Max Verstappen made an admission that will have caught the attention of Mercedes after the Spanish Grand Prix.
With Verstappen coming home 24 seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton after a straightforward, uninterrupted race from his pole position, the Dutch driver has revealed he still had some pace in hand if needed.
Mercedes’ upgrades, introduced at the Monaco Grand Prix, showed the Brackley-based team had made visible progress forward as their race pace eclipsed anything Ferrari and Aston Martin could manage, even if their single-lap pace wasn’t quite enough to challenge the front row.
While jubilant about having had the measure of everyone apart from Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Toto Wolff, and George Russell were all open about the extent of the deficit they still face to claw back on terms with the Red Bull driver – Sergio Perez having been beaten to the podium by Russell after both started from the midfield.
Wolff commented to Sky F1 that the 24-second deficit to Verstappen may have been flattering to the reigning World Champion, given Hamilton had to work his way past Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in the early stages, but the Dutch driver admitted he had pace in the car that he wasn’t fully using.
Max Verstappen had more pace to show
“I guess so. If you had to try and catch up, let’s say, probably yes,” Verstappen told media, when asked if he had more laptime in the car during the 66-lap race.
“But it’s not necessary. It’s all about managing your tyres trying to reach the stint length. ”
But, while there may have been more pace, Verstappen explained that the main advantage had come about from running an alternate tyre strategy that he made work by holding the lead from the start on the medium compound.
“I think it was important to try to keep the lead in Turn 1. I know it’s quite tight,” he said.
“But actually, we had a very good start. And then from there onwards I just tried to manage the pace on the medium. I knew everyone behind me mainly was on a soft, and I think especially in those last eight laps of that stint I could really create a big gap.”
It was on the hard compound that Verstappen said he felt less happy, and also where he began picking up track limits warnings that looked like they might result in a time penalty – Verstappen duly adjusting his driving to remain within the white lines.
“I actually expected the hard to be a little bit better,” he said.
“But somehow, they just didn’t have a lot of grip and I was actually sliding around quite a bit. The pace was still OK, but I couldn’t really create much more of a gap, not how I would have liked. But then of course, we just did the amount of laps we had to do on that tyre and then we pitted again for the soft and that actually felt a lot nicer to drive.
“[The hard] was a worse medium, to be on the same kind of deg and it was just sliding a lot more. And once I felt that, you just have to do your laps on it.
“Then of course, luckily we had another pit stop but it was definitely not the most enjoyable stint I’ve ever done in my life – but luckily the car is still fast, so you don’t really lose time. I didn’t expect that with this hard compound but sometimes you have these surprises. Like I said, it wasn’t as enjoyable and probably a little bit harder to drive.”
Max Verstappen: This was a race weekend that really went well
Having dominated the race to take his fifth win of the season, Verstappen completed a grand chelem – topping every timed session, leading every lap, and taking the win and fastest lap. Despite the imperious performance he put on in Spain, he warned that wins won’t always come as easily.
“It’s a good period. But you know, we have to keep on working and trying to find more performance,” he said.
“I’m happy in the car. And I think the last few race weekends have definitely been a lot more positive for me. But this is one weekend where I think it went really well. But we also know that maybe some other tracks it’s not like this, you know, so a lot of races to come where we again have to perform really well to try and win the race.”