Lewis Hamilton will attempt to become the first driver to win from pole position in the 2021 season at the Spanish Grand Prix as he prepares for another duel against Max Verstappen.
From his milestone 100th pole position, Hamilton will aim for a 98th race win and record-equalling fifth success in a row at the same venue, which would tie his hero Ayrton Senna’s famous run at Monaco (1989-93), in Sunday’s Barcelona race from 2pm.
Together on the front row after a fight for pole decided by a mere 0.036s, Hamilton and Verstappen are separated by just eight points in the championship and have gone wheel-to-wheel at all three races so far, with the Mercedes driver taking two race wins and his Red Bull rival the other.
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Valtteri Bottas starts third in the second Mercedes and Sky F1’s Jenson Button, the 2009 winner at Barcelona, said: “It’s going to be an exciting race. It’s going to be hot again. These tyres are not easy around this track so I’m looking forward to a fight between those guys.
“It’s a tricky one down to Turn One here, it really is.
“It’s a long way and you want to be on the clean side [of the grid], so Lewis is definitely in the best spot there with his team-mate right behind him.
And a fight is certainly what is expected between the leading three cars over the 66 laps on Sunday afternoon.
Mercedes have absolutely dominated at the Circuit de Catalunya in the eight-season turbo-hybrid engine era, claiming every pole position and all-bar one race victory, but Red Bull have closed right in on the world champions here this year.
“Compared to last year where we really got destroyed here, we can be very happy with that,” said a satisfied Verstappen after qualifying, referring to Red Bull’s large 0.7s gap to pole on F1’s last visit to Spain nine months ago.
The Dutchman, who claimed his first F1 race win in Spain on his Red Bull debut in 2016, added: “We will of course give it our best but first we need a good start and then it’s a long way to Turn One as well.
“We will see what’s going to happen there. Of course, we need to have decent pace in the race, which I think we have. If it’s going to be enough to beat them, I don’t know, but hopefully it will be as close as it was [in qualifying].”
None of this year’s previous three polesitters have won the corresponding race. The last time that happened in a season’s first four rounds was 2010.
Hamilton starts as the favourite from that landmark pole but is wary about the Red Bull’s top speed, saying: “They are going to be quicker down the straights than us so it will be hard to keep them behind. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be impossible.
“Timing and rhythm are going to be everything.”
Amid warm temperatures in Barcelona, two pit stops are expected for the front runners with all the top 10 starting on the fastest but less durable soft tyre.