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Spanish GP: The might of Mercedes and the brilliance of Hamilton outshines Verstappen’s bravado

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4 mins read
Lewis Hamilton takes his third win in four races as the championship leader caught out Max Verstappen napping with the second pitstop, while Valtteri Bottas salvaged the third spot on the podium after initial struggles.

This is the first time since 2014 that the Spanish Grand Prix has taken place without the winter season testing being staged in pre-season. Hamilton came into this race with a lot of confidence, having led every lap since the 33rd of the 2018 Spanish GP.

As the lights went green, Max Verstappen got off to a better start compared to Lewis Hamilton on the clearer side of the track. Max was side-by-side before pulling under Hamilton’s slipstream and then making it stick through the inside of Turn 1, getting the elbows out. Charles Leclerc, too, had a great launch off the start and was helped when Lewis lost grip coming out of Turn 2 and Valtteri Bottas had to pull away, giving Leclerc a great run around the outside of Turn 3 to take third place.

Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Pérez, too, had decent starts, moving up two places to fifth and sixth, respectively. Esteban Ocon and Carlos Sainz were the ones to lose out, as the Spaniard came under pressure from the McLaren of Lando Norris through Turn 8 but fended off the challenge.

 

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Verstappen opened up a 1.5-second lead at the end of lap one but failed to capitalise on it as Hamilton stayed within two seconds of Verstappen for the next six laps. Valtteri Bottas tried his best to overtake Leclerc but was frustrated by the young Monegasque as the gap to the leaders stretched over seven seconds.

The safety car came out on Lap 8 when AlphaTauri‘s Yuki Tsunoda parked his car in the middle of Turn 10; the Japanese driver had told his radio that his engine stopped suddenly. Antonio Giovinazzi and the two Williams drivers pitted under the safety car for medium compound tyres. The safety car ended on Lap 10 as normal racing resumed.

Pierre Gasly was given a five-second time penalty for parking his AlphaTauri out of position at the start of the race. Around Lap 20, Hamilton came on the radio telling his mechanic to cut some of the front wing on his next pit stop as he struggled to move past Verstappen. Lap 22 and two former world champions, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, came into the pits for their first stop; both were fighting on track, but Vettel’s slow stop distanced him from his long-time rival, allowing Pierre Gasly to sandwich his car between the two.

Bottas came into the pits two laps later followed by Ocon and Norris, changing onto the medium tyre compound. Lewis was all over the gearbox of Verstappen’s Red Bull before the Dutchman called into the pits. Red Bull expected Hamilton to stop for new tyres in the next lap, but Mercedes kept him out for a couple of more laps.

Hamilton and Leclerc came into the pits in the 29th Lap and both switched onto the medium compound tyres as it became evident that both were eyeing a one-stopper. Hamilton came out six seconds behind Verstappen but importantly on five-lap younger tyres while Leclerc rejoined in fourth, eleven seconds behind Bottas.

By the halfway stage, Hamilton closed down the gap to 1.1 seconds off Verstappen as he set the fastest times lap after lap. Hamilton was right behind Max as the Red Bull driver managed to eke out small pockets of time on the crucial parts of the track. Kimi Räikkönen ran as high as fifth before he made his first and final pit stop on Lap 38.

Vettel and Stroll came in for their second stop as teams prepared for one final stop. Lewis and Mercedes made a brave call on Lap 43 when he came in for a new set of medium compound tyres. Red Bull and Max were caught off guard but decided to carry on as the gap stood at 23 seconds with only 22 laps remaining. Hamilton set a 1m 20.378s as he gained 1.4 seconds in that single lap.

This was the pattern for the next five to seven laps as Hamilton eked out 1-1.5 seconds each lap. By lap 50, Lewis had caught up to Bottas and the latter was given a clear team order of not holding Lewis up, but the Finn decided to fight for his position as Lewis came up to his gearbox, making the Brit earn his place as he drove on the inside of Bottas’ car through Turn 10.

 

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Bottas came into the pits on Lap 53 looking to steal the fastest lap from his teammate but dropped to fourth, 4.6 seconds behind Charles Leclerc. Bottas set the fastest lap on lap 55 before taking third from the Ferrari of Leclerc down the front straight. With 10 laps to go, Hamilton closed the gap to a mere three seconds as Max came on the radio complaining about the lack of grip his tyres had.

Red Bull pulled Pérez into the pits for a shot at the fastest lap themselves while Leclerc came in on the following lap. By Lap 59, Hamilton was close enough to Verstappen and finally took the lead going around the outside of Turn 1. Verstappen had no grip left and had to concede the position to Hamilton. Red Bull pitted Max the following lap to get an extra valuable point for the fastest lap and duly set the fastest lap of the race with a 1m 18.419s.

As the excitement at the front died down, the race for the final points position heated up as five drivers battled for one solitary point. Lance Stroll tried an ambitious move around the outside of Turn 1 but got the Alpine of Fernando Alonso clattered onto his side pod and had to give up the pace as Valtteri Bottas got caught in this battle. Pierre Gasly took full advantage of this as he moved himself up to tenth.

In the end, it was Lewis Hamilton who took the win ahead of Max Verstappen, while Valtteri Bottas ended a frustrating afternoon with a third-place finish. Ferrari and Charles Leclerc were delighted with a fourth-place finish and Sergio Pérez recovered to finish fifth. Daniel Ricciardo will be happy with sixth while Carlos Sainz finished seventh in his home grand prix. Lando Norris was invisible for most of the race and came in eighth while Alpine’s Esteban Ocon lacked race pace massively but will be pleased with two points to his name. Pierre Gasly recovered from a five-second penalty to salvage one point for his team.

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