No one can compete with Max Verstappen in Formula 1 at the moment. In Barcelona, the world champion outclasses the competition. Spanish hopes remain unfulfilled.
Barcelona – On the way to a title hat-trick, Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen simply doesn't give the competition a chance. The flawless Red Bull driver also dominated the action in Barcelona and took the next step towards successfully defending his title with his fifth win of the season in the seventh race.
With a large gap of 24.0 seconds behind the 25-year-old Dutchman, record world champion Lewis Hamilton from Great Britain made it to second place in the Mercedes. Behind him, George Russell finished third in the second Silver Arrow.
Verstappen continues to dominate in Red Bull
In the world championship standings, Verstappen extended his lead to 53 points with the next start-finish victory over teammate Sergio Perez. Although the pursuers of Mercedes, Ferrari or Aston Martin improved their cars in Catalonia with technical upgrades, no one came closer to Verstappen's frighteningly superior Red Bull. On the contrary, the two-time champion raced in control to his 40th career triumph at the place where he first won Formula 18 seven years ago as an 1-year-old.
To the disappointment of the more than 100,000 fans, neither Fernando Alonso, who has been so strong lately, nor Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz were able to ensure a Spanish podium finish at their home race. Veteran Alonso finished seventh in the Aston Martin, his worst result so far this season. Sainz finished fifth behind Perez. Nico Hulkenberg finished 15th in the Haas and again remained without points.
As in qualifying the day before, the eyes from the paddock went to the sky again and again before the start. Would the weather become unstable again and provide variety like in the hunt for a starting place? Given champion Verstappen's crushing dominance, it seemed that there was only a chance for the pursuers in the rain.
The world championship leader holds his own after the start
Under dark clouds, the Red Bull star had to fight until the first corner to defend his first pole position in Barcelona. Sainz put a strain on him in the Ferrari, but Verstappen maintained his lead and then quickly extended his lead.
Lando Norris was unlucky, losing third place to Lewis Hamilton and then demolished the front wing of the McLaren in a collision with his compatriot's Mercedes. Norris had to turn to the pits a little later. Hamilton was overtaken by Lance Stroll in the Aston Martin after the brief skirmish.
There were also some position changes behind them. As feared, Haas driver Hülkenberg was unable to hold on to seventh place on the grid, the best since his comeback at the beginning of the year, for long and was quickly passed through. After just eight laps, the Rhinelander was the first to change tires. With the fresh rubber rollers, the 35-year-old was able to do a few fast laps, but soon sank deep into the midfield without a chance.
At the front, Verstappen effortlessly controlled the race. Behind this, the expected strategy competition developed. Sainz and Stroll relied on an early pit stop, the Mercedes duo Hamilton and Russell improved to second and third place for the time being.
The tactics of the Silver Arrows worked. After Hamilton finally got new tyres, he only briefly fell behind Sainz, but was soon able to overtake the Spaniard.
Ferrari must continue to work on itself
Red Bull driver Perez and Charles Leclerc were busy catching up in the second Ferrari. Perez had botched the qualification and had to work his way up from eleventh place. Things were even worse for Leclerc on Saturday. Due to a mechanical defect, Ferrari had to replace the rear of the Monegasque's car. The 25-year-old started the race from the pit lane and struggled slowly towards the points.
For Ferrari, it is another disappointing season early on. Vice world champion Leclerc is not really getting going, as is teammate Sainz, who also lost the battle for a podium finish to Mercedes driver Russell in Barcelona.
The only concern for the towering Verstappen, however, was the track edges. On several occasions, the world championship leader robbed too far over the curbs, so he was threatened with a time penalty from the race stewards. However, Verstappen didn't let it get that far. He coolly managed his enormous lead and once again rolled to the finish line as the winner - also because the rain hoped for by many failed to materialize. Dpa