Verstappen wants Spanish magic to repeat the pressure on Hamilton

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Barcelona (AFP)

Fresh from last Sunday’s 70th anniversary race at Silverstone, Max Verstappen returns to the scene of his first F1 triumph as he looks to step up his title challenge with the 10th career victory of his career at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix. end.

The 22-year-old Dutchman was just 18 when, in his Red Bull debut, he took full advantage of a first-lap collision involving the two Mercedes drivers, to climb to victory at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix .

Four years later, with Mercedes leading Valtteri Bottas alongside Lewis Hamilton, the champion team will want to avoid a scenario similar to that scorching afternoon when Nico Rosberg was their combative teammate.

This time around they also hope they don’t have the same tire wear and blistering issues that plagued Hamilton and Bottas at Silverstone in the recent UK and 70th Anniversary races, won by the six-time champion and Verstappen over the weekend. – successive ends. .

Tires should, once again, be a key factor in deciding the result at Circuit de Catalunya where high temperatures could also influence the result, not least because the race, initially scheduled for May, was delayed until August. due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Air temperatures are forecast to be in their 20s, cooler than sweltering Silverstone last Sunday, but warmer than usual in early May.

To Mercedes’ likely relief, Pirelli said it would revert to its harder tire compounds, instead of the extra-soft tires used at Silverstone where Hamilton suffered a puncture on the last lap in a race and struggled with severe blisters. in the other.

“It’s a different track, so let’s see how competitive we are against Mercedes this time around and how the temperatures affect everyone,” said Verstappen, who is 30 points behind Hamilton in the championship after five races.

– ‘Like Schumacher’ –

“The Barcleona track is pretty tough on the tires so I don’t know how they will hold up in the heat – there will be a lot of unknowns as we usually race there earlier in the year but I can’t wait to he.

“After last weekend’s victory, I am delighted to be back on track. It was a huge team achievement for us and for Honda to win – an incredible result, if a little unexpected.

“It just shows that if you keep pushing towards a goal, good results are always possible. ”

The Dutchman’s impressive performance last weekend stirred memories of former Ferrari technical director and current F1 motorsport general manager Ross Brawn, who said he reminded him of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher.

The great German driver has won all his titles under Brawn, two at Benetton and five with Ferrari.

“He was just stunning at Silverstone,” Brawn said.

“He reminds me of Michael in many ways. When you listen to his radio, he clearly has spare capacity.

Mercedes performance director Andrew Shovlin said they were anticipating another tough weekend.

“I think we would be foolish to say that we will not see this problem again and that we will not see it in Spain,” he said.

“We have to look for solutions and if we can make good progress and understand the nature of our problem, I would like to think we can fix it.

“But there is no doubt that Spain will be difficult. “

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