The Ferrari battle no-one saw coming
FERRARI has a fight on its hands. Just not the one it wants.
Red Bull is threatening to replace it as Formula One's next-best team behind a dominant Mercedes after Max Verstappen outperformed Ferrari's drivers at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Verstappen took third place on Monday (AEST) behind race winner Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
That allowed the Red Bull driver to move past Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel into third place overall with 66 points to Vettel's 64. Hamilton and Bottas are far in front with 112 and 105 points, respectively.
"I knew we could take the fight to Ferrari," Verstappen said after being cheered by the large number of Dutch fans who hadcome to the race decked in orange T-shirts.
Verstappen and his supporters have good memories of the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit.
His win in Spain in 2016 made him F1's youngest race winner at age 18.
While another victory was out of the question given Mercedes' pace, Verstappen didn't have too much trouble staying in front of the Ferraris.
"We were close to Ferrari in qualifying," he said. "I am happy to be backon the podium and third in the championship. It is good to close the gap."
As F1's most successful team, Ferrari entered the season with renewed hopes of challenging Mercedes after rising talent Charles Leclerc joined Vettel in a potentially potent driving line-up.
Ferrari was faster on this same track during two weeks of preseason testing this winter and had brought in a new engine fo rthe race.
But Mercedes was unfazed and stormed to a fifth one-two finish in as many races to further demoralize its rivals.
Vettel tried to get the jump on the Mercedes at the race start from third on the grid.
But the move only succeeded in making Bottas flinch and letting Hamilton go clear.
After Vettel's tires locked up, Verstappen slipped past into third place.
Even though there are 16 races left, it looks like Ferrari will likely have to wait another year to end its constructors title drought that dates back to 2008.
"The updates we brought here to Barcelona, both on the aero front and on the engine, worked well and we are more than pleased with them, but they proved to be insufficient," said Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto.
"Now we have to analyze and think about what did not work. And when it comes to that,as of today I don't think we have a precise answer."
As for Hamilton, he said he had taken notice of improvements that Red Bull had made after switching to a Honda engine this season.
The defending champion also said he missed a better effort from Ferrari.
"We welcome a battle and it would be great to fight with Ferrari and Red Bull," said Hamiton.
"I prefer it when they are in the mix with us. It is much better when we can compete with another team."
SPANISH GRAND PRIX RESULTS:
1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1hr 35min 49.780sec,
2. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) at 4.074sec
3. Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull-Honda) 7.679
4. Sebastian Vettel (GER/Ferrari) 9.167
5. Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) 13.361
6. Pierre Gasly (FRA/Red Bull-Honda) 19.576
7. Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas-Ferrari) 28.159
8. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/McLaren-Renault) 32.342
9. Daniil Kvyat (RUS/Toro Rosso-Honda) 33.056
10. Romain Grosjean (FRA/Haas-Ferrari) 34.641
11. Alexander Albon (THA/Toro Rosso-Honda) 35.445
12. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Renault) 36.758
13. Nico Hülkenberg (GER/Renault) 39.241
14. Kimi Räikkönen (FIN/Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari) 41.803
15. Sergio Pérez (MEX/Racing Point-Mercedes) 46.877
16. Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA/Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari) 47.691
17. George Russell (GBR/Williams-Mercedes) 1 lap
18. Robert Kubica (POL/Williams-Mercedes) 1 lap
Fastest lap: Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1:18.492 on 54th lap
DID NOT FINISH: Lance Stroll (CAN/Racing Point-Mercedes), Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Renault)
1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) 112 points
2. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) 105
3. Max Verstappen (NED) 66
4. Sebastian Vettel (GER) 64
5. Charles Leclerc (MON) 57
6. Pierre Gasly (FRA) 21
7. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) 14
8. Sergio Pérez (MEX) 13
9. Kimi Räikkönen (FIN) 13
10. Lando Norris (GBR) 12
11. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) 10
12. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) 6
13. Nico Hülkenberg (GER) 6
14. Lance Stroll (CAN) 4
15. Alexander Albon (THA) 3
16. Daniil Kvyat (RUS) 3
17. Romain Grosjean (FRA) 1
1. Mercedes 217
2. Ferrari 121
3. Red Bull-Honda 87
4. McLaren-Renault 22
5. Racing Point-Mercedes 17
6. Haas-Ferrari 15
7. Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari 13
8. Renault 12
9. Toro Rosso-Honda 6