Sir Lewis Hamilton claimed his ninety-eighth victory in the recent Spanish Grand Prix after achieving his 100th pole during qualifying, edging out championship rival Verstappen.
Since 2013, Mercedes have always been on pole in Barcelona. Max Verstappen brought RedBull close but was ultimately unable to match Hamilton being just 0.036 seconds off the pace of the expert pole sitter. With Verstappen’s teammate Perez complaining of shoulder pain and ending up in eighth, RedBull had to take comfort in splitting the two Mercedes drivers.
As the Grand Prix began, all eyes were on turn one as it has often proved the best opportunity for an overtake in the entire race. Verstappen was quick to take advantage of this, stopping at the farthest possible point in his grid position with rubber in front from the F3 race providing him with slightly more grip. During the drag race to the first corner, Verstappen passed Hamilton as the two came wheel to wheel, while Leclerc managed to overtake an overcautious Bottas to take third. At the time, this was highly costly for Mercedes’ strategy with Valterri Bottas losing a second a lap behind the Ferrari. A curveball came from RedBull’s sister team AlphaTauri when their driver Tsunoda suffered an engine issue. This led to the safety car coming out so marshalls could safely remove car twenty-two. Like in Portugal, Verstappen had a successful restart after attempting to break the tow and keep Hamilton behind in second. The race was looking good for RedBull – although Perez was unable to help his teammate if needed, Max looked largely confident out front with Hamilton close yet struggling to get within a DRS range.
It is worth mentioning here that every driver except Räikkönen started on the soft tyre, which was expected to last thirty laps (if not more with the safety car interval) with a one-stop strategy looking the best option. However, Verstappen pit on lap twenty-four for a new set of mediums as Hamilton finally looked set to overtake him. Five laps later Hamilton pit and came out in second place behind Verstappen. After a game of cat and mouse, Hamilton pit again on lap fourty-three for a scrubbed set of medium tyres.
RedBull chose to keep Verstappen out with Christian Horner dubbing it Hungary 2019 all over again.
In the end, Verstappen’s forty-two-lap old medium tyres were no match for the Mercedes of Hamilton. Having lost the lead, Verstappen pitted for a set of softs and gained a point for the fastest lap with the gap to Hamilton now fourteen points. This race showed once again how desperately RedBull needs two cars to fight the Silver Arrows, especially strategically. Bottas did appear to ignore team orders to let Lewis through, instead deciding to hold up his teammate. However, this did not stop Hamilton, who is having his best-ever start to a season, from securing his ninety-eighth victory and achieving five consecutive wins in Barcelona.
Featured image: Alberto G Rovi via Wikimedia Commons