The 2021 Spanish Grand Prix will mark a special occasion for Max Verstappen in his Formula One career as he aims to return to winning ways after missing out in Portugal last weekend.
Verstappen had to settle for second place in the Portuguese Grand Prix, with Mercedes AMG Petronas ultimately stronger throughout the weekend. Yet, a slight mistake by Valtteri Bottas on his out-lap on the medium set of tyres allowed the Dutchman to swoop pass and keep close ground on Lewis Hamilton.
However, the Red Bull Racing driver travels to Barcelona in hope of grabbing his second victory of 2021 but also in a celebratory mood as he will complete the 100th Grand Prix of his career.
“Getting to 100 races with Red Bull has gone so quickly to be honest, I didn’t know it had been that many! I must be getting old (laughs). I enjoy being part of the Team for as long as I have. The atmosphere in the whole Team is great and there is a lot of motivation and energy here from everyone.
“We have a really good working relationship but also besides that, off-track we also get on very well and have a lot of fun so it’s very nice for me to be part of the Team and hopefully of course for a lot more years.”
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya also holds a special place in Verstappen heart as it was the first Grand Prix that the Dutchman won in 2016 on his Red Bull debut, becoming the youngest driver to win an F1 Grand Prix.
“Barcelona will always hold special memories for me. Your first F1 win is pretty emotional, especially when it is a bit of a shock to everyone as it was my debut for the Team. I don’t really get emotional that often but I was pretty close to tears that day and so was my Dad.
“Everything flashes through your head of how you got to Formula One. It wasn’t all easy and people think that when you are winning it looks pretty easy but you have to do the hard work to get there.
“I’ve said it many times, my first win was a shock, nobody expected it, so it will be a day I will never forget. I’m very grateful to everyone who worked with me and got to that point at such a young age.”
Although Red Bull has arguably been the faster car in the opening two Grand Prix, Mercedes seemed to have made ground and were ultimately quicker in Portimao. Verstappen believes Red Bull can be quick around Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya but expects another close battle with Mercedes.
“I think it can be a good track for us, but I do expect Mercedes to be very quick too so it’s going to be very close again and it’s just going to depend on who finds the best set-up.
“We know Barcelona is a normal track in terms of grip levels, unlike Portugal, so there we can see the real pace of the cars again.”
Sergio Perez – “maybe could be the place for my first podium with Red Bull”
Team-mate Sergio Perez had a mixed weekend at Portimao, finishing fourth but was unable to compete alongside Verstappen against the two Mercedes drivers.
Despite finishing in his highest position since joining Red Bull, Perez expected a better outcome in Portimao but was pleased to score a good amount of points.
“Of course I expected better things, however I prefer to see the glass half full and I’m happy with the progress we have made in terms of adapting to the car.
“Imola and Portugal were very complicated races, but I learned a lot. We were running at the same pace as the leader group, and we scored some good points, the can only get better.“
Similar to Verstappen, the Mexican expects the RB16B to be in the fight start from the beginning in Barcelona.
“I think we should be in the fight right from the start. It is a very particular track, with very slow corners and then three and nine are high-speed corners, so the key here is to find the right balance and to take care of the right-side tyres.
“The wind is also something to consider. It’s a very tricky circuit, but as I said, we should be competitive from the beginning and fight for the win.”
In 2011, Perez scored his first points in F1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and he’s aiming to achieve his podium with Red Bull this weekend.
“Yes it is a special place, in 2011 I scored my first points in F1 and who knows, maybe could be the place for my first podium with Red Bull. It’s a track where qualifying is very important so I’m pretty sure we are ready for this challenge.
“This year we didn’t have our usual winter testing and last year the track conditions were different from the ones we usually have in May.
“I’m really intrigued about what the RB16B can do there. Last year this was the first race I drove after I had covid and I had a good result, so yes, it is a track I enjoy driving.”