Lewis Hamilton rallies to edge out Max Verstappen to win Spanish Grand Prix
Hamilton’s 98th win maintains remarkable record in Spain
Verstappen second with Bottas in third place
Victory for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes in the Spanish Grand Prix was a salutary reminder of quite what a formidable combination the world champion and his team make. Hamilton’s controlled, relentless driving, allied to astute and bold strategy has been one of the cornerstones of their success.
At the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya they gave notice that this mighty edifice is as strong and apparently impregnable as ever.
Hamilton had started from pole but lost the lead to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on the opening lap. With overtaking so hard in Spain, that might have been that but for Mercedes’ belief in their man’s ability to deliver and their willingness to give him the chance to do so.
Gambling that Hamilton could make a two-stop strategy work, Hamilton came back to make up a 21 second deficit and pass Verstappen, who was second, in just 17 laps. Valtteri Bottas was third for Mercedes. Hamilton now has three wins from four races and is 14 points ahead of Verstappen.
Revelling in pulling off what had looked like an unlikely victory Hamilton immediately paid tribute to the team effort, describing it as a “perfect strategy” but noting how well they had prepared for it.
“Great, great teamwork, from all of us,” the driver said. “We were still here late most evenings discussing strategy and we had all the bases covered in that respect. Of course it just meant I had to do the job on track and coming back from 21 seconds was not easy but it was the right call in the end.”
Beaten off the line from pole position, Hamilton and Mercedes had to orchestrate a superb comeback that left Red Bull unable to match their rivals. Red Bull have a competitive car this season and in Verstappen a driver unafraid to take on Hamilton and beat him. On Sunday however they were reminded that they must outthink their rivals who have seven years of winning championships under their belts and are operationally a fearsome unit.
Indeed, Hamilton acknowledged how tight the season was. “This is a period of time where I have to be at the best, weekend-in, weekend-out,” he said. “Max is driving exceptionally well, as is Valtteri, it’s so close between all of us, it’s going to take perfect delivery each weekend.”
If the opening three races were decided in toe-to toe battles between Hamilton and Verstappen, this one was the first where the pit wall proved decisive. It was telling in how much it meant that there was a chorus of pleasure across the team.
Immediately after he took the flag Hamilton was thanked by his engineer Pete Bonnington, who noted: “You made that strategy work beautifully.” Then by the chief strategist, James Vowles, who said:“Well done Lewis. Great drive.” And finally the team principal, Toto Wolff, who added: “Lewis perfect combination. Great strategy, bold and great driving.”
Indeed the mutual respect between them was key to the win. Hamilton had been all over the back of Verstappen when the team called him in for his decisive second stop. “I was about to get a shot to get past him as I pitted,” said Hamilton. “I was really conflicted, do I come in or ignore the call? I did what the team asked because there is a great trust between us. Remarkable job by everyone in this team. What a day.”
Verstappen conceded that they simply did not have enough pace. “I tried everything” he said. “Managed it as good as I could but it’s not enough when they are pushing you and they have clearly more pace.” Verstappen had appeared to hold all the cards. The Dutchman starting in second drew alongside Hamilton on the long drag to turn one and threw his car up the inside squeezing Hamilton just wide.
It was risky and aggressive but exactly what the Dutchman is good at, while Hamilton did well to avoid a clash, recognising he needed to stay in the game.
With passing so difficult the race looked like it was in Red Bull’s grasp.
The pair were evenly matched on pace, eking out their rubber in a cat and mouse run as they headed toward the first pit stops.
Verstappen went first but with a slow stop of 4.2 seconds. Hamilton inherited the lead and had the opportunity to push and Mercedes advised him to stay out. It appeared to be a key moment. They had opted to go longer but might have done better to pit Hamilton immediately when they had the advantage of the slow Red Bull stop. It transpired they already had other plans.
The extra time worked for Verstappen and when Hamilton pitted he emerged behind the Dutchman, who had track position and again looked in control. The game was not up however. Hamilton, knowing he was going to stop again, immediately pressured Verstappen, forcing him to work his tyres hard and then Mercedes struck, pitting Hamilton again on lap 42 to take fresh tyres.
