Race Report: Hamilton’s comeback at the Spanish GP extends his championship lead by 14 pts
Lewis Hamilton wins the Spanish Grand Prix!!
Racing resumed this afternoon for the second weekend in a row at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton managed to take the win with an impeccable race strategy, grasping the lead from Max Verstappen with a final overtake on Lap 60.
Verstappen led the majority of today’s race but ended up being a “sitting duck” as Hamilton closed in for the overtake – Verstappen ultimately took second in his 100th race for Red Bull Racing.
Coming home third was the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, who had to give way to Hamilton to allow the world champion a better chance of reaching the top step of the podium again.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc drove an impressive race, crossing the line in fourth, followed by Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in fifth, and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo in sixth.
Other points scorers today were Carlos Sainz in the second Ferrari, McLaren’s Lando Norris, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly in the AlphaTauri filling P7 through to 10th respectively.
Here’s how it played out:
An action-packed lights out saw Max Verstappen waste no time in getting past the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton heading into Turn One, while Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari looked impressive as it swept around the outside of Bottas through turn three to take third position.
By the end of the first lap, Verstappen had stretched the lead to over 1.5s in the RB16B, meanwhile his Mexican teammate Perez was up two places to P6.
By the fifth lap, Valtteri Bottas was challenging third-placed Charles Leclerc down the main straight with DRS but had yet to make a successful overtake in the second Mercedes.
Meanwhile, Hamilton was slowly but surely closing the gap to Verstappen, down to 1.3s after lap 6.
On lap 8, disaster struck for AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda at Turn 10 when he reported his car’s engine had stopped as he pulled over to the side of the track – bringing an end to his race and summoning the first safety car of today’s race.
Racing resumed on Lap 10, when Verstappen got away clean once again, stretching his lead from Hamilton to .9s by the end of the lap.
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas remained behind the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc at this point, 3.1s off the lead, and 1.8s back from Hamilton in P2.
On Lap 19, after Lewis Hamilton reported that his soft-tyre performance was starting to drop off, the gap to Verstappen began to increase to 1.2s – if Mercedes pitted him now he’d drop right back into a train of traffic.
Valtteri Bottas pitted from fourth on Lap 24 – returning to the track in sixth behind the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez in fifth and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo in P4.
Verstappen pitted from the lead one lap later, dropping to fifth behind his Mexican teammate when he returned to the track – however, Hamilton was in first having not pitted yet, struggling on a worn set of soft Pirellis.
Moments later, Sergio Perez moved out of the Dutchman’s way, meaning he was up into fourth and charging towards the front of the field once more.
Hamilton finally made his first pit stop from the lead, opting for medium Pirellis, returning to the track in second back behind Max Verstappen who led the pack once against – 6.1s ahead.
At the midpoint of today’s race, with 33 laps to go, Verstappen remained out in front of Mercedes’ Hamilton by 1.6s, however, the world champion’s pace on the medium tyres threatened the Red Bull’s potential to hold onto the lead.
Valtteri Bottas was back in third, 7s off the pace, followed by Charles Leclerc who was holding tightly onto fourth.
Further afield, was the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo in fifth, just ahead of the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez in sixth.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was in seventh at this point, followed by Alfa Romeo’s Raikkonen in eighth, Esteban Ocon in ninth for Alpine and McLaren’s Lando Norris closing out an early top ten.
Heading into the 40th lap, Hamilton was 1.1s off Verstappen as the competition was heating up between this year’s closest contenders, however, the Red Bull had been doing an immaculate job at staying ahead so far on older tyres.
On lap 43, Mercedes pulled a fast one, so to speak, as Hamilton surprisingly pitted again for another set of mediums – clearly planning a run for first in the final laps of the Spanish Grand Prix.
Red Bull opted to remain out, with a gap of over 22.4s to Hamilton with 22 laps to go this afternoon.
As Verstappen began to doubt his tyres ability to make it to the end of today’s race, Hamilton had already closed the gap to just over 12s, with 16 laps left.
Meanwhile, in the midfield, Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari managed to split the McLaren duo, demoting Norris back to ninth, while Ricciardo was sitting in seventh.
Further up the pecking order in sixth was the Alpine of Esteban Ocon, just behind the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez in fifth, with Charles Leclerc still holding onto fourth.
Lap 53 saw Hamilton take second after Mercedes gave Bottas orders not to hold Hamilton up in his final pursuit of first place – but the Finnish driver put up a fight for his position – holding his teammate up through the middle sector, forcing Hamilton to pull off an overtake into Turn 10.
The gap between Hamilton and Verstappen was now under five seconds, with only nine laps remaining, and the world champion around two seconds faster per lap.
On Lap 57, Bottas flew around the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc to regain the final podium place this afternoon, with fresh tyres, and DRS on his side, the SF21 didn’t have a chance of holding on.
Lap 60 saw Hamilton retake the lead with a move around the outside on Turn One – seconds later, Verstappen pitted for a fresh set of soft Pirellis, for the final stretch today.
Verstappen then clocked the fastest lap with 3 laps left – he was lapping three seconds faster than Hamilton – but retaking the lead was an unattainable goal.
At the chequered flag, Hamilton took his fifth consecutive win at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Joining him on the podium was Max Verstappen in second and the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas in third.
Charles Leclerc came home fourth, followed by Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo in P5 and P6 respectively.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was in seventh, with Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon, and Pierre Gasly filling P8 to P10.