The Spanish Grand Prix, the fifth round of the Formula 1 World Championship, inaugurates the European circuits of the calendar. The Barcelona track is the best known by the drivers as it is here that the winter tests take place, and for this reason they know every single detail. This factor could be to Ferrari's advantage, also given the results of the tests, thus becoming a turning point weekend for the Maranello team.
"I know the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit perfectly, turn 3 uphill and turn 9 are definitely the most fun. I think the last sector for the way it looks now is not as interesting as it used to be, although it has probably become even more crucial when it comes to getting the time. You have to be careful not to make mistakes because it's all too easy to ruin the tires in that sector and lose precious tenths. With Ferrari I've often had very positive weekends in Barcelona, even though we are still missing the victory here. Let's hope that this is the right time to take this satisfaction".
Sebastian Vettel is now third in the standings and the points separating him from the top are not few, so a victory would be fundamental to start reducing the gap, as well as for personal satisfaction. However, it is important to take other factors into consideration, and Ferrari's new bet reminds us of this: Leclerc. The Maranello car has done very well on this circuit (so much so that it is considered the first candidate for the title), but they are not the only ones who know it by heart. In addition, the temperatures in February were different and this greatly affects the performance of the car, so victory is not a given:
"This track is perhaps the one on which it is most difficult for a driver to take pole. The reason is simple: everyone knows it by heart in the smallest details, being the location of the vast majority of tests. I have fond memories of the tests we did in February, even though we were running in very different conditions then, with very low air and asphalt temperatures. Having said that, the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit is a benchmark for everyone: doing well there means having a competitive car. I can't wait to get into the cockpit of my SF90, but this is nothing new".
This year's Spanish Grand Prix will be missing a major player. With the retirement of two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz is the only Spanish driver left on the grid. The Madrilenian has taken the place of his great idol in McLaren and does not hide the excitement of racing at home:
"The home race is the most important one, this appointment is special for everyone but for me it is obviously particularly so, I am really lucky to have the opportunity to enjoy it with the fans. I remember very well my first year here in 2015. This year I'm the only Spanish rider but I won't feel more pressure than usual from the outside because during the weekend I'm always very busy".
Unfortunately, the start of the season has not been the best for the Spaniard, who arrives in Barcelona with only six points. But the McLaren driver is smiley and optimistic. Whether it's because of his good performance in Baku or the warm welcome from the Spanish fans, Sainz says he is very confident. This circuit has always been favorable to his driving style and cars, in fact the Spaniard has always earned points:
"This track has always been suitable for the cars I've driven so far, where the difficulties were mainly related to the low top speed which is not so decisive here; moreover, I feel comfortable personally as well, I've had decent successes in all categories, I love racing for the fans. Overtaking will be a bit easier than in the past due to the greater effect of the DRS but here it is always difficult, especially if the race will be one stop only and there will be no change in strategy".
Surely this track is a certainty in the championship, but it happens that it could be replaced. There is talk of many changes within the calendar, and among these there is a hypothesis that includes the replacement of the Grand Prix run in Barcelona with the return of Zandvoort. These are two historic Grands Prix, but Sainz does not hide his disappointment should they deprive him of his home Grand Prix:
"It would clearly be a great loss, but as far as I know the negotiations are still ongoing and nothing is final. I hope an agreement can be found because it would be in the interest of Formula 1, Barcelona and all of Spain. This circuit has a great history in Formula 1 and it would be a shame to lose it".
Other drivers agree with the Spaniard. According to Gasly, it is a circuit that drivers know very well and where they have driven the most, considering all the minor categories such as Formula 4 or Formula Renault. It would be optimal to find an agreement, as Bottas also argues, who also thinks about Verstappen and his fans:
"I don't have any information about the details and the politics of what's going on, but obviously it would be a shame. He has been in Formula 1 for a long time and there are so many fans in Spain and around Barcelona. It's a nice Grand Prix for all the fans. So, it would be a shame. On the other hand, I raced with Formula 3 in Zandvoort and it's a pretty nice circuit. There's a lot of culture there now, especially with Max being in Formula 1 for a few years now, so it will certainly be nice. The two combined would obviously be ideal for everyone".
The initiative to bring the Dutch Grand Prix back to Formula 1 is not the only one liberty media is aiming for. The new American owner is thinking of extending the agreements with more countries, just think of the negotiations underway for the Hanoi circuit in Vietnam or in the more immediate future there is talk of a new Grand Prix in Brazil, which would replace Interlagos with a new track under construction in Rio. There are certainly many proposals. At the center of these discussions we find Monza, at risk of renewal since the beginning of the year. Another great circuit, the last Italian one left in Formula 1 after Imola was removed from the calendar. The loss of this track would be a real shame, the Monza circuit is one of the oldest, as well as the fastest in the world, so much so that it has earned the nickname of the temple of speed. Fortunately, it seems that ACI and Liberty Media have reached a five-year agreement. Only the signature is missing, as confirmed by a note:
"The ACI General Council has therefore given a mandate to President Angelo Sticchi Damiani to continue negotiations with Formula 1 on all technical and commercial aspects related to the partnership, in order to reach, in a short time, the signing of the contract and make the collaboration fully operational".
This renewal is very important, not only for the championship, but also for all the fans and enthusiasts of this sport, especially for Italy itself. In addition, it would have been a shame not to be able to celebrate the centenary of this fantastic track, which falls in 2022.
In fact, this circuit was built in 1922 and has always been present in the World Championship since 1950, missing only on one occasion, in 1980. Despite the various news of renewals and additional tracks, the focus is always on the title fight. Expectations towards Ferrari are getting higher and higher especially on the Spanish circuit, where in the tests - as said - it had totally dominated. At the moment, Valtteri Bottas is leading the ranking, to everyone's surprise. The Finnish driver seems to be in his best form, having already put in his trophy cabinet two victories and two pole positions, thus being ahead of his teammate by only one point, but still ahead. These excellent performances do not only put him in a position to win the world championship. In fact, for now the driver does not yet have a contract for 2020 and these results would help him a lot, even if he himself admits that he has not thought about it because he is totally focused on winning and giving his best:
"I haven't thought about it yet, to be honest. I'm just very focused on this moment, trying to fight for every single victory and for the World Championship. We'll talk about it when the time comes and when these discussions start, I hope they'll be over quickly instead of being taken too far".