He emerged 21 seconds back with 24 laps to catch and pass Verstappen. It was the same scenario as Hungary in 2019 when Mercedes two-stopped and Hamilton chased him down to win. Red Bull could not react and with the die cast, Hamilton delivered as Verstappen was left reeling with a severe sense of deja vu.
Taking seconds a lap out of Verstappen’s lead Hamilton had caught him by lap 58 and with a telling tyre advantage the world champion was indomitable. He flew past on the main straight on lap 59 to ease into the lead. He and Mercedes had done it again, another remarkable win as Hamilton edged a step closer to his eighth title.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was in fourth with Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez in fifth. Daniel Ricciardo was in sixth for McLaren with his teammate Lando Norris in eighth. Carlos Sainz was in seventh for Ferrari. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was in ninth with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in 10th.
Emilia Romagna GP: Lewis Hamilton denies Red Bull to take 99th career pole in captivating session
Lewis Hamilton expertly executed a Mercedes pit-stop gamble to beat Max Verstappen to victory at Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix and declared “there’s life in this old dog yet”.
Hamilton’s hopes of claiming his third win from four races appeared slim when he was left out on old tyres for four laps longer than his rival during the opening round of pit stops at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.
But the world champion’s Mercedes team rolled the strategy dice by calling in their star driver for a second time with 24 of the 66 laps remaining.
Hamilton was faced with a daunting 22-second deficit to overturn, but by the start of lap 60, Verstappen was within striking range.
The seven-time world champion followed the Dutchman at more than 200mph along the pit straight before darting to the left and placing his Mercedes around the outside of Verstappen to secure his 98th win and fifth in as many visits to Spain.
“That is what we are talking about, Lewis,” said Hamilton’s race engineer Pete Bonnington over the radio.
Team principal Toto Wolff, who watched the action unfold with Sir Jim Ratcliffe, one-third owner of Mercedes and Britain’s richest man, threw his arms up in celebration as Hamilton executed the comeback.
Ratcliffe then joined Hamilton on the podium to toast a win which moves the 36-year-old 14 points clear of Verstappen in the title race.
Hamilton’s latest triumph arrived 24 hours after landing his 100th pole – a landmark which led Damon Hill to describe his compatriot as one of the most talented people to have walked the Earth.
“There is still some life in this old dog,” said Hamilton, who is 13 years older than Verstappen. “I saw Damon’s tweet yesterday, and I feel so much gratitude towards him.
“I remember growing up watching Damon and having, as I do now, so much respect for him. I was rooting for him as a Brit to succeed even when he didn’t have a great car or good team.
“It is definitely humbling when you see people you have admired and watched or taken inspiration from and hearing them say positive and respectful things.
“This is a period of time where I have to be at my best because Max is driving exceptionally well. It is so close between all of us that it is going to take perfect delivery every weekend. I don’t think anyone can do that but it is about getting as close as possible.”
This might be Hamilton’s 15th campaign, but he is showing few signs of slowing down. Indeed, with three victories and a second place under his belt, he is enjoying his finest start to a season.
He opened his bid for victory in Spain on the backfoot after losing the lead during the 600 metre stampede to Turn 1.
Hamilton was hardly sluggish, but the world champion afforded Verstappen an opening at the first corner and the ruthless Dutchman did not need a second invitation.
Bolder and braver on the brakes, Verstappen launched his Red Bull down the inside of Hamilton’s Mercedes. Hamilton turned in for the right-hander and came within millimetres of making contact before conceding the position.
On lap 24, Verstappen switched to new tyres but a slow stop handed the initiative to Hamilton. Pitting for rubber on the next lap would have seen Hamilton emerge in the lead but Mercedes kept him out, leaving the Briton to win it the hard way with a second stop.
Hamilton insists he has no interest in psychological warfare but after trailing Verstappen for 60 of the 66 laps he dropped a post-race comment which could niggle away at the back of his title rival’s mind.
“I learnt a lot about Max today, perhaps more than all the other races put together,” he said. “This has been a good race in that sense.”
Asked if he wished to elaborate, Hamilton smiled: “No, not particularly. When you are with people on track you get to see different things up close. I learnt a lot about his car and how he uses it.”
