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Marko warns Ferrari: Verstappen ready to 'punish weaknesses'

Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen will go head-to-head once again at the Spanish Grand Prix, with the two drivers set to start the race alongside each other on the front row.

Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has warned Ferrari that Max Verstappen will "immediately punish weakness" should they put a foot wrong during the Spanish Grand Prix. Despite ultimately claiming pole position, World Championship leader Charles Leclerc suffered a spin during qualifying on Saturday. It is not the first time this season that the Monegasque has made a mistake at a crucial moment, having previously made contact with the barriers at Imola. Meanwhile, Verstappen saw pole position slip from his grasp after a DRS failure robbed him of straight-line speed on his final push lap. However, he was still able to secure a spot on the front row for the race, and will start alongside his title rival on Sunday afternoon.

Spanish GP qualifying was positive for Red Bull

Despite missing out on P1, Marko says qualifying day was positive for Red Bull, which showed more competitive pace than on recent Saturdays. Starting from second place, Verstappen will be looking to use the long run down to Turn 1 to find a way past Leclerc. "Let's start with the positive; it went in the right direction for us during qualifying," Marko told Austrian broadcaster ORF ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix. "We were still first in the first Q3 attempt and we think we could have approached Leclerc's time, but the DRS was not cooperating."

Verstappen can handle the pressure; Ferrari are new to this

However, Marko does not expect to see a repeat of Imola or Miami at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. During those weekends, Verstappen fought from behind to overtake Leclerc as his Ferrari struggled to nurse its tyres. But, after Leclerc's Q3 spin, Marko says it is Verstappen who gives Red Bull the race-day advantage with his ability to handle the title fight pressure. "Last year we won the World Championship," Marko added. "Before Mercedes dominated at the end of the year, we were also at the top of the championship. For Ferrari, this situation is a bit newer and therefore the pressure is greater for them. "Max has proven in the last two Grands Prix that he doesn't make mistakes under high pressure and immediately punishes a weakness in the opponent."

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