The championship has just started, but surely the Mercedes driver has big chances to fight for the World Championship victory. You can also see it from his playful mood. The atmosphere is right, and the Finnish driver has a lot of confidence:
"There are still only seventeen races left...it's not that many. Certainly these good results are giving me confidence, and I'm happy with everything I'm doing. Feeling this way gives my driving something extra".
The relationship with Hamilton also seems to be going well, so never say never, this could be his year. Although, of course, his partner isn't just anyone and Bottas knows that:
"Hamilton is a five-time world champion, for me his presence is inspiring and to be his box mate is great. He is a reference point, and his analysis a cornerstone. This is also a good opportunity for Mercedes to have a very strong team".
It takes a cool head to beat a champion of Hamilton's caliber. Rosberg knows something about that, the only driver who has managed to beat him in the past. In fact, the latter argues that as long as Bottas keeps it up, he could have a great chance:
"You don't have to make Hamilton angry. If he gets angry, he brings out his best and starts hammering. That seems to be something Bottas has figured out, just as I did myself in 2016".
Despite this, the most important thing for a driver is the conviction that he can win and be the best, otherwise there would be no point in competing without having confidence in his own possibilities. And at the moment it seems Bottas' confidence in himself is quite high:
"Being his teammate is not easy at all; after all, you compete and are always compared to your pit colleague. To get a placement in front of him is very complicated, but I am convinced that I am up to his standards and that I can stay close to him by working together with the team. Although life in the Circus would be easier without his presence, I wouldn't choose any other teammate".
The key to Bottas' success in these early races also goes largely to the team. The performance of the car has surprised positively this year, especially after the predictions made in February, which saw Mercedes struggling more than Ferrari:
"Why is it doing better this year? There are many factors that can influence, even luck. But if I've improved year after year it's thanks to the work, the attention to detail. I am satisfied. The level with which the team has expressed itself is impressive, so far a good battle between me and Lewis. I have a new race engineer and the new things make people see things differently. We understand each other more and more, and things are getting better and better. In Bahrain there was also luck, but it is also true that we have shown to be reliable compared to those who had problems".
The reference is clear: Ferrari has had many difficulties in the start of the season. But, in spite of this, at Mercedes' home they do not let their guard down. Unpredictability is often present in a championship, and you never know what could happen. Despite the large gap that has already been created between the two Mercedes drivers and Vettel, third but with more than thirty points less, the German is still considered a possible rival, as Hamilton says:
"It's too early to say that it will only be a two-way fight for the title. The Ferraris last weekend had a good pace in free practice and qualifying. If the cars and drivers had behaved like us, we would have been very close. We still have to stay on our toes. In Azerbaijan, Ferrari brought a big package of updates, which we still don't. I can't tell you what will happen over the course of the year. I can't judge whether the protagonists in the fight will change or not. The drivers of the past didn't stick to the rules of engagement that we have in the team, Valtteri does".
It's the same for Bottas: Ferrari seems to be coming back to be ready to challenge Mercedes, which now dominates since the beginning of the hybrid era. So it's always good to be careful, and for now the fears are more aimed at Vettel:
"This season they all have the potential to aspire to victory, Ferrari first and foremost. Despite the difficulties they are second in the standings; Sebastian is a fairly experienced driver but Charles is young and eager to beat him. However, just because of the greater experience on track, if I had to choose the name of a rival I would choose the German".
But Bottas emphasizes that:
"If we look at the results it seems that we have dominated as a team with four consecutive one-twos, but from a pure performance point of view there is not such a clear difference between us and Ferrari. Certainly in Melbourne we were stronger, in Bahrain they were better than us, after that we were very close and small details made the difference in qualifying and the race. We are not much further ahead and the situation will change from track to track. This weekend we will have to see how their car will work with the updates, as well as we will have to see how ours will work. At the same time we can't rule out Red Bull on tracks like this or in Monaco. We are only at the beginning of the season and as always when there is some change in the regulations, a lot will depend on the updates we will bring from here to Abu Dhabi".
Vettel's name seems to be on everyone's lips right now. The Ferrari driver was considered the main candidate for the title both for his experience and for the performance of the car at the beginning of the year.
All of this may have put some pressure on the German, accompanied by criticism from the fans and the press, considering the disappointing start of the season. The gap that has been created is not insignificant, and so far we have only seen Mercedes one-two wins. In these years with Ferrari, the driver's love for this great team has been felt, but this does not mean that things are not going well at the moment, and Vettel admits it without mincing words. Obviously also partly blaming his own performance, which he says he is not satisfied with:
"We have to look ahead and improve the way we handle things and the way we work. It's very simple, we need a better pace. We need to be faster, we struggle to send the tires into the right temperature window. Mercedes makes it look easy. Especially on a track like Baku you need feeling with the car, and I don't have that at the moment. I feel I'm not driving to the best of my ability simply because the SF90 doesn't react the way I like it to. When you don't have the right performance you prefer not to risk it, because you know you can lose control".
The performances seen so far are not encouraging, also because they are the result of a mix of issues: strategy problems, driver errors, car reliability... four Grands Prix have already passed and cannot be changed. So, as Vettel says, at the moment it's important to focus on the nearer future and maximize the possibilities that present themselves, so as to reduce the gap as soon as possible:
"It doesn't matter how far behind you are now in the standings. What matters is getting important points, and the sooner we do that the better. Every year is different, but morale is high, the team is in great condition and we come to Spain with a lot of confidence because of the new aerodynamic components. We also have a new engine, new parts that could help us to be faster than at the beginning of the world championship. It's true that last season we were in a better situation, we had won races and overall the standings were better. But I think morale is even higher now, we are willing to fight and aware that we have a good chance of winning the title, just as our rivals do".
Morale in Ferrari is high, despite the difficulties in the first few races, and the team is aware of this. That's why, according to Vettel, they are working hard to remedy the problems encountered:
"The car went well in the tests we did here before the World Championship, and then we came to Australia and we couldn't repeat what was good shown. We didn't have the same sensations. In this start of the season we had ups and downs, but inside we know that the car is strong, we just have to put the pieces of the puzzle together. We have to try to understand and improve so that these negative situations don't happen again. It will be interesting to see if we can do this in a few days when we have the updates. At the moment we are slightly behind, but the road is long and we know that things could evolve in our favor. We still have the opportunity to win the title like our opponents. We have a lot of smart people in the team. We are working to make the car the fastest on the grid to win all the remaining races".
