After clinching his record smashing 100th career pole Saturday, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes proved why they have been the most dominant team in F1 over the last decade. Using a perfectly executed two stop strategy, Hamilton ran down Max Verstappen to win his sixth career Spanish Grand Prix.
Despite dominating the race, Verstappen was left out on worn tires and pitted late picking up the fastest lap. Valtteri Bottas completes another HAM, VER, BOT podium that F1 fans have seen a lot of lately. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez round out the top five. Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly log the final points paying spots.
Yuki Tsunoda lost power in turn 10 becoming the only retirement of the race, while both Aston Martins went on to miss out on points.
On the run down to turn one, Verstappen played his cards beautifully to pass Hamilton and get off to a second-and-a-half lead, while further back, Leclerc pounced on Bottas to move up to P3. The leaders checked out, while Bottas was stuck behind the Ferrari.
On Lap 18, Tsunoda brought out the safety car following his precarious stall in turn 10. On the restart, Verstappen got the jump and held the lead while the midfield sorted things out behind him. Due to a start-line violation, Gasly was dinged with a five-second penalty for his first pit stop. Verstappen was the first driver to pull the trigger on pit stops and after a 4.2-second stop, Hamilton stayed out an extra four laps to try and overtake Verstappen.
Red Bull dropped the ball on the strategy, while Mercedes echoed 2019 Hungary to once again make the Austrian outfit look like an F3 team. Hamilton shockingly pitted on lap 43 and put on new medium tires, while Red Bull unwisely chose to keep Verstappen out on increasingly worn mediums. Bottas and Hamilton gave chase and eventually, what started as a 20+ second advantage, vanished to allow Hamilton to pass for the lead on lap 60.
Game. Set. Match.
Hamilton checked out after Verstappen came in to steal fastest lap. After making history with pole position No. 100, Hamilton inched closer to race victory No. 100 claiming his 98th career victory in Spain.
“I feel great after this, I feel like I could go again!” Hamilton said. “I was hunting, I was so close so I wasn’t sure I could make the tyres last [in the dirty air] so it was a gamble but a great strategy by the team. Remarkable job by everyone in this team and yeah, what a day.”
Verstappen, the young Dutchman, expressed his dejection after putting on a very dominant performance while Hamilton still increased his points lead over him. After Spain, Verstappen now sits a further 14 points behind Hamilton as the series takes a week off before heading to Monaco.
“When they went for another stop, I knew it was over as I was already struggling with the tyres,” Verstappen said. “They had more pace in their car. Even if we’d gone for that second stop, I’m not sure … I did everything I could.”
George Russell narrowly missed out on points for Williams after claiming a P14. The Brit was racing Fernando Alonso for P10 before being stuck in a DRS train, after he took too long to pass the Spaniard.
Nikita Mazepin will most likely be having a chat with the stewards after receiving another penalty for failing to ignore the blue flags. This comes after receiving similar warnings in all three previous grands prix, including an incident at Portugal with Perez and with Hamilton in Spain.
While the season is still long, the next round in Monaco serves as the Talladega of Formula 1 where attrition runs rampant and anything can happen. Fans can tune in to the Monaco Grand Prix, Sunday, May 23 at 9 a.m. EST or 3 p.m. local time. Hamilton is the defending winner from 2019 as the race was absent from the 2020 calendar due to the pandemic.