Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

Mercedes see Verstappen as “favourite” from third on the grid

2020 Spanish Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Mercedes could never be accused of not knowing the PR mantra ‘under-promise, over-deliver’. However comfortable their margin of superiority over the opposition has been, they’ve always talked up their rivals.

Team principal Toto Wolff’s comments after qualifying could be seen as more of that. His two drivers had just locked out the front row of the grid for the fourth race in a row, but he sees Max Verstappen, third on the grid, as “favourite” for the race.

Verstappen beat the Mercedes to win at Silverstone last week when W11s blistered their tyres. But Wolff doesn’t think that particular problem is what lies in store for his team on Sunday.

“The only similarity between Silverstone and Barcelona this week is the ambient and the track temperatures,” he said. “The track itself is very different. So we don’t expect the same blistering issue like Silverstone, but nevertheless more degradation and more overheating.

“I believe that the Red Bull masters those conditions very well. Nevertheless, I think the work that has been done during the week and from yesterday to today was good. I think we have improved and that is most important.

“I hope we can give him a run for his money, but definitely Max needs to be seen as the favourite based on yesterday’s long runs.”

The extra reserve of power Mercedes can tap for their engine in qualifying, soon to be outlawed, are likely to be deployed on the long run to turn one to ensure Verstappen can’t pass them there. Verstappen’s biggest worry at this point will come from the two Mercedes-powered Racing Points behind him. Losing places to them would hurt his chances of being able to stay close enough to Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to keep them under pressure.

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The fast-starting Racing Points could cause problems for Verstappen
The tyre strategy question may not be as straightforward as usual given the higher temperatures. The hard tyre did not perform well on Friday, and unless it works better on a more rubbered-in track on Sunday, teams may have to look at pitting twice. The fact all the teams who reached Q3 opted to use the soft tyres shows they expect this compound can get them far enough into the race at the start.

“The soft tyre is good enough to start the race on,” said Verstappen. “Normally the softest compound is a bit more tricky as it falls apart quite quickly. But I think it’s alright at the track here.”

The other Red Bull will start from its highest position for four races. Alexander Albon said his team may have to get “imaginative” with his strategy to help him get past the Racing Points. If he somehow manages to clear them at the start, Red Bull would be able to mount a two-pronged attack on Mercedes, which would put them in a much stronger position.

In the midfield, while neither Renault made it into Q3, they at least have the benefit of starting on fresh tyres. Given their strong race pace, McLaren will be watching their rear mirrors for Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon coming back at them as the race wears on.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton21.393 (3)27.959 (2)26.232 (1)
Valtteri Bottas21.303 (1)27.910 (1)26.372 (2)
Max Verstappen21.565 (7)28.295 (3)26.414 (3)
Sergio Perez21.387 (2)28.334 (4)26.712 (7)
Lance Stroll21.398 (4)28.341 (5)26.703 (6)
Alexander Albon21.675 (11)28.485 (7)26.822 (13)
Carlos Sainz Jnr21.442 (5)28.505 (9)26.856 (14)
Lando Norris21.582 (8)28.578 (10)26.802 (12)
Charles Leclerc21.778 (14)28.366 (6)26.676 (5)
Pierre Gasly21.557 (6)28.500 (8)26.743 (9)
Sebastian Vettel21.646 (10)28.770 (13)26.741 (8)
Daniil Kvyat21.594 (9)28.802 (14)26.796 (11)
Daniel Ricciardo21.697 (12)28.751 (11)26.647 (4)
Kimi Raikkonen21.746 (13)28.767 (12)26.873 (15)
Esteban Ocon21.852 (18)28.887 (15)26.747 (10)
Kevin Magnussen21.809 (16)28.918 (17)27.181 (17)
Romain Grosjean21.826 (17)28.914 (16)27.147 (16)
George Russell21.784 (15)28.970 (18)27.287 (18)
Nicholas Latifi21.881 (19)29.159 (20)27.408 (19)
Antonio Giovinazzi21.938 (20)29.054 (19)27.530 (20)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Carlos Sainz JnrMcLarenRenault328.0 (203.8)
2Lance StrollRacing PointMercedes327.2 (203.3)-0.8
3Sergio PerezRacing PointMercedes325.2 (202.1)-2.8
4Pierre GaslyToro RossoHonda323.8 (201.2)-4.2
5Lando NorrisMcLarenRenault323.5 (201.0)-4.5
6Daniil KvyatToro RossoHonda323.3 (200.9)-4.7
7Daniel RicciardoRenaultRenault322.5 (200.4)-5.5
8Kimi RaikkonenAlfa RomeoFerrari322.1 (200.1)-5.9
9George RussellWilliamsMercedes322.0 (200.1)-6.0
10Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari320.6 (199.2)-7.4
11Nicholas LatifiWilliamsMercedes320.5 (199.1)-7.5
12Antonio GiovinazziAlfa RomeoFerrari320.1 (198.9)-7.9
13Esteban OconRenaultRenault320.0 (198.8)-8.0
14Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari319.8 (198.7)-8.2
15Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes319.8 (198.7)-8.2
16Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari319.3 (198.4)-8.7
17Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes317.8 (197.5)-10.2
18Alexander AlbonRed BullHonda316.6 (196.7)-11.4
19Max VerstappenRed BullHonda316.6 (196.7)-11.4
20Charles LeclercFerrariFerrari316.3 (196.5)-11.7

