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Verstappen ready for return to Spain, site of maiden F1 victory

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Max Verstappen is relishing Formula 1’s return to Europe and the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – the site of his maiden grand prix victory – for the Spanish Grand Prix next weekend.

Verstappen became F1’s youngest ever race winner in Spain last year during his debut for Red Bull, having been given a shock promotion from its B-team, Toro Rosso, four races into the season.

The Dutchman was just 18 years old when he swept to victory in Spain, capitalizing on an on-track clash between Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg on the opening lap.

“Around this time last year I got the call to join Red Bull Racing, which was a great feeling, and then when it got announced everything happened really fast,” Verstappen said.

“I spent a lot of time in the factory getting prepared in the simulator in order to get used to the car. A lot of media attention, but I wasn’t really nervous, just happy that I was finally driving for a top team.

“Last year was such a special race to me and in the end we managed to pull it off. It was an incredible feeling once I passed the finish line, especially in your first race with a new team.”

While a victory for Verstappen seemed unlikely enough last year, the odds appear to be stacked against Red Bull even more so this time around given the dominance of Mercedes and Ferrari in 2017.

Red Bull is pinning its hopes on a significant update package for the RB13 car, with Verstappen hoping that it will give him the chance to take a step forward.

“We have to wait and see what the updates will bring,” Verstappen said.

“I hope we can be a bit closer to the top teams or that we can at least follow them. That would already be a good step forward.”

Hamilton hails ‘greatest day’ after USGP victory, Mercedes title win

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Lewis Hamilton made no secret of his jubilation after taking a giant step towards his fourth Formula 1 championship win with victory in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix that also saw Mercedes clinch the constructors’ title.

Hamilton recovered from an early pass by F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel to take his sixth victory on American soil, five of which have come at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, to extend his lead to 66 points.

With just 75 left on offer this season, Hamilton needs just one top-five finish in the final three races to clinch his fourth world title, with the enormity of the victory not being lost on the Mercedes driver.

“Today has been amazing. It’s been the greatest day,” Hamilton told NBCSN after the race.

“I woke up a bit tired, felt the rain, then was like, ‘What the hell?’ But I didn’t mind. I won here in the rain in the past. Then it dried up, clear blue skies, amazing opening at the beginning of the GP.

“I lost first place into Turn 1. It was OK. That first section, we got through there, and it felt very reminiscent of 2012: ‘Game on. You have to save the tires’, and he wasn’t doing that. I kind of kept my cool.”

“I saw I got a good exit of Turn 1, this was the lap and it was. His tires were dropping off anyway.”

Hamilton’s victory saw Mercedes wrap up its fourth consecutive F1 constructors’ title with three races to spare, with the Briton having played a key part in each of its successes.

“I’m so proud of this team. Big congratulations to the guys, people don’t know the amount of work they do,” Hamilton said.

“It’s over 1,500 people in two factories, so much brainpower and a lot of people to manage to extract the best from each of those.

“To come into a new era of car and perform as we have. There’s been a newfound love within the team. Ferrari, we want to beat them, thrash them.

“So they put more hours of working in to do that. That’s for all their hard work.”