Hamilton a class apart in crushing Spanish GP victory

Mark Sutton//Motorsport Images

Hamilton a class apart in crushing Spanish GP victory

Formula 1

Hamilton a class apart in crushing Spanish GP victory

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Lewis Hamilton dominated every stage of the Spanish Grand Prix to extend his championship lead to 37 points over Max Verstappen.

Verstappen, starting from third, was nominally Hamilton’s closest challenger, but Red Bull Racing’s forecast race pace never materialized, clearing the way for the Briton to absolutely control the pace of the race and record the 88th victory of his career.

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“I was just in a daze out there — it felt really good,” Hamilton said. “I didn’t even know it was the last lap in the end, that’s how zoned in I was — I was ready to keep going!”

Mercedes’s pace should have left Valtteri Bottas, starting alongside Hamilton on the front row, well placed to finish second, but the Finn was swamped at the start, passed immediately by Verstappen for second and mugged by the Racing Point drivers at Turn 2. Bottas managed to stave off Sergio Perez to maintain fourth place, but it took him until Lap 5 to get past Lance Stroll to take back third place, 2.2s behind Verstappen.

A less than ideal getaway effectively spoiled Bottas’s chances. Charles Coates/Motorsport Images

Hamilton was cruising in the lead, and from Lap 10 he put the hammer down to extend his advantage over Verstappen to more than six seconds by Lap 20, cutting Bottas adrift in the process.

Verstappen was clearly struggling with his tires and radioed his engineer with increasing frustration that he was losing too much time on his dying rubber. On Lap 21 his team relented, pitting him for a fresh set of mediums and dropping him to third.

Mercedes called both Hamilton and Bottas in for a double stop two laps later, switching both to the medium compound. The Briton held onto a four-second lead, Bottas dropped back behind Verstappen with a 3.5s deficit.

The Finn crept closer to Verstappen but not enough to make a move, and when Verstappen went for another set of mediums for his second stop, Bottas went for the softs to try to break through. He emerged with a seven-second deficit but couldn’t squeeze any pace from what should have been the fastest tire, allowing Verstappen to cruise home to second place.

“I think to be able to split (Mercedes) today was very good for us,” he said. “We clearly didn’t have the pace like Lewis, so I’m very happy with second.
“The start was crucial to get by Valtteri, and from then on I was just trying to do my race.”

Bottas made a stop on the penultimate lap of the race for a fresh set of medium tires, enabling him to snatch a point for fastest lap and deny Hamilton his seventh ‘grand slam.’ But it was cold comfort for the Finn. Without a win since the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, third place dropped him to 43 points off Hamilton’s title lead.

“I think the start was the tricky point,” he said. “The start was not good enough. “Then the first stint obviously I had to push had and make some ground, and I struggle with tire life. But in the end I think the start was the bad thing.”

Racing Point drivers Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez were in a class of their own in fourth and fifth, not fast enough to compete with Red Bull Racing but quick enough to stay ahead of the midfield.

Perez took the checkered flag first, having made one fewer stop than Stroll to take back position after the Canadian’s sizzling start, but he had five seconds added to his race time for ignoring blue flags while being lapped by Lewis Hamilton.

Carlos Sainz finished sixth, jumping Alex Albon for the place after the Thai driver gambled unsuccessfully on an early switch on the uncompetitive hard tire. Sainz instead took a conventional two-stop route to the lag, having to pass only Sebastian Vettel to secure the place.

Vettel moved himself up from 11th to seventh in an impressive recovery drive that might prove the turning point of his difficult season to date. The German salvaged Ferrari’s worst-ever qualifying at the Spanish Grand Prix with a late change to a one-stop strategy, running the soft tire from Lap 30 to the flag. He only just made it, his pace deteriorating significantly by the end of the race, and he crossed the line with a train of cars in tow.

Vettel was Ferrari’s only finisher for the afternoon, with Charles Leclerc retiring after 38 laps with an electronics problem after his engine switched itself in the final chicane, which the team put down to the Monegasque taking too much of the curb at Turn 14.

Albon was the first behind Vettel in eighth. The Red Bull Racing driver was unable to recover from the strategic setback of using the hard tire, which had been aimed at undercutting both Racing Point drives but in the end cost him two places.

Pierre Gasly finished ninth for AlphaTauri, losing one place on his grid spot to the one-stopping Vettel, with McLaren’s Lando Norris scoring the final point in 10th. Renault went scoreless in Spain, with Daniel Ricciardo 11th and Esteban Ocon 13th, sandwiching Daniil Kvyat between them.

Kimi Raikkonen set a record for most miles raced in F1 on his way to 14th ahead of Haas driver Kevin Magnussen and Alfa Romeo teammate Antonio Giovinazzi.

Williams teammates George Russell and Nicholas Latifi finished 17th and 18th ahead of Romain Grosjean, last of the finishers, in 19th.

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