they have to carry on their momentum immediately in Spain.
“Mercedes had a dominant car up until last Sunday, so it is now up to us to understand how we were able to unleash the RB16’s full potential last weekend and ensure we remain in the fight,” he wrote on the team website.
“It also shows that Mercedes can be vulnerable if you put the pressure on and we need to do that on a consistent basis.”
Spain and Catalonia have seen an uptick of coronavirus cases lately but F1 will employ the same hygiene and social distancing regulations to previous races, with teams effectively in a bubble once they travel there.
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez will race in Spain after his latest Covid-19 test was negative, the team said yesterday.
The Mexican missed the previous two GPs at Britain’s Silverstone circuit after contracting the virus.
Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg has been filling in for Perez.