Louis Camilleri, Ferrari's CEO, doesn't hide the facts: the car is not as expected. You can't hide the evidence. In fact, there are still many problems to be solved in order to achieve the desired results. Despite this, the world championship should not be ruled out, because there is always room for improvement:
"The results are below our ambitions, but we have all the necessary elements to be a credible competitor to win the championship".
Binotto thinks the same way: yes, the gap is there, but it is not irrecoverable.
"After four races Ferrari has not collected any victories, while Mercedes has won four. No doubt they are very strong, and they certainly have a slightly better car, but I think the gap is not that big and that the points and results do not reflect the true potential of the single-seaters".
In fact, the Maranello-based team reveals that they are bringing updates right to the Spanish Grand Prix, bringing them forward by two Grands Prix.
"We are at the Spanish Grand Prix, a race in which by custom most teams bring new developments, so we expect an improvement in performance from our opponents. We are behind in the championship and we know we have to catch up. As far as we are concerned, it is clear that development will be the key this season. After bringing a new aerodynamic package in Baku, we will also have news in this area in Barcelona. It will also be a new power unit, anticipating the initial plan to introduce the second unit in Canada. For this power unit, Shell, in collaboration with the team, has developed a different oil that will give us better performance. We have been able to bring these developments here already only thanks to a great teamwork, which shows how much the whole team is pushing to catch up".
It is therefore an important choice, made to show its potential and change the fate of the championship. These are updates of a certain importance: Ferrari brings a new engine and, as Binotto says, a new oil will also be used to increase performance, supplied by Shell.
While Ferrari brings these updates to Spain, Haas and Alfa Romeo, who use Ferrari engines, will have to wait. In past years we have been used to seeing Haas and Alfa Romeo used as engine testers, but this year they will have to leave the honors to Ferrari and wait for the Monaco or Canadian Grand Prix. The explanations behind this choice can be many, but this does not seem to worry the respective team principals. On the contrary, Gunther Steiner also justifies the choice taken by their suppliers:
"Last year we introduced it first, it was the other way around. Everyone was asking: why are they doing this? And now it's the opposite, so what's the right solution? Introducing it at the same time is always logistically very difficult for them, for one reason or another; depending on the update, they ask us if we agree, and we're fine with that. In the end, they need to manage the engine, the mileage and everything else. We're pretty happy with what they've suggested, and it hasn't been decided whether we do it in Monaco or Canada".
At the press conference, Leclerc responded to the crowd of journalists, talking about the positive and negative aspects of this early season:
"Positive aspects there are many, starting with the pure performance of the car, we just need to learn it a little bit better so that it always performs at its best. Mercedes is strong, but we are also pushing and we will bring a new engine here, trying to improve. The situation is not as the classification says, but it is true that up to now we have also made several mistakes, and I personally have made some. In Baku I couldn't make it to the end with Soft, our hope to make a comeback was based on the fact that sooner or later a Safety Car would come out, but it didn't happen. The accident? Of course I thought about going into the runway, but it was too late. When you push there is always the risk of making a mistake and I pushed even when I shouldn't have".
After confirming that he is certain in Ferrari's chances to turn the situation in their favor, Charles talks about the challenge against Mercedes:
"I think we have always been close in performance, Barcelona is generally said to be a track that shows the real forces on the field, we will see what it will tell. We have not had any loss of performance from testing to today, this I repeat, we have grown but so have the others".
Understanding the tyres is the biggest problem for Ferrari, but Charles believes it depends on several factors:
"Both the type of track and the characteristics of the car, that's why I say we still have to understand the car thoroughly so we can go strong everywhere".
Pirelli, the sole supplier of tires, announces that it is providing Soft (C3), Medium (C2) and Hard (C1) compound tires for the Grand Prix. At the end of qualifying, Daniel Ricciardo will be penalized three positions on the starting grid for his accident with Daniil Kvjat in the previous race. The International Automobile Federation establishes, for this race, two zones for the activation of the Drag Reduction System: the first one along the main straight, with a point for the determination of the gap between drivers placed before the last corner, while the second zone is indicated between turn 9 (Campsa) and turn 10 (La Caixa), with detection point set before turn 9. The former Formula 1 driver, American Danny Sullivan, is appointed assistant race commissioner for the race: Sullivan has performed this function in the past, most recently at the Australian Grand Prix. Expectations are high, and at this point it will be Friday's free practice that will show whether the improvements will bring good results or, at least, whether they will be able to mark a change and break the Mercedes duo, which has now occupied the first two steps of the podium for four weekends. The first few minutes of free practice seem to open up a glimmer of hope, with Vettel taking first place in the standings after setting a time of 1'18"8. A good time, although far from the ones set in February. Also, the Mercedes seem to have more difficulty with oversteer in the last sector. Unfortunately for the Ferrari fans, the fairytale doesn't last long, as Bottas takes the first position and goes below 1'18, while the Ferrari drivers find themselves stuck in traffic with no chance to improve. The excuse of the traffic - however - doesn't last long, as when the track conditions improve there still seems to be a certain inferiority of the Ferrari towards the Mercedes. Leclerc gets to within a tenth of Bottas, and Vettel also takes second place, but fails to improve in the last two sectors. Ferrari's fortunes do not change, despite the hydraulic problems found on the Finn's car, which prevented him from finishing the first free practice. Bottas - who has covered only nineteen laps in total - remains first in the standings, with a five tenths advantage over his teammate, who is probably doing a different job, more focused on the race pace. Another issue that does not go in favor of Ferrari. However, the track was not very rubberized, causing some smearing by the drivers. The session is in fact interrupted a few minutes before the end of the session, when Racing Point's Lance Stroll goes off the track at turn 9. The car hits the barriers and the driver remains unharmed. The second free practice session is not better: Bottas dominates once again and improves his time, going down to 1'17"2 compared to the one marked in the morning. This time in second position we don't find a Ferrari, but Hamilton at only 49 thousandths. Yes, once again a Mercedes one-two, and we are only on Friday. Ferrari, on the other hand, despite the new engine and various updates, is in third position with Leclerc, with a difference of three tenths. Admits Bottas:
"It's always an interesting day when you bring new parts onto the car to see if they work as they should. Today, the car has given very good sensations, completely different from the tests: it seems that the cornering performance has improved, as well as the balance along the lap. We have taken the right direction since the winter, but it's only Friday and the Ferraris are close: we have made progress, but we have to wait and see tomorrow".
