Verstappen Second, Red Bull Hondas in Top Five in Spain

Honda’s Max Verstappen kept himself firmly in the hunt for his first Formula 1 World Championship, as the Red Bull Racing driver led 54 of 66 laps before settling for second place in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Starting second, Verstappen took command early, outsprinting Lewis Hamilton into Turn 1 and taking a lead that he would hold until the first round of pit stops. The 11-time F1 race winner emerged from a slow pit stop with the lead, but Hamilton stayed within hailing distance of Verstappen before making a surprise second stop on Lap 41, a move which initially gave Verstappen a 21-second lead.

But the series’ all-time leader in victories used his fresh tires to eat into Verstappen’s lead at more than a second per lap, eventually making the pass for the lead six laps from the end. Having built a sufficient gap over third-placed Valtteri Bottas, Verstappen pitted for fresh tires after the pass and used them to set the fastest lap of the race, establishing a new track record around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

His teammate Sergio Perez started eighth but gained two spots at the start and ran near the top five all day, securing the fifth spot with a daring pass of Daniel Ricciardo on Lap 46. It marked the third top-five result of the season for the Mexican driver and kept the Red Bull Racing Hondas firmly in second place in the constructor’s championship standings.

The day was not as kind to the Honda-powered AlphaTauri squad as Pierre Gasly started 12th, missing the final qualifying round for the first time this season. Last year’s Imola winner overcame a five-second penalty with a strong late-race run, passing Lance Stroll with four laps left to take 10th place and the championship point that goes with it. His teammate Yuki Tsunoda had a short day as his machine ground to a halt with fuel pressure issues on Lap 8.

Verstappen stayed in second place in the driver standings with the finish, trailing Hamilton by 14 points after four races. Perez remains in sixth with his result and AlphaTauri’s Gasly is 10th after his third straight points-paying effort. The teams will have next week off before heading to the principality of Monte Carlo for the crown jewel on the F1 calendar, the Monaco GP.

Toyoharu Tanabe
Technical Director, Honda F1
“Here in Spain, Max finished second for Red Bull Racing Honda, just as he did last week in Portugal. It was a somewhat frustrating result, after a great start saw him take the lead from second on the grid. Hamilton was put on a different strategy and caught Max in the closing stages and we have to accept that today, he and Mercedes had the edge in terms of performance and teamwork. After a difficult day yesterday, Sergio had a strong race, fighting his way through traffic to finish fifth. For Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda, Pierre’s race was affected by a 5 second penalty for not lining up correctly on the grid, but he did not give up and fought his way back to 10th gaining a precious point for the team. Yuki’s race ended early with a fuel pressure issue which we will now investigate. It was generally a tough weekend for him. In two weeks we move to Monaco, a street circuit with mostly slow corners and therefore a very different challenge compared to today’s race.”

Max Verstappen - Red Bull Racing Honda
Start 2nd, Finish: 2nd
“I tried everything I could today and took the lead at Turn 1 but from there we were just lacking a bit of pace to Mercedes. Of course we wanted to win but I cannot feel too disappointed as I did everything I could out there and maximized the opportunities. Even if we had looked at another strategy and done a two stop and pitted before them, we wouldn’t have made the time up as they were just faster than us. I know how fast I can go and where the limit of the car is and when they can do a free stop behind it is easy for them to do a different strategy. I pretty much knew that when he pitted for the second time that he would come back at me on the new tires a bit like Hungary 2019 and although I did everything I could I was a bit of a sitting duck. The pace difference on the tires made it an easy pass for Lewis and then I was able to at least keep second place and take Fastest Lap. It was just a day where we lacked a bit of pace and second was the best result possible so now we need to look at why they seem to have jumped ahead a bit in terms of race pace.”

Sergio Perez - Red Bull Racing Honda
Start: 8th, Finish: 5th
“This isn’t an easy track to overtake on which made for a tough race. We had a good first lap and made up some positions, but it took me quite a long time to get past Daniel. The McLaren was extremely fast on the straights so it was really hard to try a move but we made it work around the outside of Turn 1. I knew what I had to do, I pushed on and managed to make it work but we didn’t have much tire life left afterwards so it was tough. I’m getting more confident with the car now and every time I get to the end of a weekend, I think, ‘I wish the weekend was just starting now.’ Also every circuit is different so what I learn here will be different to what I need in Monaco but the main thing is that I am still adapting and hopefully soon we can be 100%. I am excited for Monaco, especially with this car as historically it’s been competitive and I think we have a chance of winning.”

Pierre Gasly - Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
Start: 12th, Finish: 10th
“I’ve got mixed feelings about today, I think in the race I made a good recovery but we’re really lacking pace compared to the first two rounds, which is frustrating. I’m upset with myself for making the mistake on the grid, it’s a very silly penalty to get and it made my life harder. That being said, I had some good battles in the race and managed to pass a few cars to make it into 10th place. The car definitely has potential, we just haven’t made it work consistently in all corners around the lap yet. We’re going to work hard now ahead of Monaco and I trust in the team to make some steps forward in the next few races.”

Yuki Tsunoda - Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
Start: 16th, Finish: DNF
“It’s been a frustrating race weekend for me, I’m obviously disappointed to not have finished the race as I think my pace at the start was quite good, but it was completely out of my control. We don’t currently know what happened to the car, so we’ll investigate this after it returns to the garage and then we’ll review everything together with the engineers. I just need to look forward to the next race in Monaco now, it’ll be my first-time racing there and I’m excited to drive on such an iconic circuit.”