Lewis Hamilton says he adapted his driving style after having issues in qualifying in order to secure victory in the Spanish Grand Prix and take the lead in the drivers’ championship.
Valtteri Bottas took pole position on Saturday by over 0.6s, but it was Hamilton who led into Turn 1 and dominated from the front in the race. The defending champion says the car balance was not to his liking throughout qualifying and remained that way on Sunday but felt he could react better over a race distance to secure the win.
“The balance yesterday was a bit of a nightmare, but the race pace has generally been quite good for me,” Hamilton said. “I’ve been quite happy and comfortable in the races. When we went out to do the laps to the grid, I wasn’t very happy with the balance still, so I had to make some changes. I had to alter my driving style a little bit.
“It worked well in the race scenario. I’m going to look into why it doesn’t work on a single lap, and that may take some time. Normally on tires I’m pretty good, but I think that’s the weak area. It’s not that I can’t do it, I’ve just got to discover it, and that’s what I’m moving towards.”
The result marked Mercedes’ fifth consecutive one-two finish, and Hamilton was full of praise for his team after admitting the start was the crucial element in deciding who won between himself and Bottas.
“When the lights went out, the initial start I think was good, and then after that we were quite close down to Turn 1. I think the Ferrari may have even been alongside us again. It was a great battle, and naturally a decisive moment. This is such a great circuit but it’s very, very hard to follow once you get through Turn 1.
“I’m not really sure if they will make amends to make it a race where we can be closer, but nevertheless once we were around Turn 1 I just had to keep my head down and focus on just trying to deliver each lap.
“Just an incredible day for the team. We brought an upgrade here, and everyone worked so hard to make sure we brought a decent upgrade, something that delivered on every aspect. Very, very proud of everyone back in the factory, and thankful for all their hard work. The guys here at the track, they’re just always faultless. But still a huge thank you to them for their continued work.”
Hamilton also offered a tribute to Dr. Dieter Zetsche, who joined the winning drivers on the podium ahead of his retirement later this month as CEO of Daimler AG.
“We’ve also got Dr. Zetsche here. He’s been a massive supporter of mine since I was 13. He was there in the decision-making process of taking me on as a kid, when I started and went to McLaren. He was part of the decision-making process of when I got a Formula 1 drive in 2007, and then joining this team again, and then every year on from then when we had to re-sign. This is his last race with us, and I just want to say a big thank you to him.”
Hamilton then dedicating this win to a young cancer patient named Harry Shaw, who had sent him a message pre-race after receiving some Mercedes items as gifts.
“I had a really nice message from a young kid suffering from an illness, and we’d sent him a card and a cap, and I saw that today, and going into the race, I was looking for something for inspiration, something to grab onto, so I dedicated that race to him.
“You try and go out there and do something for someone, but it doesn’t always turn out as well as it has. I hope he’s watching, I’ll be sending him a message shortly after this that he’ll get, and we’re going to try and do something special for him.”