Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes produced a brilliant and offensive strategic run to beat Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the Spanish Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s third victory in four races this season came despite losing the lead to Verstappen at the first corner.
Mercedes put Hamilton on a two-stop strategy and the seven-time champion closed a 23-second deficit in 18 laps to pass Red Bull with six laps remaining.
Verstappen gave up on his one-stop strategy after losing his lead and took second place and the fastest lap point as consolation.
Hamilton’s victory was the 98th of her career, having established her 100th pole position on Saturday, and she extends her championship lead to 14 points.
What a training, what a race
Verstappen took control of the race with a brave pass to Hamilton at the first corner, braking late and throwing his Red Bull inside the Mercedes, forcing the Briton to take evasive action to avoid contact.
But the Dutchman was unable to shake Hamilton, who followed him closely to the first pitstops.
Mercedes couldn’t get past Verstappen stopping first because Sergio Perez’s second Red Bull was just close enough to mean Hamilton would come out behind the Mexican if he stopped.
This allowed Verstappen to make his stop first, and Mercedes decided to delay Hamilton’s stoppage by four laps to give him an advantage on the tires.
Hamilton joined 5.5 seconds behind Red Bull but was on his tail within three laps. He stayed one second behind Verstappen for nine more laps, significantly faster but unable to pass on a track where overtaking is notoriously difficult.
Then, with 24 laps to go, Mercedes brought in Hamilton again for a new set of tires, joining 22.4 seconds behind.
F1 computers predicted Hamilton would catch up with Verstappen on the last lap, but he quickly turned almost two seconds faster than Red Bull.
His teammate Valtteri Bottas cost Hamilton more than a second when the Briton caught up with him, as the team ordered the Finn not to delay the other car.
But once past Bottas, Hamilton caught up with Verstappen on lap 60 of 66, immediately sweeping the outside of Verstappen in the first corner to claim a superb team victory after a practice from the top drawer.
It was the fourth race in a row this season in which the two title contenders have gone wheel after wheel.
Verstappen said: “In a way, I could see it coming. Already with the softs [in the first stint] he was faster and then the mediums [in the second stint] he clearly had a lot more pace – he could stay in a second.
“There wasn’t much we could have done. Then they went for the second stop and knew it was over. You could see he was getting closer and closer and I was a bit of a sitting duck. “
Hamilton said: “I feel great after this. I feel like we could go back.
“It was a tight start. After that, just the chase – I was so close for so long and didn’t think I could make the tires last, but I managed to keep them. It was a long way to go but it was a good bet.
“It was the plan all weekend to have two new mediums for a two-stop. Even though Single Window looked better, I knew from experience that Single Window is very difficult to achieve. What a day. “
Bottas lost the chance to fight for the lead when he was passed by Charles Leclerc on the first lap, the Ferrari driver passing the Mercedes in a big swing on the outside of turn three.
Bottas got stuck behind Leclerc for the entire first stint, leading from the first pit stop period.
Mercedes told him he could catch up with Verstappen by the end of the race, but that turned out not to be the case, so after Hamilton made his second stop, the team ordered Bottas not to not hold back Hamilton.
He was caught in a dilemma as he tried to extend the gap enough to clear Leclerc before making his own stop for new tires, and he delayed Hamilton for most of the 52nd lap before leaving a gap in turn 10 so that the Briton can continue. his pursuit of Verstappen.
After that, Mercedes brought Bottas in for a pit stop for new tires to complete the fastest lap he managed to get, only for Verstappen to take it from him after his own late stop.
Leclerc led a solid, albeit lonely race to take fourth place, ahead of Perez, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris’ second McLaren.
Esteban Ocon from Alpine took ninth place ahead of Pierre Gasly from Alpha Tauri. Fernando Alonso’s second Alpine, struggling with an engine problem, came out 10th in the final laps as his tires faded.
Driver of the day
What happens next?
Monaco in two weeks – the one they all want to win. The Mercedes has looked strong in the low-speed corners, but Verstappen will be determined to win the sport’s most prestigious race for the first time.
“We still have to push hard” – what they said
Hamilton: “It’s great to see the fans here. I saw a British flag there that I haven’t seen for a long, long time. I did what the team asked because there is great trust between us. this team. “
Verstappen: “We are not where we want to be and we still have to push hard and catch up because at the moment we are a little slower. But compared to last year, it was a leap for us. “
Bottas: “What made things more delicate is that I lost a place in favor of Charles [Leclerc] in the first round. He chose a better line at turn three. It compromised the race a bit. It’s a bit of a shame but I’m delighted to be on the podium. ”