Max Verstappen’s strong long-run pace means he “needs to be seen as the favourite” for victory in Formula 1’s Spanish Grand Prix, according to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. 

Verstappen, who was a surprise winner last time out on Sunday at Silverstone, once again wound up third in qualifying as he was seven-tenths adrift of the dominant Mercedes duo. 

Lewis Hamilton pipped teammate Valtteri Bottas to pole position as Mercedes stormed to its latest front-row lockout in Barcelona, but Wolff pointed to the promising race pace Verstappen demonstrated on Friday as making the Red Bull driver the clear favourite for the win. 

Mercedes is wary of a repeat of its tyre struggles from Silverstone last week amid the high track temperatures seen in Spain all weekend so far. 

"The only similarity between Silverstone and Barcelona this week is the ambient and the track temperatures," Wolff said.

"The track itself is very different, so we don't expect the same blistering issue like in Silverstone, but nevertheless, [there will be] more degradation and more overheating.

"I believe that Red Bull masters those conditions very well. Nevertheless, I think the work that has been done during the week and from yesterday to today was good.

"We have improved and that is most important. I hope we can give him a run for his money. Definitely Max needs to be seen as the favourite, based on yesterday's long runs.”

After claiming the 92nd pole of his career, Hamilton said he expects Verstappen to be a serious contender and is braced for a “tough battle” with the Dutchman in the race. 

 

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