RACE DEBRIEF

    Even though Max Verstappen missed out on pole in Spain by 0.036s to centurion Lewis Hamilton, the Red Bull driver said he was satisfied by the gap to Mercedes – especially given a tough Q1 session in which he finished fourth.

    Verstappen’s lap of 1m16.777s was a whisker slower than the benchmark Hamilton set to take his 100th Formula 1 pole position, but the Dutchman said he was wrestling with his car early in qualifying. Far from frustrated, he was actually happy to take P2 on a track where overtaking is notoriously difficult - and to qualify on this circuit's front row for the first time in his F1 career.

    READ MORE: Hamilton beats Verstappen to take 100th career pole in Spain

    He explained: “I struggled a bit into Q1 but then we sorted out the balance for Q2, which was pretty good. Then Q3, for me to be honest, both laps were pretty decent. Only the second lap was a little worse for whatever reason; it’s quite gusty here, so the wind changes a lot.

    “Nevertheless, I think second for us here on this track was very good today. We know they are hard to beat around here, so, to be that close, I can be happy with that.”

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    Verstappen congratulated Hamilton after a close Catalunya qualifying session

    With a 600-metre run down to Turn 1, Verstappen will have to be right on his toes to take the lead off pole-sitter Hamilton, who has won five Grands Prix here since 2014 – and the last four in a row. So does the Red Bull title contender see himself ending the Silver Arrows’ stunning run of form at Barcelona?

    “It is, of course, difficult to predict at the moment,” he said. “I think we were quite decent in the long runs but they also, of course, looked strong. So we know it’s hard to overtake around here and also to be following closely, so we’ll have to wait and see tomorrow.

    READ MORE: Red Bull approached 100 Mercedes staff for engine project ‘and they got 15’, says Wolff

    “But I’m always optimistic and positive that we can do a good job and have a good race and I hope that it’s going to be as close as today,” he concluded.

    Red Bull are 18 points off Mercedes ahead of Sunday's Grand Prix, but Verstappen is just eight points off championship leader Hamilton as he aims for his second Spanish GP win.