Lap 1/66: Max Verstappen was briefly challenged by Carlos Sainz, but did take the lead from the pole at the Spanish Grand Prix. Lando Norris, who started in third, made contact with Lewis Hamilton and headed to the pit.
Red Bull produced six wins in six races to start the Formula 1 season, so it was not really a surprise that talk at the Spanish Grand Prix this week turned to the elephant in the room:
Can Red Bull become the first Formula 1 team to win every race in a season?
“I think we can, but that’s very unlikely to happen,” the driver Max Verstappen said Thursday, trying to be diplomatic in a season in which he has been dominant. “You know, there are always things that go wrong, or you have, you know, a retirement or whatever. But, purely on pace, I think at the moment, it looks like that.”
No Formula 1 team has won every race in a single year, though McLaren came closest in 1988, when Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost combined to win 15 of 16 starts. Verstappen (four wins) and Sergio Pérez (two) have Red Bull at six for six this year. Predictions that they might run the table, notably one by George Russell of Mercedes, who said in March that “Red Bull have got this championship sewn up,” have so far held up.
Verstappen was so fast on his first qualifying lap on Saturday, in fact, that his team called him in rather than try to beat it. The other teams, Red Bull signaled, were once again racing for second.
How to Watch
Time: The Spanish Grand Prix starts at 9 a.m. Eastern time. (Global start times are here.)
TV: The race will air on ESPN in the United States, where coverage starts at 7:30 a.m., and stream on ESPN+ Eastern. Not in the United States? A full list of Formula 1 broadcasters, wherever you are, can be found here.
Sunday’s Starting Grid
Verstappen is in pole position. He will be joined up front by Carlos Sainz of Ferrari. Lando Norris was third in a McLaren.
Sergio Pérez of Red Bull, who is second in the season standings, starts 11th after some slips and slides on Saturday, and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso will be just ahead of him in eighth place. (The full points standings are below.) Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, who grumbled “unbelievable” as he left qualifying, is a frustrating 19th.
Sunday’s Story Lines
Changes Seven teams are rolling out technical upgrades, so that could shuffle the order quite a bit on Sunday. (Qualifying, which put some unusual names in the top 10, should have been an indication that no one really knows what to expect.) A few teams tested out their upgrade packages on Monaco’s narrow streets, an unusually tight circuit that is an imperfect laboratory for that sort of thing. Sunday’s stage, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, will offer a much truer test, and teams are looking forward to it.
Home-track advantage Spanish fans have turned out by the tens of thousands to cheer their countrymen Sainz, of Ferrari, and Aston Martin’s Alonso. But unless those fans have some advice on how Sainz and Alonso can pick up the second a lap that they are currently surrendering to Red Bull, home-track advantage may not count for much.
Sneak peak? Monaco’s narrow streets offered a rare treat for teams last weekend: a glimpse underneath other teams’ equipment. That view, the so-called floor of a car, is generally a closely guarded secret in Formula 1, since it can have unique aerodynamic features that give a team an advantage over its rivals. It is also why teams never like to see cranes lifting their cars in the air, as they did after several crashes in Monaco. “Thanks to Sergio Perez, the whole of F1 has seen the fabled Red Bull floor,” the Sky Sports commentator Ted Kravitz said after the race. “It is a thing of wonder and beauty — especially when you compare it to the floors of the Mercedes and Ferrari, which we also saw on cranes.”
The first rule of qualifying has to be: Don’t hit your teammate.
Last Time Out
Verstappen led from wire to wire in Monaco, picking up his fourth win in six races. He was never challenged and won by almost 30 seconds.
Drivers’ Championship Standings
Pérez’s struggles at the back of the field in Monaco allowed Verstappen to extend his advantage over his Red Bull teammate to 39 points. It is the more yawning gap opening behind them — 51 points to Alonso in third, 75 to Hamilton in fourth, almost 100 over Russell in fifth — that should be concerning to other teams: