Max Verstappen concedes Mercedes’ drivers were in a league of their own at the Spanish Grand Prix but insists the team is deserving of its current success in Formula 1.

The Red Bull driver passed Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel on the opening lap on his way to claiming the Milton Keynes squad’s second podium finish of the season in Barcelona, as he beat Vettel and teammate Charles Leclerc to third place.

Verstappen ended up over seven seconds behind eventual winner Lewis Hamilton and never looked a threat to the dominant Mercedes pair, with the team securing its fifth straight one-two finish of the 2019 season in Spain.

“It was a good race,” Verstappen said.

“It was a bit of a hectic start but stayed out of trouble and drove around the outside [of Vettel] at Turn 3 so that was very positive and then from there we could do our own race.

“The pace was pretty good but the Mercedes cars were too quick, but I think everybody knew that so very happy to be on podium.

“I knew that we could take the fight to Ferrari, even in qualifying we were already very close and I think my race was decided in Lap 1, overtaking Seb in Turn 3.

“I think they were trying as hard as they could but of course I was also pushing flat out. To be back on the podium and third in championship is pretty positive.”

Red Bull introduced a “fairly subtle” upgrade package in Spain but proved to be more than a match for Ferrari on a circuit the Scuderia looked so strong at in pre-season testing.

Asked if he found it disheartening to see Mercedes continue to dominate despite Red Bull’s gains, Verstappen replied: “They deserve it because they do a really good job.

“We just have to try and work harder and bring better things to the car. We were P3 and took a good amount of points again.”

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