Third win in a row, plus the Grand Slam from pole position, fastest lap and race win, Max Verstappen was once again the untouchable in Formula 1. 24 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton, 53 points ahead of Sergio Perez in the world championship standings – what is there going to be a big deal? The race stewards gave the wake-up call against boredom, the long-term leader had been off the track three times with all four wheels and threatened a five-second penalty for another violation. He skilfully ignored his team’s warning not to overdo it anymore. The Dutchman doesn’t do it below the limit.
The competition is already wondering whether Red Bull will create the perfect season. In 1988, McLaren narrowly failed with 15 wins in 16 races. But first Verstappen will collect the record of Ayrton Senna’s 41 victories, he is missing one. Having everyone and everything under control corresponds to his claim: “It’s a great pleasure to be able to drive a car like that. I want to continue like this …” A BBC commentator wondered whether Verstappen was already before the summer break will defend title. Just a joke?
The Silver Arrows
For a moment the tall man in the Mercedes team shirt stood almost lost in the pit lane, then he looked over to the huge grandstand – and applause erupted long after the race. Formula 1 fans felt that they might have experienced a special moment, maybe something of a turning point: the Silver Arrows, which are actually black and green racing cars, are back. Second place for Lewis Hamilton, third for George Russell. A double podium with a retreaded car.
And that after almost everything had gone wrong on Saturday, when the two pilots almost collided after a misunderstanding. Russell made it onto the podium from twelfth place on the grid, and on Formula 1’s favorite test track he did a self-test when overtaking: “You compare yourself to the others, and I noticed that I was getting faster and faster.” Team boss Wolff remains cautious in assessing the new car: “It’s a bit like Jugend forscht…”
Mercedes is already number two in the team standings, which also helps Lewis Hamilton sharpen his instincts again: “The Bulls are still ahead,” said the record champion, “but we’re chasing them now. It’s going step by step now Step by step, it will be our turn by the end of the year. We’re not going to take our foot off the gas pedal anymore.” Where there has been no rush in terms of contract talks, the 38-year-old announced in Barcelona that he could agree on a new contract over coffee with team boss Toto Wolff on Monday.
The Briton has been in silver since 2013, when he succeeded Michael Schumacher. The recent rumors about a move to Ferrari certainly didn’t push that, but the direction of the team in the future and the direction of development of the racing car did. “I haven’t signed anything yet, but maybe we’ll do something on Monday.” Half an hour, Wolff believes, is enough for a crucial conversation. You believe in yourself again at Mercedes.
A damaged underbody in qualifying and Fernando Alonso’s dream of a home podium was gone. Started eighth, finished seventh – in the end he only had his Aston Martin colleague Lance Stroll’s back free. 125,000 spectators, most of whom came because of him, were amazed: he can also drive defensively.
The pace was not there, no suitable tires, but the fighting spirit remained unchanged: it was enough to make life difficult for Esteban Ocon, his unloved colleague from last year in the Renault team. “Today it was the maximum,” said Alonso after his worst placement of the racing year – and dutifully thanked the fans for all the energy he would have gotten.
Carlos Sainz Jr.
Home bust, the second. Plus from the front row. It was the chance for the rally champion’s son to finally do something internally at Ferrari for his position against favorite child Charles Leclerc, who had to start from the pit lane after a botched qualification. But 28-year-old Sainz, who dreams of the Spanish Grand Prix being moved from Barcelona to his hometown of Madrid, failed to capitalize on his only chance.
At the start he couldn’t get past Verstappen, then the Silver Arrows snuffed him out one after the other, and finally Perez too. Fifth, and that with a Ferrari that had plenty of upgrades and updates – so it’s advisable not to look at the Italian sports newspapers for a while. New team boss Fred Vasseur has added a few new ones to the old worries inherited from predecessor Mattia Binotto. “We’re just too inconsistent,” said the Frenchman in his 100-day record.
The F-word is the formula for success for the Haas team boss, which can be heard in the Netflix series “Drive to survive” and in his autobiography “Surviving to drive”. The South Tyrolean expressed himself somewhat filtered when he criticized the time penalty imposed on Nico Hülkenberg by the race commissioners, but he also said that in a highly professional sport, amateurs would determine the fate of those who invest millions.
Upon hearing this, race officials instituted proceedings against the Haas team. The layman’s accusation could be invalidated in a kind of quibbling, Steiner had apologised, probably in order to avert greater damage. So he got away with a warning. The South Tyrolean relied on the right to freedom of expression and felt his comments had been misinterpreted: “If I had wanted to insult the stewards, I would have chosen different words.” New F-word accordingly: peace pipe.
The luck of the minute was often with the only German regular driver in Formula 1 in Barcelona. Sometimes he led the qualifying session, sometimes the fastest race lap was recorded for him. It just didn’t last long. For a few laps, the tires of all colors harmonized with his Haas-Ferrari, then the performance collapsed again. The 35-year-old returnee to Grand Prix sport then looked annoyed in front of the Sky microphone that all the effort only led to 15th place: “We’re competitive for one lap, not for 60 laps. That’s our weak point.” It is Mick Schumacher’s fate of the past, only that the veteran chooses more drastic words for his hopeless endeavor this weekend: He felt “like windfall” when he was “eaten up” in the course of the race.