While Bottas smiles and remembers the improvements made by the team in recent months, Lewis Hamilton is still not comfortable with the car, and is preparing to work hard:
"There was a bit of wind on the track today and it was a bit difficult with the grip levels with the different compounds. However, we completed the program and now we have a lot of data to analyze in the night to refine the car for tomorrow. Everyone has worked hard to bring the new package here: it seems to work, but it's hard to say because the track is very different from the Baku roads. We have to work on the balance, but it was a positive day".
The positive side for Ferrari fans it's seeing Red Bull struggling more. After an eventful morning that saw Verstappen's car lose oil, the Dutchman had to change engines in turn and finished in fifth place, seven tenths from the first time. Not the most beautiful opening of the European stages. The scenario is the same as seen in the first Grands Prix, even considering the multiple updates, and the drivers at Ferrari are aware of this:
"Regarding the behavior of the new engines we are happy, obviously it is still Friday and therefore it is difficult to see what the others are doing. All in all, we've tried everything we need to on the car, but as far as the sensations are concerned, it's another story and I think it's clear that we weren't the fastest today".
But the car loses a lot in T3, the slowest section:
"It is not the first time this year that we lose time in this type of corners. If it were easy to solve this problem, we would simply have to... do it. But at the moment we are all working very hard to understand why this happens, sometimes much more consistently than others".
In short, in Vettel's opinion there is still a lot of work to do, while Leclerc - younger and more optimistic - tries to see the positive side:
"It won't be so easy to make up that gap, but we will try. In the long runs we went in management, for sure there is more, but also the others spared themselves. At the end I also found some traffic but I think that on the race pace we are not bad. Compared to the tests today I was less happy with the balance, but I think it's normal when you bring so many new parts on the car. It always takes some time to find the perfect balance. Don't panic, there is still a bit of work to be done on the potential of the car, then we'll see".
And even the Ferrari team principal tries to dampen any controversy that might arise against the Maranello team:
"I don't think there has been a slump on our part. We simply had a very positive winter, but our competitors were also fast. Just remember the time they did on the last day of testing, which was practically the same as we had done. Also, we had always stated that they would be very strong as well. Since then, we have both developed our cars and I really don't think anyone is here with the same car as two months ago. The weather conditions and temperatures are also very different. I don't think it's possible to make any comparisons. The most important thing is to stay focused on the weekend, trying to optimize the package overall. We are doing our best".
Binotto also makes it clear that bringing a new power unit to Spain does not automatically mean accepting the idea of using more than the three allowed and thus running into a penalty by the end of the season:
"These are not the plans. Having brought forward the debut of the advanced engine does not mean that we will no longer be able to use the first unit in some races. Of course, exceeding the number of power units allowed could be a possibility, but for sure our plan is not to have a season with four engines per driver".
Finally, the Ferrari team principal takes stock of the situation, admitting that at the moment the results are below expectations:
"We are not happy with the points collected so far. We missed a great opportunity in Bahrain, where we certainly could have obtained a great result compared to what we brought home. Also in Baku I think we could have had a better race and especially a better qualifying. So, if we add it all up, I think we lost some points. And we also lost them compared to what we believe to be our potential. The goal is definitely not to be where we are now in terms of points and results. We are disappointed with the start of the season, but looking at the overall performance, the situation is not so dramatic. We have a good car, the level of competition is very high. Nothing we didn't already know, we're still in the fight anyway".
During the Saturday morning free practice, conditions do not help Ferrari again: Vettel, trying to improve in the third sector, pushes too much and spins, while the Mercedes cars have problems to bring their tires up to temperature because of the bad weather. Bottas even makes a mistake and gets stuck in the gravel, causing the suspension of the practice and ends his session early. Hamilton, on the other hand, finds the right feeling, amazes, and scores a fantastic time of 1'17"6 on Medium tires, beating by six tenths the Ferraris, who use Soft tires to make the fastest lap. The British champion never ceases to surprise, and after having mounted the Soft tires he scores a time of 1'16"5, a mirage for the other teams. Even more surprising are the Haas, who are in fifth and sixth position just a few thousandths from Ferrari, ahead of Red Bull. The session is interrupted before the end for an accident involving George Russell, who crashes into the barriers at turn 4. Once the tests are over, the question comes spontaneously: is Ferrari preserving itself for the qualifications, or is the situation not changed? Mercedes doesn't miss a beat and proves it in qualifying, once again disillusioning Ferrari fans. There is nothing to do: the Silver Arrows seem unbeatable. This time to surprise is Bottas, who takes the first place in all qualifying sessions. Qualifying starts with Q1: the first driver to set a significant time is Sebastian Vettel, soon beaten by teammate Charles Leclerc. Shortly after Nico Hülkenberg hits the wall at turn 4, damaging the nose of his Renault, while George Russell spins. Vettel takes the lead again, before being beaten, this time, by Max Verstappen. Valtteri Bottas beats, in turn, the Dutchman's time, while the other Mercedes driver, Lewis Hamilton, can't do better than the Red Bull Racing driver, and finishes third. The Haas cars remain competitive, with Kevin Magnussen half a second behind Bottas and Romain Grosjean in the top ten. After the incident of the first minutes, Hülkenberg is back on track, but he is only fifteenth, being eliminated by Sergio Pérez, with Lando Norris recovering up to sixth place. In addition to the German, Lance Stroll, Antonio Giovinazzi and the two Williams drivers are eliminated. In Q2 Valtteri Bottas stops the clock at 1'16"269, before Lewis Hamilton sets a track record of 1'16"038. Vettel closes at six tenths, while the other Ferrari driver Leclerc is almost a second and a half behind. In the back positions Norris gets the seventh time, Kimi Räikkönen improves, but is only twelfth, while Albon is eighth, quickly beaten by Magnussen, fifth. These results bring Leclerc into the elimination zone. Bottas sets the track record, breaking the one minute and sixteen seconds wall. Leclerc improves, finishing fourth, eight tenths from the Finnish time. Norris, Albon, Sainz Jr., Raikkonen and Pérez are eliminated.
