Max Verstappen admitted Red Bull just didn’t have the pace to stay in touch with Lewis Hamilton at Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix. The Dutchman went into the Circuit de Catalunya showdown with the “favourite” tag hanging around his neck after being talked up by Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
He got off to a strong start in Montmelo, overtaking second-place Valtteri Bottas after hurtling his way down the 612m straight to the first corner.
Verstappen tried to pile the pressure on leader Hamilton but, as the race wore on and pit stops played their part, the gap to the Brit grew.
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The 22-year-old came home in second to claim a valuable 18 points as he continues his quest to become F1 champion this season.
However, there was a gulf of 24 seconds between him and Hamilton, who extended his lead at the top of the drivers’ standings to 37 points.
Verstappen was pleased to have stopped Mercedes sealing yet another one-two but he admitted Red Bull are still lagging behind Mercedes – no matter what Wolff had to say.
“It’s a great result for us to split the two Mercedes cars today after they have been so quick and I’m very happy with that,” said Verstappen. “Overall, it’s been another strong weekend with a good amount of points which we should be happy with.
“I made a good start and it was important to get past Valtteri early, which I did. I tried everything to stay with Lewis in the first stint but overall their car was faster and Lewis was a bit too quick today.
“From then onwards we focused on our own race and the car felt good. I expected some trouble from Valtteri towards the end when he pitted but I was happy with my tyres and he wasn’t catching.
“Second is of course good but that’s not why we are here, we are here to win so you can never be fully satisfied unless you do that. At the moment we’re in-between the two Mercedes cars and of course we’d like to push Lewis harder but you have to be realistic as they still have the faster car.”
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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who saw Verstappen’s team-mate Alex Albon finish eighth, was full of praise for the team’s talisman.
But he too admitted the Mercedes W11 was just too quick for the RB16 when it mattered at the Spanish Grand Prix.
“Once again Max extracted the absolute maximum from the car today and to split the Mercedes, which was the faster race car, it’s the best we could have hoped for,” said Horner.
“After making a good start, using the slipstream and getting ahead of Bottas into Turn One, Max settled into the race and on a two-stop strategy he pushed as hard as he could to keep the pressure on Lewis and stay ahead of Valtteri.”
Verstappen and his F1 rivals now have a two-week break until the 2020 campaign resumes at the Belgian Grand Prix.
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