The Hamilton-Verstappen duel in Barcelona was tense from start to finish but smart strategy from Mercedes and a stellar Hamilton prevailed on race day.
With Sir Lewis having qualified on pole for the 100th time, he stepped into Sunday’s race at the Circuit de Catalunya with grand expectations, looking to extend his lead at the top of the championship. The Flying Dutchman Max Verstappen, who won his first ever Grand Prix at this track back in 2016 was up for the fight and the race played out in a spectacular account of two drivers battling it out in a league of their own.
Verstappen got the jump on Hamilton into turn 1 in a brave and aggressive show of force after a slightly better start and using the tow from Hamilton’s car. Verstappen pulled out an early gap staying out of that DRS danger zone for a while until Hamilton seemed to find the rhythm to close that gap and keep pressure on Max. The Red Bull pitted first on lap 24 while Mercedes kept Lewis out to complete a further 4 laps before bringing him in. It was at the time, a move that seemed to have crippled the gains Lewis had made in the first stint, as he emerged 6-seconds behind Max. That was very quickly eroded and within another 8 laps Hamilton was back on the rear wing of that Red Bull adding further pressure to the cool-headed Verstappen.
Ultimately brains and brawn got the silver arrows ahead of the Red Bull. On lap 41, Lewis Hamilton darted into the pits to fit on a set of scrubbed medium-compound tyres. It was déjà vu for many including Red Bull who immediately realised they were in trouble, that painful memory of Hungary 2019 coming back. With 24s to make up over 24 laps, Hamilton drove that Mercedes at blistering pace taking up to 1,8-seconds a lap out of Max’s lead lap after lap. On lap 61, Hamilton made the move and took the lead of the race where he remained until the end. Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner conceded, over the radio, that there was nothing more they could've done to stop the No. 44 Mercedes. 98-wins for Hamilton. 97-points for the season.
Valtteri Bottas' average form prevailed seeing him nab the third spot and not making much of an appearance in the race. His biggest stress came at turn 1 when he had to back off slightly as Hamilton recovered from Verstappen’s move. It allowed the wily Charles Leclerc to overtake Bottas around the outside of turn 3 and this really dampened Bottas' race after that. The only option was to undercut the Ferrari which Mercedes did on lap 23, allowing Bottas to emerge back in 3rd position where he finished. Bottas’ was passed by his teammate as Hamilton made his final stint charge not seeming to yield to Hamilton despite being asked not to hold him up. Bottas’ also attempted the fastest lap and coveted extra championship point in the dying laps, but that was thwarted by Max who had nothing to lose after losing track position to Lewis.
The midfield battle was fierce and while it wasn’t McLaren’s best result this season, the team is the only team to score a double points finish in every race this season. It is why they lie 3rd in the Constructor's Standings ahead of the Scuderia.
The Scuderia of Charles Leclerc showed good pace, coupled with solid driving he was able to secure that fourth place. Red Bull’s Checo Perez bagged 5th place from a good drive after another poor qualifying – with Ricciardo, Sainz, Norris, Ocon and a late-charging Pierre Gasly making up the rest of the top 10. Down at the blunt end of the stick, the vocal rookie Yuki Tsunoda had little part in the race after his engine gave up early on. The Haas drivers once again drove from beginning to end without much news though Mazepin was the focus on Toto Wolff’s immense frustration when he didn’t yield to Hamilton quickly enough.
Stroll and four-time world champion Vettel finished in 11th and 13th respectively. Question marks remain around the performance of the Aston Martin Mercedes package. Despite bringing new upgrades to Barcelona, the team continues to struggle on outright pace. Mr Saturday, George Russell once again finished ahead of teammate Latifi, while veteran driver Fernando Alonso was not able to replicate his speed and performance from Portugal a week earlier. The lads from Alfa Romeo brought their cars home with no story to tell, with Raikkonen finishing in 12 and 15 for Giovinazzi.
Spanish GP Result: Top 10
1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
3) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
4) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
5) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
6) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
7) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
8) Lando Norris, McLaren
9) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
10) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
Talking Points Ahead of Monaco
As Hamilton leads the championship by 14 points of Max, the season moves to the prestigious Monaco street circuit in a fortnight for what promises to be a riveting race. There are a few takeaway talking points to consider after a great Barcelona battle.
• Bottas isn’t too happy playing the team game anymore – he just doesn’t seem to be having a great season and it is showing in his Sunday performance. Despite his back luck at the Emilia Romagna GP, Hamilton is much faster, more versatile and seemingly hungrier to get the results. Bottas is 50 points behind his teammate and needs to put in a stellar performance to prove his grit to his team and himself. He has been vocal about squashing any rumours that he may be ousted from the team, but a lack of great performances doesn’t help.
• Why is Checo not quite at the overall pace and consistency of Max? We know Checo has the pace but it is inconsistent and poor Saturday performances leave him working that much harder come race day. He also serves no purpose to the overall team to firmly challenge the Constructor’s Championship if he isn’t right up there.
• Let’s all talk about young Leclerc – this guy continues where he left off in 2020. He is 5th in the Driver standings trailing Norris by 1-point and Bottas by 7. He gave Bottas an enormous headache in Barcelona and outperformed his team mate once again. What a fantastic driver he is proving to be. He just need the package underneath him to work better.
The F1 show heads to Monaco in 2 weeks’ time. Monaco is a no-nonsense track, which offers little to no passing opportunities and for those who experience a lapse in concentration or make errors will see the safety car completing more laps than them.