The third session is the decisive one for the pole position. Right from the start there is a close fight between the two Mercedes drivers and Vettel, who take away each other's best time. The fastest lap time is set by Bottas. The Finn surprises everyone with a time of 1'15"406, a perfect lap to say the least, while the Ferrari is penalized once again in the last sector, losing all the advantage gained in the first two and placing not second, but third. Having passed the first half of Q3, the only one not on track is Leclerc. The Monegasque is ready to set his time only when the track is empty, when all the cars are in the pits. Unfortunately, his result disappoints. His time doesn't seem to be fast enough to win the pole, and in fact the Monegasque driver is only fifth, 1.2 behind Bottas. Too much, if the aim is to beat the German team and not to chase them for the whole season. In the second attempt nobody improves, thus confirming the third consecutive pole of the Finnish driver, and his ninth in his career. In second position Hamilton will take off, making Mercedes take the first row in qualifying for the fourth time since the beginning of the year. Ferrari cannot say the same, and even separating the two drivers is Max Verstappen. Behind Leclerc will start Gasly, Grosjean, Magnussen, Kvyat and Ricciardo. These results are devastating for the adversaries: Mercedes is unstoppable, demonstration of a work done to perfection in the factory, and of a couple of drivers able to complete every challenge. Just on the Catalan circuit we had seen a dominant Ferrari, and results that, thinking about it, make the fans nostalgic. The hopes for a more competitive championship are getting weaker and weaker, almost non-existent, being by now a pursuit against Mercedes rather than a fight fought on equal terms. These results manage to demoralize even Leclerc, who has generally always been positive about their potential:
"We are far from the Mercedes, we already had problems in free practice with the balance. My mistake today was not particularly serious, but the consequences were serious. In the race? It will be difficult to chase the Mercedes".
Completely opposite emotions for Bottas, creator of an amazing start to the station:
"In Q3 the sensations improved constantly, it was nice to do this lap... I enjoy this jolt of adrenaline that my attempt gave me. What makes everything better is the behavior of the car, when the car does everything you ask it to do it's really incredible".
Bottas is aware of being really fast in this first part of the championship:
"Starting the season like this is fantastic, as a team we did a great job also in terms of set-up after the difficult FP3, we put everything together and I feel better and better in the car: I don't know what happened to Lewis, I did everything perfectly".
Hamilton can't help but congratulate his squire, even when it exceeds his own performance, but if there's one thing we know about the Briton it's that he uses every mistake as an extra push to improve and achieve perfection:
"First of all I have to say that Valtteri had a great weekend, I didn't put the lap together, the last two attempts weren't strong enough, I had to go out early so I didn't get caught in traffic, I went out before everyone and messed up a lot, it's rare but it happens. My lap was decent but it wasn't enough, but Valtteri did a super job especially in Q3. The weather is good here, the front row is great for the team, let's see if we can convert it into a one-two in the race as well. I'm proud of the team, the updates have led us to increase the advantage over Ferrari: driving on this track is fantastic, even compared to winter testing we have transformed, we are proud of it. Valtteri, however, was faster than me and deserves the pole".
Even Vettel seems by now resigned to the facts: four Grand Prix and four double wins for Mercedes, which shows no signs of relenting. Despite the improvements, perhaps it's time to accept the hard truth:
"All good? So-so. The third sector was more of an Achilles heel. I spoke with Valtteri, clearly he is happy with the car, especially in the sector for more complicated. We have extracted all the potential, I think. In the first sector, in the second attempt, I tried to do something different but it did not work. I am happy and not happy, if you understand what I mean. The car doesn't give bad sensations, but obviously we are not fast enough. We more or less got the balance right, but we still have a bit more understeer than them. But overall in that kind of corners we lack grip, and we lack it a lot".
Then he continues:
"I'm happy with third place, it leaves us some opportunities for the race. Everything seems to be working, but from the point of view of teamwork we tried different directions, we are not satisfied but I am happy with the approach and the risks taken, in the long run I am sure it will pay off. We have a good pace for tomorrow, hopefully it will help for the next weeks. We did not expect this gap, we seem to lose a lot in the last sector, it is clear that in the first one we are faster, but in the third one there are no straights and the conditions were not ideal for us today, obviously".
A small mistake in Q2 caused damage to the bottom of Charles' single-seater, which is why he was decidedly lagging behind teammate Sebastian Vettel.
"We didn't have a great day on Friday because we struggled a lot with the balance. Even in qualifying, though, it was very difficult. What we did in Q2 was not such a big mistake, however, the problem was that the consequences were quite negative. I wanted to push harder, I wanted to attack the kerb more but I didn't expect to break anything. We will have to improve in the race, but it will be very difficult to go after the Mercedes".
The Monegasque goes on to say:
"It's clearly not the result I was hoping to get from this qualifying, we worked hard to look for the best balance of the single-seater, which has so many new components here. Unfortunately we could not play it. In any case, I believe in our potential, we will do everything to return home with a better result".
Even Ferrari's team principal, Mattia Binotto, admits that the situation is not excellent:
"It was a difficult qualifying, like the whole weekend up to this point. This weekend is highlighting the weaknesses of our car. We will do all the necessary analysis after the race to fully understand the issues. Days like these teach how to grow, I'm sure they will allow us to become stronger tomorrow".
After that, Mattia also explains the lack of competitiveness of Leclerc, who yesterday after the mistake in Q2 ruined the bottom of his car:
"In the case of Charles, the situation was further complicated by the damage suffered by the car in Q2. We tried to repair it as best we could, but the mistake compromised his Q3, forcing him to go on track with just one set of tires with which he ran two flying laps".
