Hamilton wins Spanish GP in strategical battle with Verstappen

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Spain, Circuit de Catalunyaes

After Max Verstappen had initially gained the upper hand at the start, Mercedes's Lewis Hamilton fought back and executed a two-stop strategy to perfection towards the race win. Verstappen had to be content with second as Bottas finished a bleak third.

Wonderful weather set a great stage for the Spanish Grand Prix, and already at the start, the battle was on for first place. Verstappen, starting from second initially took a bit of slipstream from Hamilton and dove into the inside on the approach to Turn 1 to decisively take first position. Hamilton had no option but to take some collision-avoiding action, but with Verstappen having the racing line, that was all he could do.

Behind, Leclerc battled Bottas for third place and stuck a move before the end of the first lap. Daniel Ricciardo slotted into 5th followed by Perez in 6th as they both gained two places. Ocon and Sainz lost two.

Norris, Alonso an Stroll maintained position. The best starter was Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn is the only one to have started on the medium compound Pirelli tyres and gained three positions in the first lap.

On lap 7, Tsunoda suffered a technical problem on how AlphaTauri and came to a halt at Turn 12, requiring a safety car to get the car cleared. The Japanese hadn't managed to find a run-off, so his car simply rolled to a halt on the racing track.

Alfa Romeo were soon ready for Giovinazzi, but when he turned up in the pitlane, some issue occurred with the tyres, requiring the pitcrew to get another set of medium tyres to fit on the car. It all took a huge amount of time, resulting in a 32s stop for the Italian.

Both Williams stopped the next lap, just in time as the safety car left the track another lap later.

The restart didn't bring any surprises, leaving all front runners in their same positions. Only Stroll and Latifi gained a position.

On lap 23, after many midfield runners had pitted, Bottas was the first at the front to pit. He received new medium tyres while at the same time Hamilton pit the pressure on Verstappen, reducing the gap to just 0.6s. The Dutch Red Bull driver appeared to have reached the end of life of his soft tyres and dove into the pits one lap after Bottas did. Though the stop wasn't the best, Mercedes opted not to respond and left Hamilton out, even though the following laps saw Verstappen gain a second a lap.

When Perez pitted on lap 27, only Hamilton and Leclerc still had to make their first stops. They did so the next lap, bringing Hamilton back in the lead, with Hamilton 5.9s behind, followed by Bottas at another 1.6s and Leclerc another extra 11.3s down.

Verstappen's advantage didn't last long though as Hamilton made the best of his 5-lap younger tyres to get in DRS range 4 laps later. Staying in DRS range appeared to be a different matter, as the twisty final sector, followed by the high speed final corner is a difficult one to get right and stay close enough to the car ahead.

Verstappen struggled more and more to keep Hamilton behind, and at one point said "it's insane man, they have so much more grip". Mercedes then decided to pit Hamilton on lap 44, giving the Dutchman some breathing room.

Hamilton went off on a charge towards Verstappen, closing into the race leader by more than a second a lap. Passing Bottas for second turned out to be a bit clumsy where Hamilton definitely lost some time, especially since Bottas pitted just one lap after their position switch.

By that time, it was too late to switch Verstappen to his remaining set of new softs, requiring the Red Bull driver to manage his tyres and defend with whatever tyres he has left, but at the first attempt on lap 60, Hamilton literally breezed past to take the lead.

Verstappen pitted the next lap as other one-stoppers like Alonso also found out the hard way that the Pirellis don't last long enough here. Alonso was 10th 5 laps from the end, but in a single lap lost 6 positions before pitting as well.

Verstappen went on to set the fastest lap and therefore finished second, probably mostly due to lacking the second set of medium tyres that Hamilton used in a far better strategy.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarLapsTimePts
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG661:33:07.68025
233Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda66+15.841s19
377Valtteri BottasMercedes AMG66+26.610s15
416Charles LeclercFerrari66+54.616s12
511Sergio PerezRed Bull Racing Honda66+63.671s10
63Daniel RicciardoMcLaren Mercedes66+73.768s8
755Carlos SainzFerrari66+74.670s6
84Lando NorrisMcLaren Mercedes65+1 lap4
931Esteban OconAlpine Renault65+1 lap2
1010Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri Honda65+1 lap1
1118Lance StrollAston Martin Mercedes65+1 lap0
127Kimi RäikkönenAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari65+1 lap0
135Sebastian VettelAston Martin Mercedes65+1 lap0
1463George RussellWilliams Mercedes65+1 lap0
1599Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari65+1 lap0
166Nicholas LatifiWilliams Mercedes65+1 lap0
1714Fernando AlonsoAlpine Renault65+1 lap0
1847Mick SchumacherHaas Ferrari64+2 laps0
199Nikita MazepinHaas Ferrari64+2 laps0
NC22Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri Honda6DNF0

* Max Verstappen gained an additional Championship point thanks to setting fastest lap in the race