Declan Quigley: “This was a win that was about confidence as much as ability”
Another win for Lewis Hamilton in Barcelona suggests a traditional Catalunya snoozefest but the opposite was true.
This is fast developing into a classic F1 season and the Briton’s 98th F1 victory will slip into his career record close to the top of the list.
The shorthand will read that this was an all-round Mercedes team performance but there are few drivers in history who could have achieved what Hamilton did on a track where he had won the previous four world championship events.
The Englishman, who recorded an extraordinary and record-extending 100th pole position on Saturday, continues to generate superlatives as he converted a bold strategic play by his team into a sixth career success at the Spanish venue.
This was a win that was about confidence as much as ability. Mercedes had the composure and belief to stop Hamilton for a second time despite the fact that he was within touching distance of Max Verstappen after the first round of pit visits and with the advantage of tyres four laps fresher.
That could have been enough to challenge for the win but they had saved tyres for a two-stop race and committed to the gambit. They asked their seven-time world champion to convert it into a third win from four races and he duly delivered. Could anyone else have done that? Certainly not Valtteri Bottas.
Meanwhile, it was a lack of confidence by Red Bull that meant Verstappen was already out of contention for the win long before he actually ceded the lead to Hamilton. Red Bull haven’t won the world championship since 2013 and, for now at least, they seem to lose the alchemy.
Verstappen and his team boss Christian Horner were quick to compliment Mercedes on their pace yesterday but the lingering feeling at the chequered flag is that Red Bull had almost identical pace to their rivals but not the belief to challenge for the win.
Had Verstappen headed to pitlane a lap after Hamilton made his slightly surprising pit stop on lap 42 then Verstappen would surely have dropped behind Hamilton but the two would have had similar tyre life to take into the final 23 laps.
Given that Hamilton had struggled to get past Verstappen in the first stint on the soft tyre is it too difficult to imagine that Verstappen would at least have been able to challenge the Mercedes with the benefit of DRS?
In hindsight that was surely their only chance of taking the win and even though they emerged with the fastest lap and a secure second place, the net six points lost to Hamilton will be frustrating. The feeling remains that Red Bull are squandering opportunities for wins.
Behind the leading two, Bottas was the best of the rest with the remainder almost in a different race and in that fact you get all the evidence you need that Hamilton and Verstappen are a cut above.
They have a car advantage for sure but looking at the performance of their teammates is enough to tell you how much ahead of the rest they are.
Bring on Monaco. It’s been cracking entertainment so far.