On Sunday, May 12th 2019, the unreachable Mercedes line up on the front row of the grid, followed by Vettel, Verstappen and Leclerc, then Gasly, Grosjean, Magnussen, Kvyat and Norris. Daniel Ricciardo, who qualified tenth, starts from thirteenth position due to the penalty he received in Baku after the accident with Kvyat. The Australian is behind Albon and Sainz, while behind him will be Raikkonen, Perez, Stroll, Kubica and Giovinazzi, also penalized for a gearbox change. The same reason why Russell will start from the pit lane, together with Hulkenberg (due to the wing replaced during the qualifying). When the lights go out Bottas finds himself flanked by Hamilton and Vettel who try to overtake. The German blocks the right front tire arriving long, leaving the possibility to Verstappen to take advantage of the mistake and move to the third position, while Hamilton re-establishes the order and takes the lead of the championship. The tyre lock at the start immediately creates problems for the German driver, causing a flat spot that he immediately starts to complain about on the radio. While the race leader begins to dictate the pace, the Ferraris lose time battling it out, with Leclerc claiming to have a lot more speed and trying several times to overtake his teammate. But Vettel doesn't let the Monegasque pass, while still complaining about wanting to change tires. There is no sense in this fight, as the two lose too many precious seconds and the gap from Hamilton already rises to nine seconds. The decision of the Ferrari engineers comes only on lap 12, when they order Vettel to let Leclerc pass, who actually, as soon as he has the chance, starts to distance himself and easily create a gap with his teammate. The moment to make the pit stop for Vettel comes on lap 19, but luck does not seem to be on the German's side: after the mistake at the beginning of the race, even the stop is slow due to a problem with the left rear wheel. So, Vettel re-enters the race in ninth position, after having mounted Medium tires. The next lap the series of stops begins, and among the drivers who return to the pits there is also Verstappen, who responds to Leclerc's recovery by anticipating the stop, in order to have an advantage and opt for the two-stop strategy, fitting again a set of Soft tires. The driver from Monaco makes his stop six laps later, surprising everyone and opting for a different strategy: one stop only. In fact, Hard tires are mounted on his car. Despite Vettel's excellent performance on medium tyres, Ferrari are clearly aiming to have an advantage when the others have to make their second stop, in order to aim for the podium. Charles rejoins the race in fifth place, ahead of Vettel, while in Mercedes, once both drivers have been fitted with Medium tires, they return to the race without changing their positions. During the race Leclerc has more difficulties with the new compounds than his teammate, who shows to have much more pace. The German, in fact, recovers the young teammate in a short time, and starts a new duel. Confusion reigns at the Ferrari pits, as once again the team order is late in arriving. It will be only on the thirty-seventh lap that the green light will be given. Despite this, after the race Binotto will declare that he did not make any mistakes in the decisions:
"I think I made the right choices at the right time".
Vettel's second stop comes very soon, during the forty-first lap: the Ferrari driver mounts again a set of Medium tyres. But also because of the time lost with Leclerc, the German is forced to follow Gasly, with whom he engages in a battle for fifth position. The Ferrari driver seems to be more fierce than before, and makes a fantastic overtaking move on the inside of turn ten, immediately setting the fastest lap.
Strangely enough, Ferrari's strategy seems to work: in fact, Leclerc climbs to third position after Verstappen's second pit stop. But it's just when you least expect it that the unpredictable happens. At lap 46 the race is neutralized due to the entry of the Safety Car, called into action by the accident between Norris and Stroll: the young Briton tries to overtake the Canadian without success, and both cars end up in the gravel. This neutralization doesn't help Ferrari, because despite the possibility to cancel all the distances, and therefore aiming at the podium, Leclerc would be at a disadvantage with the use of Hard tyres that have been used for several laps, so he is forced to make a second stop and mount Mediums. The Monegasque driver rejoins the track in fifth place, behind Verstappen and Vettel. The two Mercedes drivers also make a second stop, both fitting Soft tires, in order to ensure a better grip at the restart. So, six laps later, at the restart the two Silver Arrows can have a race pace unreachable for anyone, and especially the five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who in one lap accumulates an advantage of three seconds over his teammate, also marking the fastest lap of the race in 1'18"492, close to the qualifying times. Behind them, Leclerc finds himself having to defend himself from Gasly's attacks, managing to keep his position; shortly afterwards, the Frenchman engages in a fight with Magnussen. Vettel, on the other hand, is struggling with Verstappen, or at least he's chasing him: so, while Mercedes is running a lonely race, in the back it's an open fight. The Haas drivers put on a show and fight for seventh position: as a result, Grosjean is forced several times to take the escape route at the second corner, to avoid a collision with Magnussen. Sainz Jr. took advantage of the situation and took the position against the French driver during the fifty-eighth lap, following a contact between the two, triggering the reaction of the Spanish crowd. Overtaken also by Kvyat during the 60th lap, Grosjean had to defend himself from Albon's attacks, who tried until the last lap to overtake, without succeeding. To take all the attention, however, can only be Mercedes, breaking another record: the Anglo-German team scores the fifth consecutive one-two victory, something never happened in the history of Formula 1. Lewis Hamilton conquers his seventy-sixth victory, and takes the lead in the Championship. This is his fourth win in Spain (and he also takes the fastest lap) and his third this season, with which the Briton overtakes his teammate. Seven points more than Bottas, a whopping 112, a demonstration of his skill and mania for perfection that drives him not to make the same mistakes more than once. It is clear that the last results had not accepted them: the three poles of his partner and especially a qualification closed to six tenths from Bottas must have stimulated Lewis, who knows he can give much more. And even if he hides it behind his look and his words, there is a normal presumption and mania to win, which is then shown on the track. Once he achieves his goal, it all becomes apparent:
"First of all I have to thank this incredible team, we are writing history. To make five double wins in a row makes me very proud because I am part of it, and I see the work of everyone on the track and in the factory. It's been four difficult races with Valtteri, it's a nice car but clearly I can't always drive it in perfect harmony, but anyway I managed to get a good start this time, I won at the first corner, I'm grateful to the team for that. I also got the fastest lap time, at the restart I tried to keep the tires warm and in the first two laps I knew I would have had the opportunity for a lap record and it was time for me to do one too: today I wanted to win by a wide margin, I had almost twelve seconds before the neutralization".
However, what he will say shortly after in the press conference is very beautiful, telling that he received a special message from one of his little fans:
"Today I was inspired by this little boy who sent me a message, Harry, and who has been a bit of my angel. He had texted me before and we had sent him a card and a cap. When I woke up this morning I was kind of lost, I didn't know how the day was going to go, and then I saw Harry's message and I was like, hey Harry. I saw you. Everyone liked his message, it means a lot to me, it was really appreciated that he sent it to me on these tough days".
Shortly before the race, via his own Instagram channel, Lewis Hamilton had written:
"Harry, you have no idea how much this message means to me man, thank you so much, you will be my inspiration today Harry. I'm going to try and make you proud, you're a really strong guy, I hope I'm as strong as you are. I want the world to see how strong you are. I greet you with love, god bless you, your friend Lewis".
The next day, little Harry will receive at home the winner's cup and a Mercedes F1, sent directly from the German team. The initiative, in addition to making little Harry happy, serves to promote the fundraiser opened by the child's parents at the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, in favor of childhood cancer research. For Valtteri Bottas, after a not perfect start, there was no way to recover the disadvantage against Hamilton. The Finn accepts the defeat, but recriminates on the sprint at the start:
"At the start we were very close, at the moment of releasing the clutch I had a strange behavior, I didn't expect it and I lost some time. Anyway, we got five double wins in a row, it's really positive: we bring home a good haul of points and every point will count this season. However, I want to understand why the start went so bad, we have to analyze the problem".