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Over to you

Will Verstappen put one over the Mercedes drivers again? Are you expecting a one- or two-stop race? Share your views on the Spanish Grand Prix in the comments.

2020 Spanish Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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25 comments on “Mercedes see Verstappen as “favourite” from third on the grid”

    1. Lolz indeed :))

      But what if Max was on Albon’s level, who would Toto be calling ‘favourites’ then? That would be so amazing, having to hype the likes of Perez or Stroll, would love to see him pull such a stunt.

  1. Mmm going on past statements by Merc I’d say they feel they have RB covered. RB should be looking over their shoulder to Perez and the two McLarens.

  2. Balls Mahoney
    16th August 2020, 1:04

    Mercedes make these type of comments every chance they get, then they get a 1-2 and lap 3rd place.

  3. Usually when Merc says look at someone else, it means Merc are very confident.

    1. Correct, easy 1-2.

    2. F1oSaurus (@)
      16th August 2020, 9:38

      @neiana Or maybe they saw that Red Bull had the faster car in the previous hot race even though Mercedes was a second ahead in Q3 there.

      They might also have looked at the long runs and then would have seen that Red bull is faster on those in Spain.

  4. We’ll see

  5. These flattering words for Max from Mr. Toto Wolff are his revenge against Red Bull team for their unsafe release (dangerously close and right between both Mercedes cars) during Spanish GP qualifying.

    1. That’ll teach them!

  6. If Renault do other than a long first stint on mediums with both cars then their primary objective isn’t to gather as many points as possible.

  7. you know formula 1 is back in full swing with mercedes pretending that they’re the underdog

  8. Looking at the speed trap measurements, I notice for Lewis and Valtteri their speeds were amongst the lowest (-10 & -8 km/h from Carlos Sainz jnr, 328 km/h respectively). One thought to explain that might be they weren’t using an aggressive Qualifying mode because otherwise they’d have accelerated faster and had higher speeds at the speed trap. The Racing Point cars are an interesting comparison (Stroll, -0.8 km/h; Perez, -2.8 km/h vs Carlos Sainz jnr).

    1. @drycrust teams running the lowest downforce setups rise to the top of this list…

    2. Just the amount of wing. Top speeds mean nothing. Williams would be top if they ran less wing, doesn’t mean their fast.

  9. So Hamilton is going to win.

  10. Will Verstappen put one over the Mercedes drivers again? – No.
    Are you expecting a one- or two-stop race? – Two, although some might attempt one.

  11. It is encouraging to see a Renault engine top the speedtrap, although with a new unit for Sainz.

    1. No, it’s really not. On this track the top speeds are not very telling in regards to engine performance, because this is not Monza where full-throttle counts for half a lap. It’s just the setup that differs, and a skinnier downforce level loses way more in the corners than it gains on the short straight. If you look at the Mercs, they are way down in 15th and 17th, while Stroll and Perez are both in the top 3 with the same engine.

  12. 7 tenths margin over the best driver on the grid yet still don’t think they have the car to win the race…

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      16th August 2020, 9:34

      7 tenths over a single lap. You might have missed it, but the race lasts 66 laps. So tyre wear comes into play and that limits how fast they can actually go a lot.

      In the previous race they had a full second on Verstappen over a single lap in Q3, but the Red Bull was clearly the faster car over a full race distance.

      1. Max is certainly better at managing his tyres than Hamilton and Bottas. RBR is not quicker than Mercedes. Max makes up the difference. He’s clearly the best driver on the grid imo.

  13. Did Bottas not invited on Merc’s PR briefing? I can’t found a word from him praising Verstappen. Andrew Shovlin, Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff already did.

  14. F1 fans : we know Mercedes are the favourites.

    Mercedes: oh please. Anyone but us!! We are the underdogs, please get that.

  15. If it were up to Mercedes they’d award the WDC to Verstappen now just to be spared the humiliation :P

Comments are closed.