Lewis Hamilton extended his lead in the Formula One Drivers’ Championship thanks to what he labelled a “good gamble” by his Mercedes team as he collected his sixth win in the Spanish Grand Prix.
- Mercedes were smarter with pit stops, guiding Lewis Hamilton to his third win of the season
- Max Verstappen tried to nurse his tyres on a one-stop strategy, but had to settle for second
- Daniel Ricciardo beat his McLaren teammate for the first time this season, finishing sixth
Hamilton won the race by 16 seconds to the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, with Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in third and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finishing fourth.
It had looked like Verstappen would lead from the opening turn to race finish after he passed pole-sitter Hamilton into the opening turn but a stroke of brilliance from the Mercedes team in pit lane made all the difference.
On lap 42 the team pitted Hamilton for a second set of medium tyres, switching to a two-stop strategy, believing on fresh rubber he could chase down the 23-second gap to Verstappen.
And he did. Released back onto the track in third place he quickly hunted down teammate Valtteri Bottas and after slight resistance passed him.
With seven laps to go he was then within one second of the Dutchman and made the move for the lead past Verstappen into turn one on lap 60 as he took the outside line past Verstappen, whose tyres were struggling for grip.
“It was a long way to come back from 20-odd seconds back, but it was a good gamble. Really great strategy by the team,” Hamilton said.
“I know from experience that a one stop is very, very hard to pull off.
Verstappen seemingly knew his lead would never last, having flagged that his tyres were struggling on lap 48 over the team radio.
“It’s impossible to keep them behind,” Verstappen said.
It looked like Verstappen’s day early
It had been a bold drive from Verstappen early on. He got the jump off the line and was side-by-side with the Hamilton into the first turn.
The Dutchman had the inside line and bravely threw his car into the corner, forcing Hamilton off the track.
The Red Bull driver had a one-and-a-half second lead by the end of the first lap and maintained that through the opening laps, crucially staying out of DRS range.
But the field was bunched up when the safety car came out on lap nine following the AlphaTauri car of Yuki Tsunoda stopping mid lap.
It was the end of a horror weekend for the Japanese driver, who courted controversy during qualifying with some negative comments about his team.
Verstappen was perfect off the restart getting a gap between him and the Mercedes, ensuring he would be unchallenged into the first turn on lap 11.
The Dutchman was again able to stretch his lead beyond DRS range, gaining most of his time in the second and third sectors.
And there he would stay despite Hamilton steadily gaining on him and several times getting within half-a-second of the race leader before the ultimate strategy move proved decisive in turning the race on its head and seeing Hamilton once again triumphant in Spain.
Ricciardo’s ‘best weekend’ this year
Ricciardo recorded his equal best result as a McLaren driver as a good start moved him up to fifth before he eventually succumbed to the pace of the Red Bull of Sergio Perez late in the race.
Overall it was the most comfortable the Australian driver has looked this season, with commentator Martin Brundle describing Sunday’s performance as Ricciardo’s “best day” yet this year.
It was an assessment Ricciardo agreed with.
“Obviously, we didn’t have the pace today, but it was nice to hold off a faster car and just put a better weekend together,” he said.
Beginning the race in seventh, Ricciardo made the most of the 600m journey down to the first corner and made up two places.
Staying out for a long stint on his opening set of tyres he kept the position and was able to grow his advantage over Perez after the pit stop phase, with several seconds and a car between the two.
But the new tyres suited the Red Bull, with Perez able to close the gap to the Australian and get within DRS range, trying to make a move at the end of lap 33.
Ricciardo was warned by race control for weaving across the track after defending from Perez into turn one on lap 40.
Perez final got the better of the McLaren driver on lap 46, braking later than Ricciardo and taking him on the outside of turn one in a brilliant pass
Ricciardo pitted at the end of the next lap, putting on the faster soft-compound for the final 18 laps and dropping to eighth.
But with fresher tyres he was easily able to reclaim those positions, including a pass on Norris before he held off the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz in the final laps.