Crossing the finish line in third place is not a Ferrari, but the Red Bull of Max Verstappen. The young Dutchman, winner of the Spanish Grand Prix in 2016, knows how to get the best out of his single-seater by placing third not only in the race, but also in the championship, despite the difficulties he had during the weekend, being voted driver of the day by the public:
"Let's say that the first corner was pretty hectic. Thanks to the fight in front of me I was able to take third position. The final result is good, I would define the weekend as positive. At team level, we are doing the best we can, because at the moment the Mercedes are too fast. Clearly our level is not yet high enough to stay with them, I did my pace and I'm happy with the podium".
The Anglo-Austrian team knows they are not in a fight with Mercedes, as their performance is clearly superior, but they can afford to put themselves on the podium given the progress of the championship.
"Mercedes are superior to us in every area, but we have plenty of room for improvement. Monaco? In my opinion we won't be as strong there as we were last year. I see Mercedes as favorites in Monaco as well. But for sure that is a track where we can do better, as well as in Singapore and Mexico".
Ferrari finds itself having to chase: Vettel and Leclerc reach the finish line in fourth and fifth place, followed by Gasly, Magnussen, Sainz, Kvyat, Grosjean, Albon, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, Perez and Giovinazzi. Another heavy blow for Ferrari; Vettel's mistake may well have compromised his race, as he says in an interview, but slow stops and team orders didn't help. Ferrari must try to get out of this tunnel of defeats that has been going on since the beginning of the championship, especially now, with the new updates. Binotto is aware of this, and despite it being the fifth defeat of the season, as he says, it is always an extra push towards improvement:
"The defeat is also a spur for us to do better. It was not a good afternoon, nor a good week. Compliments to Mercedes who worked hard and well but this must be a stimulus for us to work harder. The updates we have brought have not been enough. It was a bad defeat that we will analyze. We thought we were closer. The engine worked well and so did the other updates. But the others were stronger on these types of tracks and these types of corners. The team is focused, we leave the chatter out even though we respect opinions, we have to respond with facts. The team is strong, young, growing and learning. We will not give up".
The issues are obvious and that's why the team knows where to work:
"We were losing in the third sector and in general in all the slow corners with a lot of understeer. Both drivers complained that the car struggles to turn. We will study tomorrow and the day after tomorrow at the Montemeló tests".
On one thing they are confident: that the car is fast, especially in the straights:
"We worked intensively in Maranello, already after Melbourne. Ferrari is still the fastest, an advantage not to be denigrated. The upgrades worked well, but they proved to be not enough. Everything worked as expected, both the aerodynamic and engine packages. It was a big sacrifice for us, we worked very hard with all the guys in the factory. The power unit worked very well, we are the fastest on the straights and this is an advantage that should not be denigrated. What is not working? Here we were losing a lot in the third sector, in general in all the slow corners our drivers suffer from too much understeer and they can't get the car to turn. These are things that we will have to think about and analyze, there is no precise answer now as to what the problem is. For the moment we have to see that the others are stronger on this type of track and on this type of curve".
On this point Binotto may find himself in agreement with Hamilton, who says he saw the Ferrari very fast and closer than usual, spurring him on to go even faster:
"I think the Ferrari was very close today, so it was a good battle and also a decisive moment of the race. I just had to keep my head down and concentrate, trying to make the most of every lap".
Finally, talking about Vettel's performance, the team principal admits:
"Seb made a good start, but then he blocked the right front wheel and lost positions. The strategy was not decided at the beginning of the race, we had chosen to evaluate depending on how things would evolve. Having different strategies, I think it was right to reverse the drivers' positions and I think the call came at the right time. Of course it's never easy to choose to do that, you probably never get it. But when you do it, you have to make sure that whoever is behind is faster than whoever is in front. And when Sebastian was behind Charles, he didn't initially communicate to us that he could go faster. So we waited until the time was right".
And speaking of Verstappen:
"Verstappen? He has always done well in this beginning of the season but, as I said, this should not be a concern but a stimulus. We can do better than him, even today there was a Safety Car when Charles was in front. True, he had harder tires, but in Barcelona it's not easy to overtake, Max should have tried on track. Instead, with the final neutralization, we were forced to call him back to the pits because his hard tires would not have given him the necessary grip to defend himself on the restart. Once again, with slightly different circumstances maybe we could have obtained something more".
Head therefore to the tests, which will take place after the Grand Prix of Spain:
"It will be important for us, we will be able to explore this limit of the car and also try some further developments and updates. The winter went very well, however on the last day of testing they also did the same time as us. So we came back home with the knowledge that they were as strong as us, and maybe even stronger. We didn't have any illusions, even though it was a shame to come back here and realize that Mercedes is actually stronger than us. But we're going forward with our heads held high, we'll never give up, we'll go forward stage by stage. This has always been our approach, we will run each race on its own trying to maximize the result. The next tracks will be different from Barcelona, the championship does not end here".
It 's certainly disappointed even Sebastian Vettel, who at the end of the race admits:
"I think that today for the way things went we got the maximum possible points. We got close to the podium, maybe we had the chance to get it but with the block and the flat tire at turn one I compromised my race. I knew I wouldn't have won at turn one but I could have been between the Mercedes, to be able to fight better with the others, after that Charles and I were on different strategies and with the Safety Car these strategies were thrown to the wind. I think we tried to work together in the best possible way".
He then continues:
"However, every time we try to do something everyone talks a lot about it and this doesn't help us to be more reactive on the fly, however today I don't think there were any problems. Until this moment we have been looking from race to race, I don't think it's useful for anyone to look at the championship, we have to take one race at a time. Clearly it was a disappointing weekend for us, we hoped and expected to be much faster and instead we are not, but now we can only react from the position we are in".
You have to keep working and try to understand, as Leclerc also says:
"We were hoping to do better, we had also brought aerodynamic and engine updates. Now we have two days of testing and we will try to understand, we will push to fully understand our problems and we will see. We did a lot of testing this weekend, but clearly it didn't go well".
Later, around 7:00 p.m., answering journalists' questions in the Ferrari hospitality, Charles adds some details regarding his start, strategy and future intentions:
"At the first corner I tried to pass Verstappen on the inside, but then I found myself on the outside of Sebastian and Max had the space to pass me again. The strategy? Getting back in earlier and mounting the Hard tires were the right things to do. On Friday we had a very competitive race simulation, we had to try something, but today the balance was not the same as on Friday. Then the Safety Car compromised our strategy but I think it could have worked and I could have kept behind the rivals because here it is difficult to overtake. The season is not over yet, we cannot give up, we will give everything".
