Red Bull closing on Ferrari as F1 returns to Europe ahead of Spanish GP

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The drivers' and constructors' championships both heating up as Formula One makes its seasonal return to Europe seems fitting.

After legs in the Middle East, Australia and North America, Red Bull are comprehensively in the fight against Ferrari heading into this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.

With consecutive race wins at the Emilia Romagna GP and Miami GP following DNFs in Bahrain and Australia, Max Verstappen has closed the gap to standings leader Charles Leclerc to 19 points.

After coming perilously close to such an error at Imola, a single mistake or DNF for Leclerc and a full points haul for Verstappen could see momentum in the drivers' championship completely shift.

Barcelona is a happy hunting ground for Verstappen, who claimed victory there in 2016 in only his first drive for Red Bull.

It could continue if the reigning world champion secures pole position, having converted 14 career poles into 10 race victories, the best rate of any driver in F1 history.

Meanwhile, with Sergio Perez also contributing with solid driving and good race pace on Sunday, Red Bull have cut the gap in the constructors' standings to only six points.

Only in Monaco have the team collected more points than in Spain, with 332 compared to 312, but that could change this weekend.

With a fifth consecutive top-four finish, Perez could equal his best such run of results, recorded between Turkey and Qatar last season.

Ferrari set for upgrades

The gravity of Red Bull's resurgence could arguably be crystallised in the likelihood Ferrari will have upgrades installed for this weekend after only tinkering and researching on race weekends to this point.

Leclerc will be looking to lead from the front, with all four of his race wins in F1 coming from pole position.

Carlos Sainz will also be hoping for a strong finish at his home grand prix, where he has accumulated the most points (40) in his career alongside Monaco.

Can Mercedes challenge?

While they might not be a championship contender in either the drivers' or constructors' standings, Mercedes have at least shown improved performance to potentially challenge for podiums and race wins.

The Silver Arrows come into this contest having taken the past nine pole positions in Barcelona, and they will likely need to make it another to challenge on Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton is still waiting to surpass Michael Schumacher for the most consecutive seasons with a race win.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 104
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 85
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 66
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 59
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 53

Constructors

1. Ferrari 157
2. Red Bull 151
3. Mercedes 95
4. McLaren 46
5. Alfa Romeo 31

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