In the closing stages Verstappen bolted on a set of new tyres to post the fastest lap and claim a bonus point as some consolation.
On a different strategy to Hamilton, Bottas was ordered by Mercedes to move out of his team-mate’s way. It was with some reluctance that he did.
He later admitted: “I definitely could have let him by earlier. I am not here to let people by. I am here to race.”
The Finn is already 47 points behind Hamilton and the smallest of hopes he had of fighting for the title appear over with 19 rounds still to go.
That’s all folks!
We will call it a day here. The battle between Lewis and Max lived up to the hype but the former was too strong today.
After the race was postponed last year, the F1 paddock returns to Monaco. The glitz and the glamour that the Monaco GP provides are always a welcome sight. Red Bull need a result to stop the momentum building at Mercedes.
As always, Telegraph Sport will have full coverage of the Monaco Grand Prix from May 20-23. Till then, visit the website for the best reaction and analysis.
Interesting quotes from Bottas who admits he could have let Hamilton past earlier after receiving the radio call from Mercedes.
He said: “I could have let him [Hamilton] by earlier. But I was doing my own race. I’m not here to let people by, I’m here to race.”
Bottas is desperate not to be Hamilton’s whipping boy but Toto Wolff won’t be happy at that admission.
“I feel great after this. I could go again,” he said. “Such a close start. .. it was a long way to come back from 20 odd seconds but the team had a great strategy.
“I was just hunting. I was so close for so long and I didn’t think in doing that I was going to be able to make the tyres last. But I just managed to. It was a long way to come back from 20 odd seconds back but it was a good gamble, a really great strategy from the team.
Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton
7 January 1985
|Family||Nicolas Hamilton (brother)|
|Formula One World Championship career|
|Car number||44[note 1]|
|Entries||270 (269 starts)|
|Championships||7 (2008, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020)|
|First entry||2007 Australian Grand Prix|
|First win||2007 Canadian Grand Prix|
|Last win||2021 Spanish Grand Prix|
|Last entry||2021 Spanish Grand Prix|
|2020 position||1st (347 pts)|
|British racing driver
Sir Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton British racing driver. He currently competes in Formula One for Mercedes, having previously driven for McLaren from 2007 to 2012. In Formula One, Hamilton has won a joint-record seven World Drivers’ Championship titles (tied with Michael Schumacher), while he holds the outright records for the most wins (98), pole positions (100) and podium finishes (168), amongst others.(born 7 January 1985) is a
Born and raised in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, Hamilton was signed to the McLaren young driver programme in 1998. This later resulted in a Formula One drive with McLaren in 2007, making Hamilton the first black driver to race in the sport. That season, Hamilton set numerous records as he finished runner-up to Kimi Räikkönen by one point. The following season, he won his maiden title in dramatic fashion—making a crucial overtake on the last corner of the last lap in the last race of the season—to become the then-youngest Formula One World Champion in history. After four more years with McLaren, Hamilton signed with Mercedes in 2013.
Changes to the regulations for 2014 mandating the use of turbo-hybrid engines came at the start of a highly successful period for Hamilton, during which he has won six further drivers’ titles. Hamilton won consecutive titles in 2014 and 2015 during an intense rivalry with teammate Nico Rosberg to match his hero Ayrton Senna‘s three World Championships. Following Rosberg’s retirement, Ferrari‘s Sebastian Vettel became Hamilton’s closest rival in two intense championship battles, and Hamilton twice overturned mid-season points deficits to claim consecutive titles again in 2017 and 2018. Hamilton won his third and fourth titles in a row in 2019 and 2020, respectively, equalling Schumacher’s record of seven drivers’ titles. In the 2021 season, Hamilton became the first driver in Formula One history to achieve the milestone of 100 pole positions.
Hamilton has been credited with furthering Formula One’s global following by appealing to a broader audience outside the sport, in part due to his high-profile lifestyle, environmental and social activism and his exploits in music and fashion. He has become a prominent advocate in support of activism to combat racism and push for increased diversity in motorsport. Hamilton was listed in the 2020 issue of Time as one of the 100 most influential people globally and was knighted in the 2021 New Year Honours.