Hoping that these days of testing can help turn around a little bit the direction that the championship is taking. These tests are spread over two days, Tuesday 14 and Wednesday 15 May 2019, just to allow teams to collect data and be able to work on the parts that need to be improved and therefore go worse. Some teams have decided to make one of their cars available to Pirelli, including Ferrari and Racing Point. In addition, the opportunity has been taken to get the young Academy drivers out on track: at Ferrari, on the first day, Vettel will be dedicated to Pirelli testing and Leclerc to the team, while on Wednesday the roles will be reversed and Antonio Fuoco, a Ferrari Academy driver, will drive the German's car. Another member of the FDA will make his debut this weekend aboard an Alfa Romeo, Callum Ilott, on Tuesday, while at Haas they opt for Fittipaldi on the first day and Magnussen on the second. At Red Bull, the choice falls on Gasly and Ticktum, who split the work on the two days, while Racing Point opts to use Nick Yelloly (2018 Porsche Supercup runner-up) on both days, and an alternation of places between Perez and Stroll for Pirelli testing. Williams will run the current Formula 2 championship leader, Nicholas Latifi, on both days, while for Reanult, Hulkenberg and Jack Aitken will take to the track on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Mercedes, instead, will try with Bottas and Mazepin. The first day is dominated by Mercedes: Valtteri Bottas is first with a time of 1'15"511 with C5 compounds, followed in second place by Leclerc with a time of 1'16"933. Kvyat is in third place, followed by Hulkenberg, while Gasly's Red Bull is only in fifth position. The Frenchman, however, is forced to end his day of testing earlier than expected, as with just over an hour to go his car stops on the main straight. Rounding out the top ten are Sainz Jr., Fittipaldi, Yelloly, Vettel (involved in Pirelli testing) and Norris. Perez, like Vettel, is busy with Pirelli, and is positioned behind the McLaren Briton, while Latifi finishes thirteenth.
It's a slightly more eventful day for the young FDA rookie, Callum Ilott, back from a frightening accident in turn 3, where his single-seater crashes. Fortunately the Briton is ok, and he is anyway second to last in front of the Canadian. The Barcelona tests cannot but end with the affirmation of the Mercedes domination. This time it's the young Russian driver Nikita Mazepin to take the first position with a time only two tenths slower than Bottas' one of the day before. There is also an incident that sees him involved in turn 11, without compromising the car or the overall performance of the day. Albon's Toro Rosso takes second place this time, with a good time of 1'17"079. Red Bull's satellite team is once again ahead of the major team, which seems to be experiencing many problems. In fact, after Gasly's stop the previous day, on Wednesday Ticktum has to leave the morning session due to a problem on the car, while in the afternoon he doesn't seem to be able to find the right feeling with the car and he is only tenth. Ferrari places its drivers in third and fourth position: Fuoco works for the team collecting the necessary data to carry out the analysis, while Leclerc, fourth, does some work for Pirelli, closing however with a good time. Raikkonen follows, protagonist of an excellent performance, as he runs on times similar to those set by Ferrari, while working to find solutions to the problems that arose during the race. In front of Magnussen (seventh) is Aitken with the Renault, having signed a time of 1'17"621, going faster than Racing Point and Williams, respectively in eighth and ninth position. The McLaren does a different job, probably more analysis, completing only seventy-one laps. The British team decides to let Oliver Turvey and Sergio Sette Camara drive their single-seaters, who are placed eleventh and thirteenth. Between the two of them is Lance Stroll, who dedicates the day to Pirelli testing.
These moments could be the last on the Spanish track, since while the tests are taking place, the announcement of a three-year agreement signed between Liberty Media and the owners of the Zandvoort circuit to run the Dutch Grand Prix from 2020 onwards. It was rumored, in this regard, that this could replace the Catalan track. It is now official that the Dutch Grand Prix will return to the calendar from 2020, a historic circuit that has hosted thirty editions between 1952 and 1985. The push towards this long-awaited return also comes from the great following that has been created in Holland because of the rising star Max Verstappen. The agreement obviously foresees that some modifications can be made, in order to meet all the requirements imposed by the FIA; therefore there will be thirteen curves, and the starting line will be moved. It will not be a return to the historic circuit as it was used until the last edition, but a new and improved version to allow even more entertainment. Chase Carey presents the new agreement as follows:
"We are delighted to announce that Formula 1 will once again be racing at the Zandvoort Circuit in the Netherlands. Since Liberty Media has been running the Circus, we have announced that we want to race in new places while respecting the historic roots of this championship. That's exactly why, in addition to the new urban circuit of Hanoi, we signed up with Zandvoort. This is a track that has contributed to making this sport the most popular in the world and it will return after an absence of thirty-five years. The fans' support for Max Verstappen has contributed to this return; we will see if orange will be the dominant color next year".
There is no word yet on what date the event will take place, but it is assumed to be before Monaco. FIA President Jean Todt also makes a statement regarding the return of the Dutch Grand Prix:
"I like this return for the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship. It is a circuit with an impressive history, and it is a great challenge for all drivers. Thanks to Max's popularity, I'm sure there will be a great turnout; that's why we have to prepare to make the circuit suitable for safety requirements. We will work closely with Formula 1 and the circuit organizers".
Obviously a big fan of this Grand Prix cannot but be Christian Horner, as finally his protégé will have a real home Grand Prix:
"The Spanish Grand Prix with Fernando has always brought in so many people. With Max the same thing will happen in Holland, with the fans that are bound to grow. I think a Dutch Grand Prix, with Verstappen's popularity, will be very well attended. I think it's positive for Formula 1. Obviously they have some things to do with the circuit, but I'm sure they'll be ready next year. I think it's going to be a spectacle to see so many fans there, so I better get to the hotel early".
Verstappen doesn't seem as enthusiastic, who with a more diplomatic answer declares that in the end what matters is to give your best in every race:
"I mean, I already have a Grand Prix at home in Spa, being born in Belgium, but obviously it would be nice to race in Zandvoort as well. In the end, racing at home doesn't give me more motivation, everyone tries to give their best in every Grand Prix".
The calendar for 2020 is beginning to form, and it could also become the longest ever should all agreements be signed and/or renewed. But it's too early to think about next year. The championship has just begun, and we're seeing some extraordinary performances from Mercedes, which doesn't seem to want to stop.