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Stoddie Straight: Perez wasting Red Bull drive, Mercedes won't be happy with double podium

RacingNews365's expert columnist, former Formula 1 team principal Paul Stoddart, picks apart the biggest talking points from the Spanish Grand Prix.

In his post-race column for RacingNews365.com , former Formula 1 team principal Paul Stoddart outlines why Max Verstappen is a cut above the rest, discusses whether Mercedes is satisfied with their double podium, and what Ferrari need to do to get themselves out of their current situation.

Max sublime, but Perez needs to up his game

Red Bull are going to be happy and they deserve to be happy, because we all thought last year that Adrian Newey had produced a car that was probably one of the best he's ever produced. Now they go on and do an even better job this year. Max Verstappen is driving impeccably and just about every single lap and race, the guy is on the money. He's absolutely performing at his best, and if you add the best driver with the best car, sadly - or not sadly depending on which side of the fence you're sitting on - the championship ends very quickly. Apart from the obvious that Max is just so far ahead it's not funny and the championship is his to lose, I think you'll find we're going to have a very early end to the championship, both Constructors' and Drivers'. But still, it's all about who's going to get second place. If Sergio Perez is on pace, you'll find that both Red Bulls will be out in the sun. If he's not on pace, it looks like Mercedes have overtaken Aston Martin in the Constructors' Championship, but they're clearly going forward with that car now. I'm a bit worried about Sergio because there have been too many Saturdays now that he's having a bad qualifying and, in reality, he's wasting a lot of opportunities with that - which I'm sure both he and the team knows.

Mercedes has caught up enormously

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a very good track to judge the competitive order because over the previous years it has had so much testing that everybody has got so much data from that track, despite the fact they took out the chicane. But it's a good track to judge where the teams really are and I think it's pretty clear that Mercedes has caught up enormously. I think sadly for Aston Martin, because I would have loved to have seen Fernando keep it up in second place, but I think they're going to struggle if Mercedes continue like this. I listened to an interview with Toto Wolff yesterday where he basically said that it was his decision to change the entire direction they are going. That will absolutely cost a fortune in development and in terms of sheer money, but they've got the results. Bear in mind they get a bit more wind tunnel time coming up, certainly more than Red Bull, I think it's fair to say Mercedes are definitely heading in the right direction. But while it's great to say they have seen a big improvement and they're clearly the best of the rest - that's not good enough for them. That 25 or 30 seconds gap, the reality is that it was after Max came in to put a new set of Soft's on when he probably didn't need to. I don't think Max was in any way pushing that car, he was just on cruise control to get to the finish line and take the win.

Teammates colliding should not happen

I do think it was genuinely a mistake from Russell when he collided with Hamilton in qualifying. He just didn't know he was there, but it's not nice to see. As a team owner reminder, the thing you say before every session is 'Guys, you can go out there, you can race you can do what you want, but don't touch each other'. And unfortunately I've had the situation where I've had to deal with the aftermath of something like that and it's not a lot of fun. The drivers themselves know usually, so you don't actually have to say terribly much to them, but that should never happen in the first place.

What is happening at Ferrari?

The tyre strategies both for Ferrari and Aston Martin - and Ferrari in particular - taking those Hard tyres off so early in the race, surprised me. I think it's fair to say probably both Ferrari and Aston didn't have the right strategies yesterday. In the 90s you had a situation where the last world champion for Ferrari was all the way back in 1979. I feel they're almost going through the same thing now. They're not quite as bad as they were then, but the mistakes that I see each weekend. Again, the car is fast enough on one lap, but where was Leclerc in the race? He was nowhere. There is just no consistency. Then you come to a Sunday almost expecting them to mess up the strategy somewhere in the race, and that's not good enough. It's Fred Vasseur's first year, but if I was in Ferraris position, I would be really seriously worried. They are just not getting any value for the money that they pour into that car, and you're going to get to a point where big decisions have got to be made. In the old days you had Luca di Montezemolo making those decisions, but I'm not so sure who's really making those decisions today, and when they're going to make them. It's Fred's first year, but I'm not sure he's going to get a lot of time to get this right. I'm really not. Let's be honest, they're never going to get Adrian Newey. He's probably the only one at the moment - or someone like Adrian - that I think has the actual talent to get them out of where they are and bring them back to world championships. So I do fear that they are stuck between the budget cap, and the fact there's no obvious person out there to actually take them forward. It's a shame because Ferrari is a name and a team that's so associated with F1, irrespective of who you support, it's sad to see Ferrari continually struggle.

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RESULTS 2024 F1 Spanish Grand Prix - Qualifying