Lewis Hamilton wins Spanish Grand Prix after late Max Verstappen overtake

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes produced a brilliant, attacking, strategic race to beat Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the Spanish Grand Prix.

Hamilton’s third win 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 the Red Bull with six laps to go.

Verstappen baled on his one-stop strategy after losing the lead and took second and the point for fastest lap as consolation.

Hamilton’s victory was the 98th of his career, after he set his 100th pole position on Saturday and it extends his championship lead to 14 points.

Spanish GP
Verstappen made a stunning move Hamilton on the opening lap

What a drive, what a race

Verstappen put himself in control of the race with a brave pass on Hamilton at the first corner, braking late and throwing his Red Bull inside the Mercedes, forcing its driver to take evasive action to avoid contact.

But the Dutchman was unable to shake Hamilton, who tracked him closely towards the first pit stops.

Mercedes were unable to pass Verstappen by stopping first because the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez was just close enough to mean Hamilton would come out behind the Mexican if he stopped.

The enabled Verstappen to make his stop first, and Mercedes decided to delay Hamilton’s stop by four laps to give him a tyre advantage.

Hamilton rejoined 5.5secs behind the Red Bull but was on its tail within three laps. He stayed within a second of Verstappen for another nine laps, clearly faster but unable to pass on this track where overtaking is notoriously difficult.

Then, with 24 laps to go, Mercedes brought Hamilton in again for a new set of tyres, rejoining 22.4secs behind.

F1’s computers predicted that Hamilton would catch Verstappen on the last lap, but he was soon lapping nearly two seconds faster than the Red Bull.

Team-mate Valtteri Bottas cost Hamilton well over a second when the Briton caught him, despite the Finn being ordered by the team not to delay the other car.

But once past Bottas, Hamilton caught Verstappen on lap 60 of 66, immediately sweeping around the outside of Verstappen at Turn One to take a superb team victory after a drive from the top drawer.

It was the fourth race in succession this season in which the two title contenders have gone wheel to wheel.

Verstappen: “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 within one second.

“There was not a lot we could have done. Then they went for the second stop and I 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 again. It was close start.

“After that just hunting, I was so close for so long and I didn’t think I could make the tyres last, but I managed to keep them in – it was a long way to come back but it was a good gamble.

“It was the plan all weekend to have two new mediums for a two stop. Even though the one stop looked better I knew from experience that a one-stop is very difficult to pull off. What a day.”

US Open tennis champion Dominic Thiem in the Alpha Tauri garage
US Open tennis champion Dominic Thiem was seen in the Alpha Tauri garage…
Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann
….while Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann was supporting Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes

The also-rans

Bottas lost the chance to contend for the lead when he was passed by Charles Leclerc on lap one, the Ferrari driver passing the Mercedes in a great move around the outside of Turn Three.

Bottas was stuck behind Leclerc for the entire first stint, getting ahead at the first pit-stop period.

He was told by Mercedes he could catch Verstappen by the end of the race, but this proved not to be the case, so after Hamilton made his second stop the team ordered Bottas not to hold Hamilton up.

He seemed to ignore their requests, delaying Hamilton through most of lap 52 before the Briton dived past into Turn 10 to continue his pursuit of Verstappen.

After that, Mercedes brought Bottas in for a pit stop for fresh tyres to go for the fastest lap, which he managed to get, only for Verstappen to take it from him after his own late stop.

Leclerc drove a strong, if lonely, race to take fourth, ahead of Perez, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and the second McLaren of Lando Norris.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon took ninth from Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly, the second Alpine of Fernando Alonso, battling an engine problem, tumbled out of 10th in the closing laps as his tyres faded.

Driver of the day

Who else? Hamilton has 100 poles and will surely match that with victories before too long. Verstappen is pushing him hard, but he remains the man to beat.

What happens next?

Monaco in two weeks’ time – the one they all want to win. The Mercedes has looked strong in slow-speed corners but Verstappen will be determined to win the sport’s most prestigious race for the first time.

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